I must be missing something with your question. You are saying you can't decide what price to pay. You and your lender will be the final decision makers on that, not an agent. Once you have chosen a lender, you will work with him and after giving the lender your information the lender will let you know your price range in a home. You, in turn do not have to purchase a home for that amount, you may decide the monthly payment would be more then you are willing to handle each month. Therefore, you tell the lender what you want in the way of a mortgage and that will become the final decision maker in the price of the home you want to purchase. If you have any other questions or if I can be of further service, please feel free to call me @301-548-4216 which is Long and Foster, Kentlands office. Good luck!!
My recommendation would be to listen more to the local market happenings vs what is going on Nationally.
If you are the Buyer or the Seller, there is great benefit in being represented by a Realtor, especially today.
The only burden I see is where there is no representation.
Some people, many actually try to sell on their own, and when they cannot, they hire a Realtor.
P.S. Good luck "deciding how much to pay for a house"
The internet has truly transformed the real estate market. In the past, real estate agents were often 'gate keepers' that managed the flow of home information to buyers. This definitely isn't the case now -- which is a great thing.
Just looking at stats on web sites and watching the news doesn't answer the questions listed here (by the way, foreclosures for the zips that you list vary widely). For a buyer, a knowledgeable agent can help educate and guide you through the market and help find the best value for your specific needs. There typically isn't a charge for a buyer agent's service.
For sellers, a good agent will provide a comprehensive marketing program, pricing guidance, staging, contract negotiation and other services. The internet is a critical part of a home's marketing plan, but the internet will never be selling homes since homes are not commodities
Based on your initial question - "I want to buy a home but don't know what price to pay" - it sounds like you could definitely benefit from the help of a real estate agent!