First thing to do is go get prequalified for a loan, so that you know how much you can spend.
Second, make a list of areas you would consider buying in.
Third, determine what are the property must haves? 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms etc.
Finally give your Realtor all the information you can about what you are looking for and how soon you hope to be able to buy.
In all reality, you will likely still want to come out to Hawaii and look over any property, condo, or home you are going to buy. Before you buy it.
I agree that your best course of action is to interview a few different Brokers and get a feeling for how well you might work with them. I have a list of questions you may want to answer and am happy to send that to you via email - just contact me directly: email@example.com. Once you find someone you trust and want to work with, then be sure to tell them everything that might assist them in helping you - there is an unkind saying in the industry that "buyers are liars" and the reason for that is that often Buyers don't tell their agents everything because they don't "trust" them and often that's to the buyer's disadvantage, even though they feel they are "protecting yourself." If you find a Broker you can trust, then their job is to protect you and advocate on your behalf! Remember, no agents get paid until the transaction closes, so they are working for you and reap the monetary reward at the end.
Lastly, I recommend you work with a local area expert. If you want to buy property on Oahu, stick with an Oahu-based agent. If it's the Big Island you're looking for, I'm here to assist you if you would like.
Best of luck! Warm aloha and happy new year - Katie Minkus, R(B). firstname.lastname@example.org
Most importantly, inform yourself. Use information on the Internet to verify what you are being told. Be sure that you get plenty of information, such as comparable sales data (including property listings that did not sell), and detailed information such as photos, taxes, maintenance fees, and local ordinances.
Feel free to contact me at 808 723 0900 if you have any further questions.