You first what to find out how much you can comfortably afford. Being pre-approved is half the battle.
Decide on the areas you would liketo be in and come up with a wish list of what you would like in the property, and how you are going to use the property (rental, main living space, etc).
Interview at least three agents who know the areas you would like to be in and around. Generally, you would look for key items - an agent who you are comfortable with, someone who works with out of state buyers, and someone who will preview properties with an experience eye.
Once you have a few properties in mind, visit the properties. Once you choose, the agent will coordinate all the details with the title and mortgage companies. Papers generally can be signed wherever you live.
Long Beach is a beautiful area and I think you will find MN just as comfortable and well worth your time and investment.