If you are starting to look at getting your first home I would echo the comments of the folks below. I am a loan officer and I can help to get your boyfriend and yourself pre-qualified for a loan that fits your needs. There is no cost to do this and it sets you up to start looking within your means. It will also prove to agents you are serious about purchasing a home.
There have been some new changes announced to the FHA (Federal Housing Administration) loan program, which is geared toward fist time home buyers. The new changes are set to take effect April 1st and will make the loan more expensive due to changes to the FHA's mortgage insurance regulations.
I say the above to bring it to your attention and give you a shot at getting in before the regulations kick in (if FHA is the best fit for you and your boyfriend). Feel free to give me a call and I would be happy to talk about Walnut Creek, which is where I grew up and live.
The first question would be what is your maximum price, which would be determined by your pre-approval amount for a loan (unless you are paying cash of course). This would then dictate what you can afford and therefore what properties and what location you would be able to purchase in.
So, rather than starting out by focusing on an area that you may or may not be able to afford, you should focus on properties and a location that you can afford, based on your pre-approved amount.
This will help narrow down your search. As you know by now, inventory is very low and demand is very high, so I tell my clients two things are required in this market - patience and persistence.
Inventory is low and rates are great right now so property is moving pretty quickly these days. This is causing prices to increase in our local markets however, compared to 2007 many of the homes are still a great deal.
The big question for you would be what is a reasonable price? You first need to find out what kind of loan you can qualify for and if that is in align with what you want to spend. Once you have determined what you can spend I can easily show you what is available in your price range in Walnut Creek and/or other communities that may fit your criteria.
If you have questions about the home buying process or need any help feel free to contact me.
Gregg De La Cruz
J. Rockcliff Realtors
See my recommendations: at http://www.trulia.com/profiles/gregg
Pacific Union Intetnational