I have looked at the MLS and there are a number of listings condos for 325k and under right in downtown if you want to be close to work.
I think Glendale is a great place to go. I checked the Mls for houses in Glendale and there are 3 that are 345k or under. One is 299k and the other is 300k. These are asking prices. They are small homes but a great way to start. Getting to downton LA fom Glendale is a snap. Also, if you were intersted in condos in Glendale the world would open up to you. Ther is a really good selection.
If you would like to search the MLS for free go to my website. No registration is required and you can jump on and start searching.
If you have any questions drop me a line or give me a call.
Many companies with relocating employees are sending them straight to the Santa Clarita area. The home prices are significantly less than the downtown, Glendale, Pasadena, Echo Park and Long Beach areas, and the area is much cleaner and more family-friendly. There are commuter trains and buses from the Santa Clarita area that will take you downtown so you can avoid the freeway commute if you wish.
You can read more about Santa Clarita and do a home search to see what your $300k will buy on my blog at http://SantaClaritaRealEstateBlog.com.
Areas good for you would be Eagle Rock, Highland Park and Glassell Park. It's close to downtown and still somewhat affordable. There are a lot of foreclosures so you may get a good deal on a small starter home. The neighborhoods are way cool!
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First Team Real Estate
Working in downtown LA and a $300,000 budget, I'd suggest you look in Monterey Hills. It's a beautiful condo community about 7 miles from downtown next to South Pasadena. It'll be tight trying to get something for $300K, but is doable.
I'm attaching a link about Monterey Hills below.
Before you decide what your "absolute max price" you should speak with a lender who specializes in 1st Time Homebuyer programs. The wonderful thing about LA is that there are city, county and state down payment assistance programs to assist you in purchasing a home (assistance can be as high as $90,000). Additionally there is a county mortgage credit program that allows you to take a portion of your mortgage interest as a direct tax credit against your federal income taxes. And lastly, there are "non-profit" organizations which channel seller assistance towards your down payment and closing costs. One of these programs allows up to 10% seller contribution towards the down payment AND up to 6% towards closing costs. All these programs could allow you to buyer more home than you think.
As a 1st Time Homebuyer specialist, I have had the opportunity to work with many lenders and not all of them are aware of some of these programs. Secondly, some of the programs require a lender to be certified in order to offer its benefits to a homebuyer and lenders who have not gone through the certification will often tell you the program is no good. If you are already working with a knowledgeable lender who specializes in 1st Time Homebuyer programs in So Cal great. If you would like a referral, please feel free to contact me.
Your first response was from a Reator in Texas who used a term we no longer have in California: "sub-agency". California has exclusive buyer agency, exclusive seller agency, or dual agency where the listing agent may represent the buyer also. I would agree with him, however, that you will probably get better representation by working with an agent who exclusively represents you as the buyer, and although a buyer-broker agreement can be a good thing, it's not required. Please feel free to call me at 562-896-2609.