There are two sides to playing the Hawaii real estate business, for agents. On one side are those who make a living, often a good one, by just listing property. They are called listing agents. On the other hand, there are others who make most of their living finding buyers and putting together deals. Those are called sellers. As a buyer, you are better off deal­ing with a seller than a listing agent. 

The old maxim is, "Those who list, last."

The point is that in order to survive in the highly com­petitive Hawaii real estate business, an agent needs listings. They are the bread and butter of the business. Even when the market is bad, if an agent has listings, something will sell and bring in enough money to keep the business going. As a result, all agents strive to have listings.

However, some agents have discovered that you can do better than just survive by concentrating on listings alone—you can do quite well. They will often "farm" a very large area, go door-to-door meeting the locals, join civic organizations, advertise in grocery stores to get their name known, and so on. What they are after are listings, lots of them. Too often when they get one, however, they will simply put it on the multiple (where agents list prop­erties on which they will "co-broker," or cooperate with other agents). Listing agents hope, and anticipate, that someone else will sell their properties while they're off to find another listing.

This type of agent will, of course, work with a buyer such as you, if you suddenly pop up and seem eager and anxious. But, too often this agent has inadequate skills in locating just the property you want and negotiating the best price and terms for you.

Ideally you want a seller, an agent who, besides taking listings, has honed his or her skills in working with buy­ers and getting them the best deal possible.

How do you tell the two apart? Ask the agent how many listings they took (not just those that sold) in the last 12 months. Then ask how many properties they sold which they did not have listed? You should get your answer immediately.