For Buyers

Whether you’re shopping for appliances or automobiles, groceries or gadgets, travel services or tax preparers, the Internet has changed the way most people gather information about products and services. For people who are thinking about buying a home, the change is apparent, as well. The Internet now is the source of information that traditionally came from real estate agents, with online listings of homes for sale featuring panoramic pictures, prices, information on neighborhoods and schools, comparable sales, taxes, financing options, and more. Indeed, potential buyers who choose to use the Internet to access new listings and narrow their search may be the best informed and most efficient that real estate professionals have ever dealt with.

Real Estate Brokers and Agents

Before you contact any real estate professional, it’s important to know the difference between brokers and agents. Real estate brokers are licensed professionals who help sellers and prospective buyers of homes, and often operate as part of a brokerage firm or franchise. Real estate agents are licensed professionals who work under the supervision of a licensed real estate broker. In return, the broker pays the agent a portion of the commission earned from the sale or purchase of the property. In a typical home sale, there are two real estate pros: one who works with the seller — called the listing agent — and one who works with the buyer — called the selling agent. The listing agent generally shares the sales commission with the selling agent who finds the buyer for the home. But the seller pays both agents, usually from the proceeds of the sale. Depending on where you live, your agent may not have any obligation to keep the information you have shared confidential until you enter into a formal relationship. In fact, sometimes, your agent actually may be bound to represent the seller’s interests unless you establish a relationship where the agent represents your interests.
In Texas, agents are required to disclose the type of relationship they have with you, and then, it’s up to you to decide whether you want them to represent you. Whether you meet an agent at an open house or get in touch with one on your own, be aware that they need to disclose important information about their business relationship with you. You can feel free to ask them about that.