The retainer with an hourly fee based compensation model puts the risk on the home buyer. You, the home buyer, pay a retainer fee upfront along with an hourly fee which is paid out of the retainer and then at closing any co-op fee offered is typically refunded back to you. The advantage for the agent is that they get paid for all the time they put in regardless of whether or not you actually buy a home. The advantage to the home buyer is that as long as you buy a home and don’t spend a lot of the agent’s time in looking for the right home or in putting together a transaction that closes, you will probably come out ahead.
You should be able to find a true exclusive buyer agent or true single party agent in Massachusetts by clicking here. But, if you can’t and you end up buying a home through a licensee with a traditional real estate company that takes listings you have some options. First, try to find a smaller, perhaps single office traditional real estate company that doesn’t have a lot of licensees as they may not have a lot of listings and hopefully none that you would be interested in. As long as they agree to be your buyer agent and not a designated or dual agent, you should get decent true representation. Second, if you are interested in one of their listings make sure that any buyer agency agreement you sign with them lets you out of the agreement without further liability to you or to the agent you decide to use to buy that particular home and have them refer you to a buyer agent with another company so that you continue to be truly represented. As noted above, this is what a true single party agent does. There is no reason why a traditional real estate company can’t do the same. But you will have to be the one to insist on it.