Hi Bbbuyer and thanks for your second post.
Let me just clarify that when I mentioned "insider information" it was referring NOT to the buyer's agent getting this information, but your hopes--in working with the listing agent--of getting information about offers and pricing that would not normally be divulged to buyer's agents. Nothing shady, just a comment.
Okay, as to your observations about pricing, I will admit (as would others) that pricing is never a "science" so much as a hunch based on empirical information gathered from "backward looking" data. In other words, we use the comparables as a basis for our estimates, but because these prices are at least 30 days old or older, we use our knowledge of the market (often coming directly from our experience in viewing homes, gauging buyer traffic, and discussions with colleagues), as well as our experiences in recent sales to determine the likely range of the offers to be received for a home. We also try to prepare our clients for what might be, in my mind, "the price to beat" in order to be the successful bidder. But, as you know, what offer the seller selects may be far different from our guesses.
As my pal Marcy Moyer astutely pointed out, the offer that the seller selects can be based on many factors--so while price is a big one, so are the seller's needs and the conditions placed on the offer by the buyers. We'd have no way of knowing what the offers looked like without being a fly on the wall when the sellers are reviewing and discussing the one to select.
So if there is a "take away" for you from this posting it's probably this...
1. Have your own Realtor when you buy. Using the listing agent puts you in a situation that, personally, I would not ever do, which is to have one agent serve as a "dual agent" for both buyer and seller.
2. While your Realtor might suggest a price to offer on a home, ultimately, it's YOUR wishes that must be complied. In other words, if you feel a home is worth "$X", then have the offer written with that amount. You're in the driver's seat here, so simply ask that the offer be made with the pricing that you feel is comfortable for you. As I always tell my clients, "the decision on how much to offer for a home rests with the buyer...not with me." I'm the agent--your my client--provided its not unethical, illegal, immoral or outrageous, I'll write the offer in a manner that you request.
Again, if you want to recruit the listing agent to be your agent, by all means, please do. Keep in mind that you will have to "hire" that person with a contract, so be very clear that the relationship terminates with that particular home, if you wish not to employ the agent for other transactions as well.