I am a first time buyer searching for a home in a competitive area. I have been actively looking to buy a starter home since March 2009. When I first started my home search, I used an agent to represents me. I have submitted a bunch of offers with 20% down financing through the agent with no result. In fact, majority of my offers were ignored or outbid. Personally, I think some of the agents don't really look after the buyer interests anyways because their earnings are based on a closed sale. Some agents, sometimes, would even pressure the buyers into a sale. I definitely experienced and heard of such practices.
I started using the listing agent early this year with great success. In fact, I witnessed one of my friends bought a house with the listing agent. If my friend didn't used the listing agent, she probably won't have gotten the house. When I used the listing agent myself, all of my offers were accepted on the house.
I asked a lot of questions because I want to cross reference between my agent and other information. I don't want to be depended solely on what my agent told me. This is one of reasons why I spend time reading these real estate message boards because they are very educational.
Thanks everyone for their responses and hopefully I didn't offend any good Agents out there because I know they do exist