In an ideal situation, you will have local representative for a Realtor who knows the market, is well connected with affiliated businesses to call in as necessary, be well respected by other agents in the area, and have first hand knowledge of buyer preferences for that area.
If I had to compromise and couldn't "have it all" in one package, I would give consideration to a Realtor who was from a nearby neighborhood who had excellent skills, and was deeply committed to me as a client. I give great weight to the value the Realtor brings to the transaction, and the right Realtor can venture outside of their immediate area and be very effective.
I have seen buyers have their Aunt Mable from 80 miles away help them through a transaction because they felt obligated and so Aunt Mable could get the commission. If Aunt Mable isn't going to driving the buyers to see all the properties with you, internalize the market data, tresearch whatever is needed, and maintain a hands-on approach, then pass on Aunt Mable.
As a sellers agent, the priority is on the merit of the offer and the likelihood of closing. A strong offer that does not close is worthless. If there is reason to suspect the contract may not make it to closing, I will share those reasons or suspicions with the seller. A buyer agent can build confidence or cast doubt on the liklihood of closing.
Bottom line....Choose a knowledgeable and committed buyer agent, preferably from the immediate neighborhood you seek to buy. If you have a great agent from a nearby area, he/she may be well worth it. Companies all across America place a high value of talent.
Best of luck with your home purchase.
The importance of using a local Realtor is they will know the market and it's nuances. They will know which schools have the best test scores and the type of community that will fit your needs. Lafayette, Orinda and Moraga have some soils issues in some areas and an out of town Realtor may not be familiar with thi and not order the necessary inspctions to protect you. Each community has it's own personality. Good luck with you choice.
If you have a family member in the business, they will be able to help you find a good local Realtor on a referral but, you definitely need someone who can run comparable numbers for you on the specific home type and area before you extend your offer, and verify information about the property. You need someone who knows the local customs and laws (although if "out of town" still means you're in the same state then your ok with the laws), but if "out of town" means you're relative isn't licensed in the same state where the property is located, then your family-member agent may not even be able to legally represent you in the other state!
The second part of your question - whether sellers broker's "recommend" offers based on who the buyer's agent is that's involved in the transaction - should be a resounding and indisputable NO! Each offer should stand on it's own merits and who the buyer's broker is, is not much of a merit.
Of course, there are some agents who can blow up a deal or create unnecessarily difficult issues with a transaction because of in experience or their inability to communicate or incompetence; and if a seller's agent receives an offer from a specific agent that he or she has had a FIRST HAND experience with, AND that agent is one who's come forward with an offer for their buyer, and the listing agent believes working that agent may be to his detriment, then that seller's agent should simply tell the seller the facts ONLY of their knowledge of that agents prior first hand work and keep their (otherwise slanderous) opinions out of the discussion.
Ultimately the acceptance of an offer is the seller's choice and ONLY the seller's choice. Clearly agents suggest and recommend strategy to a counter offer and points for their seller clients to consider but these recommendations can only be responsibly based on FACTS and what the agent knows of the seller's objectives and ALWAYS and ONLY in the seller's best interest.
Good luck to you, and ask your family member to refer you to an expert that is local to the area of the property!