First of all, understand that a Buyer's Agent costs the Buyer nothing; they are paid out of the Escrow, by the Seller. (The Seller pays the total, negotiated commission and at Close it is divided.)
Now, the question you may have, is what does the Buyer's Agent do for you?
Do you know where to look for a LOAN?
Do you how to analyze a Loan; what to look for?
Do you know how to do a CMA; determine what the house is WORTH?
Do you know how they do an APPRAISAL?
Do you understand the Escrow process?
Do know a cadre of Inspectors?
What happens if the INSPECTIONS find something serious?
Do you understand CONTINGENCIES?
Do you know how to write up an OFFER to protect yourself?
Do you understand DISCLOSURES?
How much DEPOSIT should you put down?
Will that DEPOSIT be refundable?
There is a lot more; but another question;
Does the person who advised you about this; do they understand all these things?
By private owners I assume you mean homes that are not bank owned homes.
Properties listed for sale by private owners are better than REO homes for first time buyers because they are not sold "AS IS". In this case you would be able to get some history on the home as well, since the seller has lived in it. If the property is a standard sale meaning the seller is not in the red with their mortgage, you will have a smoother purchase process.
Another plus in dealing with a private owner vs. a bank owned home is the private owner may want to sale to someone who will live in the home, making you stand out above investors. Bank owned listings are awarded to the buyer with the highest and best offer, regardless if the buyer plans to occupy the home or not. With bank owned homes you may be competeing with cash heavy investors.
Best of luck to you!
Kawain Payne, Realtor