Hi Will, itâ€™s very common to be misled by RealtyTrac - see it here on Trulia just about every day. It's so pervasive that Carl created a blog on the subject (good background info).
A professional Realtor can really help you with your purchase effort. There are certain situations where contacting a "distressed" owner makes sense after a Notice of Default, but not always. Furthermore, since the Seller pays the commission to the Buyer's Agent there really is no reason not to get professional guidance when purchasing a home, whether distressed or not.
If you are truly interested in buying this or another property ask your Realtor to set up a targeted and specific automated MLS search agent for you. This way, when any property that meets your search criteria comes active on the MLS both you and your agent will automatically be notified. You will also be able to see price changes as the Listing Agent makes them.