Well, I didn't see the show she is talking about but I can make a pretty educated guess about what was going on there :-) She may have been seeing a property that was being sold by auction not a home being sold in a more traditional manner. This would account for the "cap" on the high dollar amount. And, yes it is indeed legal to bid one dollar over. Basically, if the seller and the buyer both agree, unless it is forbidden by local, State or Federal law, its legal.
Here's the thing, the rules (and the contracts) say that as an agent, unless I am forbidden by my client in writing, I can tell someone the highest dollar value for an offer my seller has received but I am not allowed to tell what the lowest amount they would accept is. If I am representing a buyer; I am not allowed to tell what the highest amount they would be willing to pay would be.
So, what that should mean is that I could ask an agent representing a home you wanted to buy to tell e what the highest amount they have been bid on the home is so that we could write an offer that was just a little higher so that you would "win".
Unfortunately, most agents haven't ever really read the contracts that they have their clients sign so they don't realize that this is what they can and should do. After all, seller's hire us to help them get the most we can for their home. Since they don't know the "rules", there are heaps of folks out there who don't play by them.
I always ask what the current highest bid is, and I am usually pretty good at getting that information (which is why my client's usually "win"). I am also very good at helping to educate my clients so that they understand pricing and what the market is telling us about value in order to help not write offers that can't be accepted.
While I don't know your personal circumstances, I can tell you why you have been unsuccessful thus far in finding and ultimately buying a home. It truly all does come down to price and if you are consistently being out bid on homes you want, you might be undervaluing these homes. A good, long, hard look a the market area you are shopping in and an in depth analysis of what you find regarding pricing might be able to help you revise your strategy in order to help lead you to success. Remember, a good agent will be able to not only help you get what you want, they will also be able to help you get it at the best price the market supports and also to try to get you additional concessions from the seller like credits, repairs or allowances for them, and closing costs among other things.
Jumping back for a moment to the auction scenario... These are very different beasts than a traditional sale and can bring with them some great opportunities but also a whole host of new challenges as well. Personally, I am not a fan of buying or selling a home via the auction process. I don't think it gives the buyer of the home the kind of protection I want to see my buyer's have. I also really don't like seeing large amounts of money being put on the line without an assurance of success.
And, there are some costs that, while they might not be truly hidden, certainly aren't put out there in the forefront like the buyer's premium which is an additional charge that can range for a few thousand dollars to 5% or more of the value of the final purchase price added on top.
In an auction, the costs and expenses of the sale are paid for by the buyer, including any and all commissions the buyer's agent receives. In a more traditional sale, there are some fees associated with the purchase that the buyer does indeed pay (called closing costs, like the escrow fee, title insurance, prorated taxes, etc.) but the actual main expenses of the sale, including the agent's commission is paid by the seller.
I hope this helps somewhat. If you have additional questions or need additional help, please feel free to get in touch.
Take care and have a great day!
Tisza Major-Posner, Realtor DRE#01784679, IVPG Realty (909) 837-8922