Not to be (too) flip BUT: What exactly are you afraid of in calling a Realtor for advice? Most agents will give you any and all information that you need on the off chance you may end up working with them.
Real Estate is very specialized, especially when you are wading into the cesspool of auctions, reo's and short sales.
If you are interested in educating yourself and entering this market you have two choices. Educate yourself and pay $49 for one month of RealtyTrac (after free trial) OR interview a few agents that are experienced in this type of transaction and be an informed Buyer/Investor using the services of a professional.
The only other option is to be chum swimming in the shark tank.
Best of LUCK!
Just contact a local Realtor. It's that simple. It's free, and the information will be accurate.
This website will give you some idea, do keep in mind it may not cover everything you are seeking. Even if you are considering bidding on a home at the court (which you need all cash) it is strongly advisable to seek the advice of a reliable, trustworthy agent who is familiar with the process, and the risk involved.
It can save you a lot of money in the long run if you purchase a property only to find out you purchased the second lien and now you own the first lien along with any other attachments.
Many real estate agents, such as myself, have full access to the foreclosure properties and their current status. If you send me the address, I am more than happy to give you an update. I will warn you that if you are trying to acquire a property when it hits the courthouse steps, you can only purchase it via cash (i.e. cashier's check). Also, some of the properties that are in the foreclosure process (i.e. Notice of Default has been filed) pop up on the MLS as a short sale first. And inevitably, the property's courthouse sale date gets postponed as the original borrower and lender try and work out an agreement. I can go into this in greater detail if you want, just let me know.
If you aren;t working with a realtor, it will help a lot to engage one who can serve you in this regard. Most foreclosed properties will be listed via a realtor who will then post the information on the MLS. All of us can pull up specific properties for sale as regular sales, foreclosures or short sales.