For those that are caught up in a distressed sale the issue is likely more of indecision and confusion than trying to manipulate the system and sell to a prefered individual. It is not all that uncommon for these sellers to change their mind about possible options...to many it's overwhelming.
If the sale is a short sale, the present owner is still the "owner of record" and someone that you must deal with before presenting your offer to the lender. It's only after the owner agrees to these terms and conditions that it goes to the lender for their consideration.
If there is an agreed upon offer in the hands of the lender it's highly unlikely that you will be able to be recognized as a possible consideration until the offer under consideration by the bank is terminated. With short sales it's also common for several offers from different buyers to be submitted on the same property over time before the lender decides to accept an offer.
Our recommendation is to have your agent be in touch with the listing agent and make him/her aware of your interest. Should the deal fall through(and many do) having the agent notify you immediately may place you on the inside track.
To answer that question, I would need to know if you are talking about a builder town home, or a resale. I will guess that it is a builder unit, since that is the majority of what is going on there, and I can't imagine any of those are being resold yet. Also, the older units sold well over $600k.
The answer would really depend upon the number of square feet, and the finish level. It is always a challenge to price homes in a new development. Also, there are other considerations, such as timing, and builder incentives, which you should really talk to a buyer agent about. I ran all the town home listings since 1/1/2008 in the area between Rt 32, 216, 29 and 108. If you click on the link below, you'll see that it is all much above the current offerings in the $340s.
There is a great deal out there in that price range. Please let me know if you have any questions.
The Head for Home Team
Keller Williams Select Realtors