Is there an advantage to making your offer through the listing agent? No, no, no!
But on BusinessWeek's Hot Property blog, Chris Palmeri takes a different view: "Listing agents are the Realtors that represent the sellers of the home. They split the commission, paid by the seller, with the agent representing the buyer. In some markets where banks are dumping foreclosed properties the competition has gotten so fierce there are often multiple offers over the asking price. The listing agent is supposed to present the offers to his client but are they more apt to push an offer when there is no buyer's agent and they get to keep both sides of the commission?"
Sorry, but I'm still not buying it. Real estate agents have a legal obligation to present all offers to the seller and I have to tell you that there are very few greedy agents who are persuasive enough to convince a seller to take a lower offer instead of a comparable but higher one out of their own vested interests. In the end, it's the seller who accepts the offer -- and offering the listing agent a bigger slice of the commission won't help you beat out other offers.
If you're looking to buy a house, it may be worth finding an agent who works only with buyers. Check out the National Association of Exclusive Buyer Agents for a member directory.