According the NAR (the National Association of Realtors), 62% of home buyers begin their search by getting in the car, driving around and calling agents on the yard sign. I realize this seems like a great idea because the agent who is listing the home knows the most about the home; believe me, I get it! However, whatever he/she knows about the home can easily be translated to another agent.
Where I'm going with this, is, that I think as a buyer, you should think about home buying differently. What you need to realize is that yes, the listing agent, more than likely, knows more about that particular home than any other agent; however, that listing agent also has a listing agreement, a binding contract, stating that that agent is to represent that seller and his/her best interest. If you call the listing agent and begin the process in purchasing that particular home, know that that agent can NOT represent you at this point. He/she can only pass on information - facts; they can absolutely not offer advice and opinions. It is, in fact, illegal for an agent to enter into an agreement with both the seller AND buyer and offer any sort of advice and opinions to either party. I've even heard Title Attorneys call these agents who are willing to enter into an Intermediary Agreement with both parties "greedy" for the commission.
As a buyer, what you want is a Buyer Specialist. An agent who will represent you and only you. Someone to negotiate on your behalf all the while looking out for your best interest. So the next time you're considering buying a home, don't start calling agents on the sign, ask a friend, family member or colleague for a referral so you can make sure you are fully represented.