The best thing for you to do is to engage a Realtor's service. Most of the foreclosures listed on Trulia (using info from Realty Trac) are either preforeclosures or foreclosed by one lien holders, you don't know the true status of those. Some might be going thru loan modification program, being repaid, ..etc.
The Realtors will have the most current valid short sales and bank owned property (BTW, one of my friends who went to an auction recently told me that only 2 houses out of hundreds went to real investors, all the others went back to the lender - only true investors know how to do those).
Those lender owned will show up on MLS later which will be handled by an agent.
Here is some information about foreclosures:
1. Just because a property shows up on RealtyTrac does not mean it is a foreclosure or that it is available for sale. RealtyTrac reports all Notice of Default filings. This is the first step by a lender, or home owner's association in moving to get paid for monies owed them through the sale of the underlying collateral or home.
2. An extremely high percentage of Notice of Defaults NEVER become foreclosures. People refinance, work out a payment schedule with the bank, have family and friends help them catch up in their payments, straighten out the misunderstanding the led to the filing of the NOD, file for bankruptcy, or simply catch up in their payments. For example, I have met and/or spoken with people who have commission based income or are self employed and just waiting for the payment of a few past due invoices and then they are back up to date with their payments and the notice of default never results in the sale of their property. (By the way, in California, the sale of the property at auction cannot take place before 111 days have passed since the filing of the NOD.)
3. Other NOD's don't result in a foreclosure because the owner is already in the process of selling his home and just stopped making the payments because he thought he was going to close sooner than he did.
4. Also, people will sell their homes themselves by listing them with a good Realtor. Many, though not all of these listings, are the Short Sales you see in the MLS. Someone cannot afford their mortgage payment, owes more than the house is worth, and wants to get out from under the stress and burden of this huge mortgage payment (this is one of my specialities, helping people in this position take control of their destiny by negotiating a short payoff with their bank).
A subscription to RealtyTrac will give you the address and the amount of the loan delinquency on each of the properties they track. (NOTE: You also need to be mindful of other loans against the property, pre-payment penalties on the loan in default, tax liens, mechanic's liens, and judgment liens against the property.) The information provided by RealtyTrac can also be obtained through a title company, or by going directly to the county recorders office, or by working with a real estate professional. These sources can also help you look into the other items in the NOTE.
If you want to look at homes in the "pre-foreclosure" phase (from the time the buyer stops making their payments, through the NOD filing, right up until 5 days before the auction) then find a realtor in your area that markets in this niche. Remember, just because someone is behind in their payments does not mean their home is for sale. Let this professional do the foot work for you and give you the real story behind these homes. Then have them negotiate a great deal for you with an owner who needs someone like you to help them out of a bad situation. And Dare to Dream.
Real Estate Consultant
RE/MAX Palos Verdes Realty
The only true source updated and current info. is thru the realtors MLS. I have seen where clients have sent me foreclosures showing active from 3rd party sites sold updated in MLS several months prior. Realtors, appraisers, use MLS.