Here's the thing. A real estate agent/broker (not the same as a Realtor, incidentally) does not have a career that is made or broken on a single transaction. It's not just about chasing the commission. In fact, we know that you, the buyer, can do a lot of research on your own....and that, to an extent, we are not competing with each other, but with the customer and his or her ability to acquire information independent of us.
That said, there is value in knowledge--no matter how much research you do or how much you may like it (and I personally got into this field because I find it fascinating and fun; there are plenty of easier ways to make a quick buck than selling NYC co-ops), it's hard to replace real boots-on-the-ground knowledge and experience. Last night, an acquaintance listed his apartment on Facebook. I sent him a message offering a little respectful free advice--not because I'm chasing the listing; he clearly wants to avoid a commission--but because he has it priced way too high based on the comps in his building. I am actually recommending that he hang onto it if he can, renting it out until that particular sector of the market gets stronger. I hate to see anyone put their place on the market without having a shot in hell that it will sell--or that anyone will even show up for the open house. I've sat through enough empty open houses at "optimistically"-priced apartments!
Go ahead and see the place, and have your attorney negotiate it. The problem with your logic, as others here have pointed out, is that the 6% commission will go entirely to the seller's agent anyway, and you won't have someone on your side of the transaction, working for you FOR FREE. Unlike most professionals, we do a large hunk of our work for free--not in service of our own commissions, but in service of the deal. I can't count the number of times I've sent someone a listing search, or sat on floor duty or at an open house for no pay...just the prospect of meeting someone who may be looking for an apartment. If the buyer feels like they're paying too much (and here's where your own knowledge comes into play), they can simply decide not to put down the deposit and walk away. So in fact, it is in your agent's direct interest to make sure you are satisfied with what you are paying....that goes double for the informed, educated buyer, because I for one would assume they may be running the comps themselves.
If your attorney claims half of the commission, you're in the exact situation you wanted to avoid. And if not, the whole commission will go to the seller's agent...which will make them awfully happy that you showed up without your own agent. Remember that a seller's agent is expected to act in good faith with all parties, but is contractually bound to the seller, not the buyer.
One more thing: any agent/broker who wants to do more than a few deals is aiming to provide you with good customer service, so that you pass along referrals. It's not quite as black-and-white (or cynical and cutthroat) as you may anticipate. You give good service, people send their friends to you . If you don't, they don't.
Oh, and the one real d-bag move you should avoid: if you're going to have your lawyer negotiate regardless, don't set up the showing through a third-party broker. Just look up the property and contact the listing agent. Asking someone to show you a place when you plan on cutting them out of the deal is just bad, bad, uncool, and bad.
My advice: talk to a couple of agents/brokers who have had good results with your friends. Give them the benefit of the doubt. Unless you sign an exclusive buyer's agreement, you will have plenty of freedom--but seriously, like any professional, there are simply things we learn through experience that a layperson doesn't know.
Douglas Elliman Real Estate
NY NY 10023