Starting the Process
When considering how to make a successful bid on a house, you're going to want to know how much house you can afford. Then, back up and bid less than you can afford -- generally, somewhere between five and ten percent less than the seller's listing price.
There are several elements in the process that will affect this bid, however. What are the comparable transactions in the neighborhood? Are homes in this neighborhood selling quickly? Has there been a lot of interest in the house you want to buy?
What are the market conditions like? If prices are trending downward, this will also affect your bid. Your Realtor can give you a competitive market analysis (CMA) for the neighborhood, and you can research public records and the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), but those records get outdated quickly.
Are there house-specific factors that could move the price up and down? Unique architectural features and upgraded interior amenities can drive the price up, while a disclosed foundation problem could drive it down.
Once you've prequalified for your bid amount, send it to the seller. Try and prequalify for more than your bid amount, in case you have to go back quickly with a response to the seller's counteroffer.
Once you've made your offer, if it's accepted, you'll move into an option period -- that's when you'll order your own inspection and find out if there are problems that would make you want to walk away from the house. But that comes after the offer.
Use your Realtor as a resource -- he or she will know the market area and can give you specific advice about the best offer for your particular situation.