By looking at homes for sale by a regular owner - not a bank or a short sale - their homes are going to be priced a little higher and do not attract investors in the same way. Also you are likely to have competition but you will be competing with other regular home-buyers. The regular home sellers will have a heart and would likely want their home to go to a family and not some investor - especially if they have lived in it for many years, made many customized renos, etc. They want to make sure that their home will go to someone who will take care of it, and love it the same as they did. Even though it is not their home anymore you always feel attached to your first home or a home that you spent many years in. Around the valley and Mission Hills in particular you will find many homes for sale by older couples that are in great condition and have been kept up and the sales price will be higher but there will be no work to be done.
Besides, almost ALL of the foreclosures I looked at were HORRIBLE. Best leave those to the investors to fix up and rent out anyway. They all smelled and were falling apart. Luckily mine was in great shape but still needed a few things like paint & all new flooring to replace the ratty old carpet. These things can add up and my next home I plan to buy one that is all ready for me to move in - turnkey.
It also helps to ask to see listings that belong to your agent - they sometimes have a leg up on the listing and can help you to get the house. They can put in a good word for you with the bank (I bought a foreclosure) this is what my Realtor did and how I eventually got my home.