If this is an apartment like a co-op or condo for sale, it can make a diffference sometimes. The thing is most of the time a skilled real estate agent can negotiate hard for you because most of the time sellers over price their property with or without using an agent.
But it's good to have an agent to give you comps, do research for similar properties, negotiate and be able to sink reality into a seller, to get a seller's concession, agree to terms in the contract, set up and attend inspections on your behalf, work with attorneys which can be difficult, come up with solutions to any problems that may arise and set up and attend the closing.
Real estate is not a cut and dry process and you need an experienced and accomplished real estate agent to represent you to make sure your are protected all the way through.
This is our profession and we get paid to negotiate the best deal for our clients.
Some may disagree and think that they can negotiate a better deal, but that's not always the case. There is a lot more to our business than just selling homes.
Being a straight forward professional...I would advise you to work with a Realtor.
Once the offer is accepted the work begins.
Now about your question whether to bring your own buyer's agent or not. Yes, you can get certain type of assistance from the buyer's agent that would never be provided by the listing agent. BUT: if you already saw the property with the listing agent and even made an offer to a listing agent - there is no way this listing agent will split commission with a buyer's agent brought by you at this point. Most firms follow this rule. Only agent that was a "procuring cause" of the transaction is entitled to commission. An agent brought by the buyer after the property was shown to the buyer by the listing agent - is not a procuring cause. No listing agent in their sane mind will split commission with another agent who showed up after the deal was half-way through.
At the time of the first "substantial contact" with the listing agent, he/she must have given you the paper to sign stating that you agree to be represented by them.
If you still want to have a buyer's agent, you will have to pay him out of your pocket. I don't think it's necessary.
Sarah makes some good points but one thing that must be kept in mind, finding a home and getting an accepted offer are just the beginning. The Realtors are often the glue that keeps the deal together. Sounds like Sarah had a competent listing agent helping her, not working for her. While Daniel says there is no need for a buyer's agent after the offer is accepted, I beg to differ. I have had attorney's and mortgage companies drop the ball. A competent buyers agent will ensure that all the steps are proceeding in a timely fashion and act as liasion between parties. There is also an intangible value to the "hand holding" services, particularly for a first time home buyer, that their buyer agent provides. Remember, the seller's agent only owes the customer honesty, accounting, reasonable skill and disclosure.
When I began my career in 1979, there was no such thing as a buyer's agent. Everyone worked for the seller and commissions were split between cooperating brokers at an agreed upon percentage. The State felt this left the buyer without representation, naked and alone, if you will; so they created Buyer Agency. Whether or not there is value to Buyer Agency is ultimately up to the public to decide.
You should know that some brokers will lower their commission if they are not forced to split it. This may induce the seller to accept an offer that is less than ask since the broker is taking a smaller chunk.
When I bought my apartment I did not have a broker and the sellers broker acted on both our behalves. Though a broker is trying to get the most money for their sellers they are also trying to get the sale made as quickly as possible. This is true if there are two brokers in the equation or just one (There is a great expination for this in the book Freakanomics if you are interested). After the contract was signed the broker helped me compile my co-op board package and was helpful with the application process. When I sold that apartment when offers would come in without an accompanying buyers broker, my selling broker would lower his fee so that I could get closer to the take away that I was looking for in the sale. In the end the buyer did have a broker, but as my broker was familiar with the building he was much more helpful to the buyer than the buyer's own broker was. Once again I saw that a buyers broker is really only helpful in finding a place and not in the closing on the apartment (particularly for co-ops since there is an application process)
Hope you found a great apartment!
Do yourself a favor, get a REaltor to represent your interests.
Bringing in your buyer's agent will ensure that your interests are being protected. Remember, the listing agent works for the seller. The seller listed the apartment with a real estate company for a specified commission. The listing company then offers a part of that compensation to other companies. Whether or not the listing agent will negotiate the commission in the absence of a buyer agent is at the discretion of the listing company. I, for one, would not.