I wish there was a simple answer to give you on short sales, but there isn't since all banks deal with the sellers differently, and one short sale may not be the same as another. Many take months to work with because the seller is upside down on their payments on the home, thus contacting the bank to ask them if they'll take a reduced amount to pay off their home and sell the home at market value. If the bank says "yes" to that idea, the house is listed and the homeowner has to provide proof of their hardship to the bank and other paperwork as well.
It's best to work with a professional realtor who has done short sales before, first, to make sure the listing agent also knows what they're doing when listing the short sale, and second, so the realtor can give you this type of advice as to how to proceed and protect your interests and deposits when buying a home. Once an offer is submitted on the home, the agent presents it to the seller for approval, but the bank has the ultimate say on the approved purchase price, trying to recoup as much of the money owed them as possible. Because banks aren't in the business of selling homes, they usually have a negotiator to work between the bank and the listing agent, so communication may take awhile to sift through the offer amount and contingencies, etc.
Yes, most times you can get a good deal on buying a short sale, but you need to be patient because there is a lot of red tape and trying to work with the owner on making the offer happen that will satisfy what is owed to the bank. If you have any other questions or would like to have an agent help you through this process, please feel free to contact me anytime with questions.
Prudential Prime Properties