Realtors are just trying to get a commission. Do NOT listen to them. Most have ZERO understanding of the short sale / foreclosure / pre-foreclosure process. Also, VERY few are good at negotiation. The reason is if they negotiate and the seller nixes the deal, the realtor is out of a commission. So, the realtor's main concern is getting paid, not helping you.
As someone who is VERY actively looking at short sales and distressed properties in Tampa (I live in Arbor Greene), I can tell you stay away from over priced areas (Cheval, Cory Lake Isle, Tampa Palms)... you won't get great deals, just OK ones.
Also, search for the local real estate investment clubs. Go to their meetings and listen. Don't ask for advice, just say you want to learn about real estate as an investment. You'll learn a lot, without having to worry about some shark trying to be your 'coach' and 'help you' find a deal. Many of these guys like Roger Salam are scum of the earth.
Lastly, go to the local library and get a book on the area of real estate you are interested in: foreclosure, short sell, etc. Here you will learn more about the process, methods, etc than any realtor's broker is going even teach them.
FYI - I am a day trader (I trade stock online for investment and income), my wife has multiple commercial pieces of land in Pasco and I am now interested in finding distressed properties as well. Lastly, don't let anyone tell you that "there are still great deals out there in the 'regular' market"... BS Who do you think is under more pain right now? An individual that can't get out of a mortgage and is selling for divorce, work, etc... or a financial institution with major write downs due to the mortgage crisis. (The latter is teh correct answer).