This is no place for an inexperienced buyer. If you want to try to take advantage of a distressed seller or a distressed property I would strongly suggest that you get some expert help. Otherwise you are likely to be taking a course at the school of hard knocks.
You can try for a short sale however they can be difficult at times (mostly).
Next option is to go to the sheriff's sale.
If this is a must have property they be prepared to pay for it there. My experience says that you will pay more at the sale then if you can wait it out until the bank processes the property. The bank will usually end up buying the property back at the sale. The bank often puts the property on a very slow pace. Keep your eyes on the property until you see any activity I.e. grass cuts. Dumpster or people doing maintenance. Or cleaning the place.
The bank cannot negotiate without a brokker involved so get a good agent (seller pays commission not the buyer) you will have good representation to protect you and transaction. If you wait it out you can save thousands. Hope this helps. Mike