When buying property it is always best to be pre-approved for a mortgage. You don't want to fall in love with a home and then find out it's too much. I work with a great mortgage broker who would love to get that started for you. Let me pass along your info to her.
In a nut shell, YES! There is a little more to buying bare land than a property with a house but very doable. If you find a property in the area you like I would first make sure about what is allowed to be built on it, if it is connected to city water and sewage, any bylaws, rescritions or zoning that it has. I do that all for you with the city. Another option is buying land with a teardown. Same procedures would have to be taken. I have some builders that I could refer to you. I have sent you some land properties currently available in the areas that you are interested in. Let me know what you think.
You know what they say, "Happy wife, Happy life". This happens more often than you would think. Just because it doesn't have a sign in the yard doesn't mean the owners haven't thought about selling. I would approach the owners on your behalf and see where they are at and see if they would be interested in selling. You never know unless we ask. Send me the address and let me work on it.
Foreclosures are a GREAT place to start. They usually can be found for a great price however most of them will need work put into them, and that's why they will come at the price they do. When doing the work yourself you will have the house you want and save money in the process. Let me set you up on a search for FORECLOSURES in your area.