This question implies that deals are to be made by scouting for these types of sales. Sometimes there are deals but more often that not, there aren't and the headache is not worth it. Rather, the wisest approach to the best deal is to work with an agent skilled in negotiation (both in the initial offer and with subsequent contingencies) and look for houses that have sat on the market for a while with a very motivated seller. Foreclosures follow a very specific, lender-driven process where the lender is trying to recoup their investment. Foreclosures aren't rampant in San Rafael and in my experience, given this neutral market, the lender can expect to get a fair market value on the house. Foreclosures in this market, aren't necessarily a good deal contrary to popular myth and the full set of disclosures you want your purchase, aren't always there. Since I end up listing with many FSBO sellers who previously tried to sell on their own, there tends to be more deals, but it is very much a buyer beware approach. Sellers claim to have more knowledge about how to proceed with a sale, than they do. I can't tell you how many times I've seen sellers say 'oh I had to do this?' This causes frustrating delays and puts the onus of the purchase squarely on the buyer's shoulders. I don't advise as a general rule for inexperienced buyers to purchase in either mode.