Buying a house can be complicated and overwhelming, which is why it's so important to have a buyer's agent guiding you through the home buying process. This is the person whose job it is to protect your best interests in one of the largest and most significant purchases you'll ever make. In order to ensure that your interests are prioritized every step of the way, it's crucial for you to understand what to expect when working with a buyer's agent in North Carolina.

What is a Buyer's Agent?

Jeanette Hussey
Jeanette Hussey

From helping you find the perfect property to negotiating purchase agreements and understanding the intricacies of financing, a buyer's agent is a licensed real estate professional dedicated to ensuring your home-buying journey is smooth and successful. In other words, a buyer's agent represents the buyer throughout the home purchase process. As West & Woodall REALTOR Jeanette Hussey explains, "They're there to guide you through the process so you benefit from their knowledge and experience."

Kirk West
Kirk West

Because most people only buy a home a few times in their lives, West & Woodall Co-Owner and REALTOR Kirk West says, "Buyers want representation. This is a big investment, and they want to make sure someone is looking out for them throughout the transaction. They want our expertise and our knowledge."

The difference between a buyer and seller's agent is that the listing agent represents the person selling the house. They represent the best interests of the seller.

Buyer Agent Types of Representation

According to the North Carolina Real Estate Commission's Working With Real Estate Agents Disclosure Form there are three types of representation for buyer's agents in real estate transactions (1).

Buyer Agency

The agent that you’re working with (and the agent’s firm) represents only your interests in a transaction. The seller would either be represented by an agent affiliated with a different real estate firm or be unrepresented.

Dual Agency

This happens if you purchase a property listed by the firm that represents you. It's where the real estate firm and any agent with the same firm could represent you and the seller at the same time. A dual agent’s loyalty would be divided between you and the seller, but the firm and its agents must treat you and the seller fairly and equally and cannot help you gain an advantage over the other party.

Designated Dual Agency

The real estate firm would represent both you and the seller, but the firm would designate one agent to represent you and a different agent to represent the seller. Each designated agent would be loyal only to their client.

Buyer's Agency Agreement in NC

The buyer's agency agreement is an important document that all home buyers in North Carolina should be familiar with when considering hiring a buyer's agent. The document is required by the North Carolina Real Estate Commission and defines the type of representation the buyer will receive from an agent and the agent's firm, the timeframe that the agreement will be in effect, how the buyer's agent will be compensated, and what that compensation will be2. While the agreement will be a new requirement in some states in 2024, North Carolina is one of 18 states3 that have required it for many years.

How a Buyer's Agent Gets Paid in the Home Buying Process

Both listing or selling agents and buyer's agents work on commission. For most REALTORs, this is the only way they get paid for their services because they’re not on salary. The commission amount is usually determined as a percentage of the sales price of the house.

Traditionally, this amount has been included with the home's list price, with the seller paying both the listing and buyer's agents. The amount that is usually paid in commission is around 6%, with 3% going to the listing agent and 3% going to the buyer's agent.

Until July 2024, most sellers list the commission that will be paid to the buyer's agent along with the home's sales price in the Multiple Listing Services (MLS). These are databases developed by the National Association of REALTORS (NAR). According to NAR, these databases are maintained and paid for by real estate professionals to help their clients buy and sell property. "In most cases, access to information from MLS listings is provided to the public free-of-charge by participating brokers4."

Compensation Changes in 2024

Once the terms of a settlement with NAR take effect in mid-July 2024, sellers will no longer be able to publish offers of broker compensation on the MLS. Getting sellers to pay the buyer's agent compensation is still an option though, it just has to be negotiated with the seller and their agent at the beginning of the process.

"The seller will have to decide whether they want to pay a buyer's agent or not," explains Kirk West. "At West & Woodall, we think that buyer's agents should be compensated, so if our sellers don't want to pay a buyer's agent, then we will not be listing their house."

Bert Woodall
Bert Woodall

Because of the buyer's agency agreement, full transparency of how much the buyer's agent is charging in commission and who will pay that has been a required disclosure to the buyer in North Carolina for decades. West & Woodall Co-Owner and REALTOR Bert Woodall says, "The biggest rule change for us because of the NAR settlement is that we're going to have to negotiate commission with the buyer and seller before we show a property; whereas before the settlement, the commission the seller was paying out was listed in the multiple listing service."

Bert adds, "With the buyer's agency agreement, we have always disclosed that if the seller doesn't pay the full amount of the agreed upon buyer's agent compensation, the buyer would be asked to pay the difference. That's still going to be the case, but it's much simpler for everyone if the seller includes the buyer's agent compensation in the sales price."

