Preforeclosures, REOs and short sales are different opportunities at different stages of the foreclosure process. The link below leads to spiel about buying foreclosures and is part of an excellent real estate primer, bookmark it.
First go to http://www.MammothLakesForeclosures.com and get familiar with the current listings and the sold listings to get familiar with how quickly they sell, how close to asking price they sell and see how many sold for all cash. Then let's talk about pricing strategy (you can find my contact info on that website).
The good thing is that banks are unemotional and motivated to sell quickly. That being said, they usually price our local REO's pretty well and expect to get full price (and lately, they have). And banks sell these homes as-is; you can do an inspection, but are told ahead of time that they will not make any repairs. Banks like quick deals with no loan contingencies, but if there are no other buyers, they will be more lenient. Lately we have been getting multiple offers on all foreclosure listings.
To write an offer, we would talk about how you would pay for it (financed vs. cash), talk about a price and a length of escrow and we go from there. Let me know if I can help further. Thank you.
If however you have not found a real estate professional who has preformed up to your satisfaction in the past then I would suggest searching for a "Mammoth Lakes real estate agent/broker" who will intimately know the area and the current inventory of homes available for purchase. Then be sure to contact several different agents/brokers from the area and interview them to determine their level of expertise and knowledge of local inventory that may fit your preferences.
They may also help you determine whether or not purchasing a foreclosure makes more sense then purchasing a short sale or traditional sale based on your purchase time line.