Hello Linda. Whether or not you can look at the foreclosure property before you buy it depends on whether the property is listed through the MLS, whether you are buying at a trustee sale or at an auction. If the property is already bank owned and listed through the MLS, you can look at the house before making an offer just like with any other MLS listing. The only difference is that you'll not receive any disclosures from the bank. If you buy at a foreclosed property at an auction, you'll be able to look at the house before the actual auction because the auctioneers hold open houses usually 1-2 weekends before the auction date. You can bring your inspector with you to the open house. Once you have a winning bid, there's no inspection period. You are expected to close escrow. You may be able to look at the house again during the escrow period, but you can't back out of the deal and get your deposit back because you found something that you don't like. If you buy at a trustee sale, you can't look at the house prior to bidding. However, most houses were on the market before they end up at the trustee sale as sellers usually try to sell the house to avoid foreclosure. Thus, theoretically it's possible that you may have had a chance to see the house prior to the trustee sale date.
I am not sure to which online agencies you refer in your question. I am assuming you are talking about Internet real estate brokerages that offer to represent you promising a rebate. I personally don't know exactly how that works, but my concern would be that you may not have an agent who knows the local market and even worse, who helps you buy a house that he/she has never seen. The issue of online brokerages has been discussed ad nauseum on this forum and conducting a simple word search will yield more answers than you'd ever want to read. My advise to you is hire an experienced local agent who can negotiate the best price for you and follow your instincts. If you think you should not trust someone, find someone you can trust. One last piece of advise. Don't think that every bank owned property is a good deal. Include them in your search, but keep your options open. Good luck to you.