1. Get pre qualified.
2. Hire an agent to represent you.
First time buyers often think their best "deal" will be purchasing a foreclosure. Not necessarily true. Homeowners that could not afford to make the payment on their home often cannot maintain their homes. A good inspector may ferret out lots of problems with the home which you can then determine if they are insurmountable, but there could be latent defects that cannot be found until you have moved in.
If you don't have much savings for fix up, repairs and surprise expenses, a foreclosure could be a nightmare-in-the-waiting.
Many foreclosures/short sales in the Washington DC metro area are hotly pursued by owners AND investors with CASH, which usually trumps an offer by a first time homebuyer with financing. That's where #2 comes in - an agent familiar with foreclosure in your market will be able to give you a sense of whether you can be competitive or wasting your time and pre-approval by a competent lender could give you a chance to be successful.
A well priced "standard sale" in a good location and reasonable to good condition may trump your idea of a bid-up, poor condition home in foreclosure. Do your homework, and then do the math to see what makes sense.