Short sales are tediously long and drawn out-- usually 60 to 90 days before you get a response. However, they are closing escrow. We have closed 2 of them this month and have several more offers being processed. They can be full of suprises like finding out the owner has not paid homeowner association fees for the past year, and the bank expects the buyer to pay those off as well as the agreed upon price.
Definitely have a professional inspection, but it is just to help you decide whether to proceed with the sale. The bank will make no repairs. However, when the price of the home is still a good deal even after all the extras that may come with the deal, then you are rewarded with a home at an excellent price. You should certainly use a Realtor to assist you with the nuances of the short sale purchase because they are usually even more complicated than other sales.
The short sales in our area are usually closing at or above the "asking price" though so be aware that you be sure that you know the real market value of the home you are considering buying and don't pay more than the home is worth. You can often buy other homes in the area at similar prices because they are trying to compete with the short sales. Happy home hunting!