When you are buying your first home there are going to be a lot of questions and grey areas in your mind. This is where you need to adopt a very cautious approach and you seem to be doing just that.
You are in a strong position as regards your income and more importantly, the debt to income ratio that lenders will use to qualify you for a mortgage. However, just because you have a high income and a high paying ability does not mean that you buy an expensive home and burden yourself with debt. Condos and single family homes dictate different responsibilities on you as a homeowner. The buying process is a little different but you may barely notice it during the purchase process.
The areas you mentioned, while expensive, have properties that are older. The Wilshire corridor does have newer condos but with high monthly association dues. On the other hand, on the west side of the freeway, Brentwood has condos, both brand new and older, close to Brentwood village, either on Sunset Blvd, Barrington or in the area between Sunset and San Vicente. Quite a few have low association dues in the $200-$300 range. It is difficult to recommend a price range without knowing how much space you need. To give you an idea on the price in the area I recently closed escrow on a 3 bedroom brand new town home on Sunset with over 3300 SF at $1.65M. If the recession was not there, this should have been above $2.5M. However, if you are willing to go for older properties and with similar amenities the price could be much lower. In the Wilshire corridor, condo prices have a large range and will depend on the level of upgrade, association amenities, view, parking, etc. You may very well find an attractive condo in the 500-700K range. Bottom line is what is it that you are specifically looking for?
Buying in the December - January period gives you significant advantages as the market typically, is the flattest at that time of the year with sales at low levels. This gives you opportunities at negotiating the purchase price.
Because of your age, and this being your first purchase, it is likely that you will not be holding the property for too long. Hence, remember to think of how well the property would sell down the line when you are contemplating a purchase. Your mortgage too must be such that you benefit from an early sale. In other words, it may not be advisable to pay too many points in buying down the interest rate up front if your holding period is only for a few years. Your agent will explain you how this works.
I would ask you to follow the advice of others on this forum and get an agent. Interview a few before you decide on who should represent you. Lastly, if you are still uncertain, buy in the middle to lower price range in the area that interests you. This will give you an in-built protection in that higher priced properties generally, though not always, take a bigger hit when prices plunge. When the market rises, the properties sitting in the lower and middle tiers attract more buyers due to the increased purchasing power.
Feel free to ask any other questions you may have.
United America Realty