It's time to explain buyer brokerage again. The real estate business has changed a great deal over the years, and buyers don't always understand the changes. It is similar in many ways to the medical field, where privacy concerns have led to the HIPAA law, requiring patients to sign documents each and every time that they see a physician. Even lawyers have gone in this direction; a client must now sign a retainer agreement before any work on his or her behalf can begin.
Well, we have those rules as well. When you begin to work with an agent, he or she is required, at the first significant contact, to present representation forms. Although we are allowed to take you into our own listings, that is because, in those cases, we represent the seller. We cannot take you into someone else's listing without having buyer brokerage. If we do, we don't have to be paid. Would you work at your job without knowing whether you are going to get a check?
These rules are also for your protection. If we don't represent you, we cannot tell you things that it would be in your interest to know. For instance, we are only supposed to tell you the listed price without a buyer brokerage agreement, not what we think you should offer or what we think the property is actually worth. The current regulations arose out of a genuine feeling that everyone deserves his or her own agent, looking out for his or her own interests. Almost all of the time, the seller still pays the commissions to both agents--that's because the seller is the one with the cash, since buyers cannot roll commissions into the mortgage amount. However, even that will probably change some day.
In the meantime, be kind to your agent who asks you to sign a form that you didn't used to have to sign. He or she is just trying to do his or her job in the best possible way, and to help you get all the information you need to make a good decision.