Buyers are still in pig heaven out there right now. Prices are low, interest rates are historically low, but things are changing. In the last couple of months the market has come alive. If you have found a good house at a good price to buy you can expect to have competition when you bid. Representing both buyers and sellers I have had multiple situation the last two months where there are multiple offers at and near the asking price. Homes that are staged to sell with a competative price determined by the competition on the market at the same time will get purchased in less than 90 days, sometimes in the first week.
Be prepared when you go out looking. Have your pre-approval letter from the bank in hand. Buyers today can spend months looking on-line before contacting an agent. They can compare and contrast listings right on line so the Seller really needs to know how their house compares and price it accordingly. Keep in mind that what you find on the internet is not always accurate. Zillow, Trulia, Realtor.com, Redfin are all excellent tools, but they pull only web based content from the MLS and depending on the way the MLS allows that content to be re-distributed to the consumer sites it can be inaccurate.
As you get close to your purchase, or you find an excellent agent who has your interests in mind you should work with a professional. A buyers agent should cost you nothing as the commission is paid by the Seller. For this reason alone you should work with an agent. I had three deals in the last month where I worked as the Dual Agent. This means that I represent both sides in the transaction. This is old school--buyers agents came recently to the market. A good agent can provide you accurate information about the market and that information is the same whether you are the buyer or seller.