A good way to purchase a home in this economy is to purchase a home that is being sold by short sale. Short sales are homes that need to be sold quickly so the owner can use the money from the sale to pay off his existing mortgage. Short sales are different than foreclosures because the property has not yet been seized by any financial institution or government entity. Many people choose to work with short sale service companies to help them find the best deals.
There are definitely benefits to working with a short sale service. The biggest benefit is that you will be working with someone who has an expert level of short sale knowledge. Short sales are usually trickier than straightforward sales and working with someone well versed in the trade is almost always a good idea. Short sale service providers are also beneficial because they often know of short sale opportunities before anyone else does.
Of course, there are a couple of down sides to buying a home via a short sale service. The biggest down side is that these services usually charge buyers quite a bit of money in addition to hidden fees. Sometimes these fees can add up to make the purchase almost on par with a straight forward house purchase with a traditional real estate agent. Another down side is that the service is usually working more to benefit the seller than the buyer–which means that they would rather you spend more money than get you a good deal. This is great for the seller but not very good for you.
Approach the short sale service providers cautiously. You are just as likely to get taken advantage by a short sale provider as you are to be given a great deal!