In Massachusetts, there are usually two real estate agents involved in the purchase of a home. The listing agent represents the home seller while the buyer’s agent represents the home buyer. A buyer’s agent acts as your advocate, helping you find the home you want, then negotiating the lowest possible price.
For example, your buyer’s agent will work on your behalf to scout out new listings to find the right match, counsel you on the pros and cons of each property, provide you with objective information about recent sales of similar properties, and negotiate the best price for you once you do find the right home.
When you walk into an open house or call an agent because you saw their home listing, you are talking to the listing agent or "seller's agent". Seller's agents are legally and contractually obligated to represent the best interests of the seller. This includes the right to share with the seller any information you, the buyer, give them. For example, if you tell the listing agent that you are pre-qualified to $300,000, they can give the seller this information. Additionally, they are not allowed to disclose information to you that could harm the seller’s negotiating position. Your buyer’s agent can share with you any information they discover about the seller’s situation.
Typically, there is no cost for a buyer’s agent. The entire commission (usually 5-6 percent of the home sale price) is paid by the home seller. If there’s only a listing agent involved in the transaction, that agent retains the entire commission. If you have buyer representation, the commission is split between the listing agent and buyer’s agent.
[photo courtesy of Enrico Trujillo]