Finding a foreclosure is not like a regular house purchase. There are numerous steps involved and having an agent represent you will make the process much more effortless.
Unlke a conventional home purchase, the buyer who has negotiated a sales price with the bank or lender does not necessarily have the option to purchase the property. Once the offer becomes acceptable, the attorney for the lender files an application for a court date.
It's that date where the owner can walk in and pay the outstanding balance owed or foreclosed on (plus legal and court costs) or another purchaser may submit a higher offer.
Some agents may advise their clients to wait until a court date is set before submitting an offer. One advantage a buyer has being the first to offer is the offer can have contingencies like subject to inspection and financing. However, once a court date is set.. any other offers cannot have any contingencies other than subject to court approval.
When submitting an offer during the court date it's imperative to make sure you have a good understanding of the homes market value (not assessment, not appraisal) as well as having all your i's dotted and your t's crossed. What a shame it would be to have a judge throw out an offer for some reason other than the price.