In my opinion of course, it is never to late! And in most cases, even after the buyer has had direct contact with the listing broker and has not yet disclosed whether they had their own representation, it is usually still OK. But there are some exceptions. Just recently a buyer contacted me after viewing a property on his own and making an offer because he was suddenly feeling very uncomfortable with the prospect of having the listing agent also representing his interest (dual agency) especially when it was made clear to him he would not receive any financial advantage for going it alone. This all took place after just one viewing and a brief contact with the listing agent.
So he contacted me after a friend told him about my buy-side representation model. When we spoke he assured me that the listing agent had encouraged him to find his own broker (generally most tried and true pros take this approach). I asked because I know getting involved this late in the game can raise some eyebrows. Well, to make a long story short, the broker admitted that she did advise him to seek his own broker but failed to disclose that she would not share the commission. He would have to pay me himself.
Let's just say this did not go over very well with my client.
I want to keep this short so I will spare any additional details. My point is: if you plan to engage a buy-side broker or are even considering it, it is important to make your intentions known to the sell-side right away or at least at your initial physical contact. Don't jeopardize your right to your own representation, even if you just make it clear that you have not decided on a broker yet but do plan to bring one in. This simple gesture will keep the door open and alleviate any potential issues down the road. I would advise at the very least while at an open house to write in "Broker to be determined".
As a listing broker I have had the experience of working with a client who starts a negotiation...only to have a broker suddenly appear to represent them. Sure it can be annoying but I always took the position that they were entitled to it and NEVER would have suggested I would not co-broke/share the commission. As a listing broker I wanted the best for my seller; I also wanted the buyer to be happy. If you are successful in this business you are thinking about the big picture. At the end of the day I would guess that 95%+ of all deals are done with two brokers anyway.
Look, I understand why a listing broker gets annoyed when a buy-side broker is brought into the game late. I have been there. But sometimes a client just doesn't understand that purchasing an apartment without a broker directly representing their interests in NYC can be daunting especially after reading the Agency Disclosure. I can assure you with 99.9% certainty that you will not gain an upper hand financially or any other way by going it alone. So take your time and find a buy-side broker that you are comfortable working with. A good broker can be a great help when it comes to finding your home, understanding its value, weighing the pros and cons and putting together a solid strategy to negotiate the best deal.
Remember, the listing broker can not provide you with any critical information about a listing they exclusively represent. Of course you can also go it alone if you choose but just remember to do your own due diligence thoroughly because you will only hear the positives from the list side since they have a fiduciary responsibility to the seller.