Right now inventory is really low everywhere, especially in smaller towns, so it will be difficult unless you are diligent and have some patience. In the price range you listed, there are currently only 4 homes available in Ripon!
Because of this, competiton can be fierce and the result is often a bidding war. Key to getting a good deal is to be prepared to act quickly when something does come up and try to beat the rush of other buyers. Some suggestions are:
1. Be prequalified with a lender. Don't want another person putting a bid on a house you want while you're waiting for a letter from your lender saying you are qualified to buy it.
2. Know the area(s) that you are interested in. That way you can focus on what is available in the areas you want.
3. Work with a realtor that knows the area. Often things are coming on the market soon that haven't hit the MLS yet. Many realtors that specialize in an area know about things weeks and sometimes months before they hit the market.
4. Have the realtor you work with send you an auto-search. This can easily be set up and will notify you that something has come on the market that is in your search criteria.
5. Have your earnest money deposit ready to go. Don't want to rush around with prequal letters and getting your deposit ready. If this is already taken care of, you can write a clean offer as soon as you see something you like.
6. Finally, make yourself available to see things as soon as they come up. Again, if you write first, you have an opportunity to get something accepted before other buyers get to see it.
Here is a link to my website: http://sjvproperties.com/resources
It has buyer resources, community information links, calculators, and an MLS search.
I hope this answered your questions and feel free to contact me. I live in Ripon myself, so I'd be happy to share any info with you about the community or housing in Ripon.
PMZ Real Estate
3516 Deer Park Drive, Suite A
Stockton, CA 95219
Office: (209) 472-2010
Cell: (209) 627-8501
Fx: (888) 863-7601
CA DRE #01382377