First, work with agents who are actively involved in investment properties and work with investors. Any agent can say that he/she can help you, but as an investor you're looking for very, very different things than a typical homebuyer would.
If you were in the U.S., I'd suggest you attend some meetings of real estate investing clubs in the Pittsburgh area. Here's a link to a web site with a list of Pennsylvania clubs. Some have e-mails, some have web sites: http://www.creonline.com/real-estate-clubs/pa.html I'd suggest you contact the people who run the clubs and ask them for the names of Realtors who are active in their clubs. That's a good way to start.
Second, learn more about real estate investing. Not to be picky, but your question shows that you still have some stuff to learn. For example: It's not a "quick sale," it's a "short sale." And there are lots of good values that are neither. (Estate sales. Absentee owners. And more.)
Third, to the extent you can, determine what your goals are: Cash flow? Appreciation? They're not mutually exclusive, but many properties are clearly more one than another. For instance, there are plenty of properties in certain urban areas that'll produce great cash flow. But don't depend on them to appreciate much. You just buy them and make some money every month. There are other properties with much better appreciation potential (especially if you're buying under market), but won't have as strong a cash flow.
Also, determine whether you're particularly comfortable or uncomfortable with any particular type of investment. For an investor, it should just be a numbers game. But, for example, some people just aren't comfortable buying inner city properties for the cash flow. Others feel uncomfortable in situations where they feel they're "taking advantage" of the sellers.
Pittsburgh is probably a great place to invest, but since you're overseas it's just as easy to invest in, say, Buffalo, New York, or Spartanburg, South Carolina, as it is in Pittsburgh. Again, it's a numbers game. Now, if you were physically in Pittsburgh, it might make more sense to buy there. On the other hand, you might as well start off somewhere and, if you're already familiar with Pittsburgh, that's fine.
Once you've decided basically what you're looking for (cash flow, appreciation, etc.), ask/interview some agents as to what prices you'd be looking at and what the best strategies would be. Then figure out a plan. I've talked to some DoD contractors who are overseas earning big money and they, for example, prefer to create an investment program where, periodically, they'll buy a property. And, getting back to cash flow and appreciation, you don't have to restrict yourself to one or the other. You might buy, say, 3 cash flow properties, then use the cash flow from those to invest in a property for appreciation.
As for the role of the Realtor, it really should be to send you more than lists of properties that have had price reductions. Heck, that doesn't even mean they're good deals. If I were in your position, I'd want a Realtor who, first, would work with me on my strategy (cash flow, appreciation, frequency of purchase, etc.). Then I'd expect the Realtor to do some actual work--for instance, every week sending me 5 top prospects. They'd be top prospects because they'd meet my basic criteria...and because the Realtor would have already at least crudely run the comps on them, checked to see what rentals are going for in the area, and so on. I'd expect some explanation from the Realtor as to why each property was worthy of consideration. Then, again if I were in your position, I'd look through the listings and identify any that seemed particularly good prospects. At that point, the Realtor would spend a bit more time on the comps. He or she would also go out to the property and preview it. He'd take a digital camera, take lots of photos, and e-mail them to me. And, with that, I'd have some basis to make a further decision.
Hope that helps.
I would ask for proof of funds so I know I'm not wasting my time looking at properties for you. And then I would like to talk more with you to find out exactly what you expect from me. Having worked with investors who became sellers due to making long-distance investments, I would like to talk with you to make sure you can handle what you're about to do as well.
Its easy enough to locate a RE pro in the Pittsburgh area. Investment properties make up a good part of my sales and listings each year. I work with out of state clients on a regular basis and am very familiar with the entire process. Most of my investment property buyers have purchased more than one home from me. Ususally there is a "qualifying" period of time for both of us. You want to make sure that you get the attention and dedication that you desire and I need to know that when I have located a good property that you are ready and willing to purchase. These banks do not usually counter offer so you have to trust me when I am telling you how to make the process work and ultimately what the "number" is going to be. It can be frustrating dealing with banks, short sales etc... and as my offices most consistent top producing agent I know how to get it done. If you would like to make 2010 a great year for buying quality investment homes in the Pittsburgh area call me I am happy to help. 412 576 5561.
I can assist you with notification of properties as they come on the market or have a price adjustment.
You could then let me know which properties you are interested in and I could then check out those properties for you.
I would need to have proof of funds or mortgage approvals before hand so that I know you are qualified to purchase the properties.
Cell 412 537-5536