Personally I would never want to live in Vallejo, but I'm not the one who's looking to live there.In the end, it comes down to striking a balance between what you can afford and what kind of lifestyle you want. Some put more emphasis on the house, some more on lifestyle.
What I would suggest you do is figure out how much you can spend, what communities you can afford within striking distance of where you want to be or your work, spend some time in those areas, maybe even rent in the area you like (Vallejo for example), and then find a local pro in that area and start looking
Lance R. King – Broker/CEO
King Realty Group
BRE # 01384425
415.722.5549 - Cell
Yes, you certainly will get a variety of answers since it's all so very personal. I would suggest, depending on your individual situation, to perhaps spend some time near the areas where you think you can afford, assuming that it fits with your overall needs, and then get to know the local markets. Renting would probably be a better solution while you get to know the areas. Some people dive right in. As is the case for most people, they end up buying what they can afford and location usually dictates that (proximity to family, work, etc.).
I know of someone who bought a house in Stockton during the downturn. He lived in it for a number of years and then sold it recently for some profit. He told me more than once how he didn't like living in Stockton but there were other factors that had dictated that move.
Get a feel for the areas you may end up in and then keep you eyes on the market until you feel comfortable.
Rich Bennett, Realtor
Zephyr Real Estate
Hope this helps.