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Well, to be honest, every single agency could answer these questions differently.
Each agency has their own rules, regulations and stipulations when it comes to their fees. Some simply match IP's with surrogates and then step back and leave it be. Some actually handle the entire cycling process, helping make appointments, handling the escrow. SO really, its hard for me to give simple answers to each question. Most agencies require payment upfront, or at least a downpayment, and the rest when you are matched.
And yes, some agencies are really based on where they are located and tend to stick to that area, some are international and work with IP's and surrogates all over the world.
Guidelines.....well, make sure the agency is credible. Ask on message boards about agencies, research all you can when looking into an agency. Ask for past information, how many people they have matched, people who can give references. Before paying any agency, know what you are getting yourself into. Its all about knowledge and research. If you jump into something just because you get into a hurry and you don't research, you could easily be scammed.
Mommy to Damon TS to Kyle 10/07 GS for E and R--WE ARE PREGNANT!!
Try 1--Sept 2010 negative Try 2--Jan 2011 negative
Try 3--May 2011-miscarried at 5 weeks
Transfer 4---PREGNANT!!! BFP @ 5.5dp3dt Beta at 11dp3dt was 164.6
Ultrasound showed TWO BABIES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!