Generally speaking, no, it is not better for a prospective home buyer to go directly to the seller's agent.
The total commission to be paid by the seller is established with the home owner before the property is even listed. The Listing Agreement also includes a section explicitly stating the amount of the total commission that will be payable to the buyer's agent.
If a buyer's agent is not used, that portion of the commission is not returned to the seller or used in the negotiations. In other words, the seller does not save money on the commission if just one agent is involved.
Nor can the buyer hope to 'glean' some tips on how much to offer on the property. The Listing agent is ethically and legally bound to not reveal this information.
While it may pain some Realtor's to admit this, it is always best to have an independent agent representing each party in the transaction. The reason a Listing agent may not admit this if you approach them directly is that they stand to potentially "double end" the deal. Most agents, however, are more than willing to share the commission in order to deal with a professional who understands the process and will look out for their client. It makes the transaction go smoothly and minimizes the potential for legal mistakes.
In fact, rather than enhancing a buyer's negotiating position, a buyer can inadvertently put himself at a disadvantage by not having an independent buyer's agent representing him/her.
And that is the topic of next month's installment.