Like mentioned below, even if you don't get hired by a foreclosure or REO specialist, getting the word out is the first step. Then if you can find a mixture of foreclosures, landlords who've evicted tenants, rehabbers or just general cleanup and repair, combining jobs from many different areas can still be quite profitable! Good luck with it!
For the questions that have not been answered... Before the sheriff sale it would be the home owner that you would contact and talk with. Once you talk with them if they are willing to try and keep from the foreclosure then you could talk with the lender and see about a short sale. Once it is foreclosed on it would be the bank that you needed to talk with, although from past experience haven't been able to get them to do anything until after it was put on the market as an REO.
Just as a little tip, the sellers are getting hounded from every direction. The lender trying to get their money, the attorney trying to help get the money, investors looking to steal a property, anyone else who may have a lien on the property, and then people who are honestly trying to help. When you talk with them be prepared to be talking to an unhappy camper, they've probably heard from 10 people that same day. If you really like the house I would suggest saying so, maybe telling what your plans are for the property. Anything that let's them know that you are serious about wanting the house and you aren't like all the others.... more