If you are using a Realtor to help you purchase a home, you typically pay the Realtor nothing. Normally the seller’s real estate agent pays the buyer’s agent. In some situations, though the buyer pays the Realtor or real estate agent directly.
Realtor versus Agent
For a real estate buyer, using a real estate agent is typically a good value, as the buyer receives services yet pays nothing. It is the fiduciary duty of a real estate licensee to serve the best interest of his client. Not all real estate licensees are Realtors. A Realtor is a member of the National Association of Realtors, which is an organization for real estate professionals. A real estate sales agent or broker who is a Realtor agrees to follow a higher code of ethics and submit to the regulations and standards set by NAR.
If the Realtor you are working with is the listing agent in the property, you may be in a dual agency. This requires the written agreement of the buyer and seller. When taking part in a dual agency, the agent must work in the best interests of both the buyer and seller, without giving either preference. If the real estate agent does not consider you his client and the seller is his client, the agent will be working in the best interest of the seller, not you.
In a traditional real estate listing, the seller hires a real estate agent to list his property and agrees to pay the listing agent a percentage of the sale price for bringing a qualified buyer. The listing agent then offers a percentage of the commission to an agent bringing a buyer. This is how the Multiple Listing Service originated. It serves as a way to compensate competitive brokers for bringing buyers. Therefore, in this type of arrangement, the buyer pays nothing to a Realtor, before or after buying a home.
Broker’s Buyer’s Agreement
When a buyer signs a broker’s buyer agreement, she is agreeing to work exclusively with a real estate broker to find property. Typically, this type of agreement allows the agent’s fees to come from the seller’s agent. But if the seller is not offering compensation to the buyer’s agent, such as in a for-sale-by-owner, the buyer agrees to pay the agent's or Realtor’s fees. Typically, the buyer pays these at the close of escrow.
It is unusual to pay the Realtor prior to purchasing a house. Before agreeing to make any up-front payment, review the written contract you have with the agent. If you suspect the Realtor is attempting to take advantage of you, discuss the matter with your local Realtor Association and or state’s real estate department.