Working with a great Realtor is the key to helping you identify the right area for you and your family. Choose a Real Estate Professional who really listens to you and addresses your particular concerns.
I'd like to suggest this step-by-step process for buying a home, and I hope it helps you as you get started.
1. Meet with a Local Mortgage Banker to get prequalified for mortgage financing. The Mortgage Banker will review all facets of your loan request to answer your questions with regards to the types of loans and maximum loan amounts you could qualify for.
2. Get a referral to a good, local, real estate attorney. Call the attorney, retain the attorney so you have her information handy when you make an offer. Having that information at time of offer helps you demonstrate to the Seller how serious you are, and they will consider your offer with more interest.
3. Line up a Home Inspector. A good home inspector will scare the heck out of you: that's what you pay him for! But you'll concentrate on the fundamentals of the property: roof free of leaks, plumbing, heating and electrical up to code and in good working order. Again, when you make an offer and you have your Home Inspector ready to go, your offer will be considered with much more interest by a Seller because you truly have your "ducks in a row" and your preparation demonstrates your serious attitude about conducting the purchase transaction in a timely manner.
4. Find an experienced Local Realtor who works in your desired shopping area. A serious pro Realtor will refuse to show you homes until you are Prequalified for mortgage financing. Don't take offense! That Realtor doesn't want you to be disappointed and wants you to have a smooth experience as you shop for your new home.
Put together your Team of real estate professionals and shop 'til you drop!
Google it; I live and work in the area and can tell you that it has what your describing. In your price range you can find a two unit brownstone that will need cosmetic work, Ridgewood is the last neighborhood with brownstones that is still affordable and commuter friendly. At the least look into it before you resume your search.
Let me know if you want my help.
At the moment I'm working with a couple who is also looking to buy in Clinton Hill.
A Multi fam Brownstone building without renovation and parking are in the Mid $800's, I think you may be able to find a condo with parking in your price range. I may be able to help you find what you and your partner are looking for since I'm already working in the Clinton Hill area.
You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call at 203 906 8133
I did a search for someone who was looking for a 2 bedroom in Clinton Hill about two months ago, and don't think I saw anything that was around 400K, I can check again. Regarding a brownstone for 500-650 without any work, that may be an impossible find.
Condo wise, how large of a unit do you need, and is the second bath a MUST or just a want?
Looking forward to speaking with you.
I have a few mortgage bankers I can reffer.