Banks generally will not work directly with a buyer. They list homes with Realtors who frankly act as a "gate-keeper" and "flack-catcher". Remember the listing agent (company) is hired by the owner (seller)... bank or individual...to market the property and negotiate the highest price for the owner (seller). In my opinion, working directly with the listing agent places the buyer at a competitive disadvantage since the agent is actively working against the buyer's best interest.
My suggestion for you is to work with an experienced, reliable Buyer's Agent with local knowledge. Buying an REO, a Short Sale or a Foreclosure is not for the inexperienced or the uninformed or the dreamers. Beginners beware, mistakes can be costly.
You may wish to attend the Bank Owned - Short Sale Property Workshop: http://homebuyingtuesdays.com/?page_id=5
With over 30 years of real estate experience in good and bad markets, I know we can show you how to make the best deal possible.