Government-Backed Loans and Buyer's Agent Commission

For those with Veterans Affairs loans (VA loans), paying the buyer's agent commission separately as part of the loan is currently not allowed. However, Fannie Mae clarified in April 2024 that buyers with a Federal Housing Administration loan (FHA loan) could roll their buyer's agent compensation into the loan note without it counting toward their concession limit. This helps to make homeownership more feasible for those who don't have a lot of upfront cash to put toward the purchase of a home.

The Process of Working With a Buyer's Agent in NC

While a good buyer's agent will make the process of working with them seem smooth and seamless, it's still important to know what to expect. That's why we're going to walk you through the process from first meeting to closing day.

First meeting

Jeanette Hussey explains, "When I have a first meeting with a potential buyer, I like to make an appointment, meet them in the office, and sit down with them and go over the whole process from beginning to end. It usually takes 30-45 minutes." It's during this type of meeting or "first substantial contact" with an agent that the North Carolina Real Estate Commission requires the Working with Real Estate Agents Disclosure publication be provided to potential buyers1.

Debra Mangum
Debra Mangum

West & Woodall REALTOR Debra Mangum clarifies that first substantial contact basically means the first time the conversation has any substance to it. "Once they start talking about anything personal or confidential, that could be what they're willing to pay; motivation, such as, 'I've got to find something right away,' anything like that." The publication is not a contract, but it is an information sheet that explains how buyer agency works.

Jeanette says that usually, by the end of that first meeting, the buyer knows whether they want to work with her or not, and they'll go ahead and sign a buyer's agency agreement so they can begin to look at houses.

Also, as part of the first meeting, the buyer's agent will begin to hone in on what the buyer is looking for in a new home. Debra always asks them for their non-negotiables first. "What is a house that you will not buy unless it has this in it? A lot of people start off with what they want and what they desire, but then we have to get real serious and figure out what they can't live without and work from there."

Finding the buyer a home

Debra describes how buyer's agents can help find their clients a home. "A lot of people think that the role of a buyer's agent is just to open doors, but there's nothing further from the truth. There's so much more."

For the search itself, an agent may:

  • Set up MLS searches
  • Rely on knowledge of the market for what's coming down the pipeline - either through contacts with other agents or new construction
  • Use knowledge of the area and what the cycle is for potentially finding houses as they come on the market

Debra says, "We'll go out and see a property when something comes up. We don't have a lot of inventory right now, so the days of going out and seeing seven houses at a time are kind of gone unless you've got somebody moving into the area. But we just go out and look. Then, when they find something they want, it's my job to look through disclosures, investigate the property, and make sure there's nothing that's going to be a sticking point for them."

Negotiating the Offer

Once a buyer is ready to make an offer, their agent helps them determine what is appropriate for the house.

According to Kirk West, the 2024 NAR settlement makes the role of a buyer's agent even more important when it comes to this part of the process. "Our job has always been to help our buyers understand the market value of the house they want to buy. We do that by comparing similar houses that have sold in the area and understanding how having or not having certain features can add to or subtract from the value of the home. Up until now, we've known that the sales price more than likely included a total of 6% commission for the listing agent and the buyer's agent. The problem now though, is that you'll have some properties with the commission for both real estate agents built into the sales price and some properties where it's not. It's going to be up to the buyer's agent to use their knowledge of the area to help sift through that to make sure that the offer is based on what the house can truly be appraised for."

Bert Woodall adds that contrary to what some people think, the NAR settlement is not going to lower housing prices because the buyer's agent commission might or might not be included. "Housing prices are not going down because of this. There's no way appraisers are going to be able to figure out if the seller paid the commission or didn't pay the commission. So it won't affect the housing prices, those are going to stay the same. If the sellers don't pay the buyer's agent commission, they may end up with more in their pocket than the market truly justifies and the buyer still has to come up with the money to pay their agent."

After the offer is made

Once the offer is made, many people think that's the end of a real estate agent's role in buying a house. Debra says there's nothing further from the truth. "At that point, our job is about 25% done."

Here's a look at many of the things Debra says good buyer's agents do for their clients.

  • Schedule any inspections they want done.
  • Investigate and pull restrictive covenants for them to review.
  • Work with the closing attorney and lender to make sure everything can go as smoothly as possible.
  • Attend home inspections and help the client go through the inspection report and figure out which things are important to them.
  • Negotiate any repairs needed with the seller's agent.
  • Attend re-inspections if needed.
  • Review the closing statement once the closing attorney has that prepared and make sure there's nothing that needs to be changed.
  • Attend closing with the client.

The Bottom Line on Working With a Buyer's Agent in NC

The bottom line is that a buyer's agent is a real estate professional who represents the interests of the buyer in a real estate transaction. As you consider buying a home, remember that they are your advocate and ally in navigating our area's dynamic real estate landscape. If you're interested in buying a home in the Triangle or at Hyco Lake, contact Our agents will be there to walk you through every step of one of the most important purchases you'll ever make.