So I want to buy an item, have the money to do so, wait till there is less than a minute to go, put in my bid and it says that item is no longer available etc. Yet other people constantly outbid me with just a few seconds left on a bid.
Can anyone explain how to do that successfully and consistently?
Happened to me both ways, too (got lucky by winning an item on the literally last second, but also got outbid on another item).
What you probably can do (haven't tried): When the auction is below 1 hour, you just watch the time, hit the search button constantly and wait for the minute change (e.g., when it switches from 32 to 31 minutes). Then you do your math and you should know what second exactly the auction ends. It's just a guess - I don't think there's anything else you can do to get closer to winning. Oh, besides putting in a higher bid, of course :-)
Always put how much you are willing to spend, because you only have to pay as much as the guy who bid less than you.
If you bid 10m and the item, to you, is worth 10m, good. If no one else bids higher than 1m, great you only have to pay 1m + 5%.
Also for last second bidding, just wait till the timer says 2 minutes left, then keep refreshing the page. Once it says <1m, start your stopwatch/timing device. At the last 5 seconds, put in your bid. I'd advise doing at the minimum 5 seconds left, because the AH might need a little bit of time to process your bid, and you don't want it not to be processed in time :).
If someone got a higher proxy bid u get a instant message that u are outbidded after placing the bid. I usually wait until 1m left and then I start bidding if I get instantly outbidded I know there is a proxy bid on the item and I still have time to place a higher bid.