Do your research on any liens placed on the property. Many counties have placed property records online. If records are not available online then you will want to take the drive. If you are purchasing a listed foreclosure then the attorneys office that is handling the closing will order a title search and you would want to purchase and owners title coverage policy which will protect you from any liens prior to your ownership.
Buying a propery "off the courtsteps" is NOT for the faint of heart!! Big bucks can be made AND lost through this buying process--and you are ON YOUR OWN! Most consumer laws in real estate protect a Seller/Buyer in the 1-4 units range but foreclosures are exempt. Don't expect the bank to tell you anything! No disclosures will be forthcoming and you are on your own! IRS lien pops up and you are ON THE HOOK. Careful-tread lightly.
1- They had sufficient equity to drop the price below current value to give me a great deal.
2- If they had no eqiuty, they at lest had a competent agent or negotiator working with the lender to get my offer accept for less than what is owed on the property (short sale).
Most agents do not have the knowledge or experience to deal with short sales, thus the 10% successful close ratio on a national average. With an offer within 15% of current market value, I can close 80% of the short sales I list.
Again, make sure the 'listing agent' is competent in negotiating. The buyer's agent that claims to be a short sale or preforclosure expert and just shows you homes for sale (not their own listings) always cracks me up. The listing agent is the one that needs to be the expert, the buyer's agent sits back and waits for the deal to get accepted.
Happy house hunting.