The answer to your question depends on the results of a Current Market Analysis (CMA). This is a tool that Realtors use to compare similar homes and determine a price range for a given property. A CMA takes into consideration market activity, marketing times, active listings, pending sales, and closed sales and is crucial to making an offer that makes sense. E.G. A $600K property may only be worth $540K based on a CMA, so an offer of $490K may be warranted in a declining market. You will also want to consider if the house has numerous buyers circling and preparing offers, in that case you might want to think about what the house is worth to you considering the CMA. In the later example if its a house you want, the value is there at $600K, and there are numerous people interested in the house than your offer should be closer to asking price to ensure they accept your offer.
I always try and talk to the listing agent before writing an offer so that I can get a sense of urgency, seller motivation, and try and dig up as much info as possible before placing an offer. This is why working with a good agent is crucial as he/she will protect your interests, review the market, and negotiate the best price possible. If you have any additional questions or would like to discuss my answer further feel free to contact me.
Best regards, Dave
David Westall, Realtor
Tahoe Riverfront Realty, Inc.