The answer to your question varies from state to state.
Since you've asked this in the New York State section, I can tell you that agents licensed here (often called "brokers" in the New York City area) will ask you to sign a form acknowledging that the broker disclosed to you who she (or he) is working for.
Brokers can work for the seller ("listing agent" is the usual term), or work for the buyer ("buyer's agent"), or work for the buyer and the seller, or work as an agent for another broker or agent who is working for either the buyer, the seller, or both.
Confusing?! It sure is! That's why we have the form. Because you need to know if the real estate licensee you're working with is representing you as a buyer, or representing the seller, etc.
By law the broker has a fiduciary responsibility to the person for whom she (or he) is working. The word "fiduciary" means the person must, by law, put your best interests ahead of her own. This is a very good thing for consumers.
However, in real estate transactions, studies have show that buyers are especially likely to be confused about who brokers are working for without clear disclosure.
For example, buyers will think an agent hosting an open house, who is so pleasant and so helpful to you as a buyer, wants to find you the best place at the lowest price. In actuality, that agent's job is to sell the place that had the open house at the highest possible price--that is, the agent is working for the seller.
If you meet a lot of brokers you could sign a lot of these forms. It is not a contract at all, it's just a legal disclosure. Please read it and sign if you are handed a disclosure form, and know that the broker handing you the form doesn't mean to inconvenience you; she's only following the law.
Charles Rutenberg Realty