Jim, I agree with Anna and you should work with an agent you are comfortable with. Since foreclosed properties are usually priced to move, the desirable ones usually do so quickly. An agent can keep you up to date as soon as a property that meets your criteria becomes available. You really need to be the "early bird" in many cases. Feel free to contact me if you don't already have an agent you are working with. My cell is 727-365-0245.
The foreclosure market is a very tricky one--you do need an agent who is experieinced in dealing with lenders and foreclosure title companies--there are a number of special considerations to consider with these properties. Not only that, but you need someone who is very familiar with the area.
I have been a Tarpon Springs/Palm Harbor resident for over thirty years, and as a Real Estate professional very well-versed in all forms of distressed property sales. Please do feel free to contact me directly, through my website, or through my contact info here in Trulia.
And yes you absolutely need a Realtor to get you out to see the property the first day it comes on the market or you may be too late to make an offer. Some asset managers will accept an offer near the asking price the same day it goes on the market.
On a Short Sale, pre-foreclosure it's also important to have a Realtor at your side. Banks that have to approve their loss will want to see two different realtors in the transaction. Also your realtor will need to continue to show you properties even after you get a contract on a short sale because there is not guarantee when or if it will ever close.
If you are looking to purchase a foreclosure property, do consider working with an agent of your own; he/she can provide you with available listings, keep you updated as new listings arrive on the market, provide any necessary information, schedule showings, etc.