The best values that are likely to have the quickest processing time are 1: Newly built homes in builders standing inventory, these are A. Move in ready within days. B. Come with a California state income tax credit of up to $10,000 for owner occupants. C. Have new appliances, well, new everything. D. Are warrantied for cosmetic as well as operational and structural problems. E. The builder will pay your buyers agent her or his commission. You don't pay the realty commission. Include new homes on your tour along with foreclosures.
2. After new homes, the best resale homes to look at are regular sellers who have equity, and are ready to, or need to sell anyway. Normal sellers can match the banks on low price, but offer better transaction terms and a better experience to the buyer.
3. Rehabbed "flipped" houses. Contractors who used to build custom homes buy broken houses from the banks, fix them up nicely, and resell them for prices that compete with the distressed properties. These contractors work on much thinner profit margins than you would expect. It will cost you less to buy a contractors finished "flip" than it would cost you to buy the fixer yourself and hire the work done.
4. Low list prices on bank owned and short sales are illusory these days, many go for over the opening bid price (also referred to as "list price" ) Low list prices of houses are like low starting prices on eBay. There is usually a "reserve" price below which the bank will not agree to sell for less than. The "reserve" price is unknown to the buyer, but it is usually more than list price, and sometimes more than market value.