I just discovered that you can search for foreclosures in addition to regular MLS listings on Yahoo! Real Estate. It was completely new to me.
For example, in my zip code, when searching for a 3+/2+ single house, I got 44 MLS listings between $350k and $450k. Checking for foreclosures, I got 6 entries, all entered on Oct. 11-12. Half of the entries had auction dates prior to October so I suspect the foreclosure feature wasn't available till then or it wouldn't be very useful. Looking at other zip codes, I found houses in all stages of the foreclosure process, from "notice of default" to "foreclosure sale".
Each of the 6 foreclosures has an associated price that varies wildly from $129k to $423k. Further investigation indicates they are merely "estimated bid amounts". The "More information" button leads to RealtyTrac which offers a 7-day free trial. The membership gets you the standard property information plus detailed loan information including the default amount, the last payment and the name of the owner (see the screen shot below).
Not knowing much about the foreclosure process I'm not sure if the average home buyer can really take advantage of this information (Would someone at the NOD stage be a "motivated" seller? More likely they are in default in the first place because they are "under water" on the mortgage.) On the other hand, the number of foreclosures is an indication of the health of the local housing market (e.g. 305 listings in Sarasota, FL).
If you know more about foreclosures or how to take advantage of this information please leave a comment. TIA.