A pre-foreclosure, by itself, doesn't need a bank to answer or accept anything. If the loan will be paid in full, there is nothing for them to decide. If it is also a short sale, the sale doesn't pay back the full amount owed, then it is up to the lender to accept the offer or not.
In a short sale situation, there are a lot of variables that make up the length of time it will take. Some of them are:how well prepared the seller is with documentation and paperwork (financials, tax returns, hardship letter, etc.), the amount of the shortage, the price of the house, how the offer compares to the value of the house, just to name a few. In my experience, it is taking a minimum of 8 to 12 weeks, and steadily increasing. As more and more of these are piling up on the desks of the lenders, it is taking longer to process them. It doesn't matter what state you are buying in because the lenders are national.
The bottom line is, if you are bidding on a house that is a short sale, it will take a long time to close. You have to make sure that you discuss this with your loan officer, because you won't be able to get a rate lock for that long. While it may not be likely for rates to go up significantly in the next few months, anything is possible with the current turmoil in the lending industry. You have to make sure you can still afford the house at whatever rate you end up with at closing so that you don't end up in the very same situation down the road.