In NC, all agents work for the seller by default, either as an agent or sub-agent of the seller. However, the buyer may have their own representation and work out the compensation with the agent/agent's firm. In most cases, the agent will be paid at closing from the seller's proceeds. In this case it does not cost you anything to have an agent represent you. And this is the most common way. But with the number of foreclosures, pre-foreclosures, and FSBO homes on the market, you cannot assume that will be the case. Sometimes the bank will negotiate the fees of the agent/firm below their companies acceptable fees. In this case, depending on your contract, they may look to you to cover the balance. In the case of FSBO (For Sale By Owner), sometimes the owner is marketing his home on his own because he does not have the cash or the equity to pay agent fees. Here again, depending on your agreement, you would likely be responsible for those fees.
I would recommend two things to you. First, definitely have an agent represent you, even if it means you pay part or all of the fees, especially if this is your first home purchase. The seller's agent is not there to help you! I say this as a Listing And Buyer's agent. Second, interview several agents to find someone you are comfortable with, that connects with your vision of the home you are looking to purchase. When I interview with a potential client, i am looking to see if I can fit their needs and connect with them. If I can't answer yes to both of these assertions, I refer them to someone else.
If you decide to interview a few agents, I would welcome the opportunity to speak with you. You can reach me threough my website below. You will alo find alot of FREE reports there for you to look over to help guide your purchase as well. GOOD LUCK!!