so...we are looking for a house, and I will probably be going down south in around 2 weeks to see a bunch of them in person. We contacted a realtor and a mortgage guy, and the realtor hooked us up with a listing website, and today we looked through a bunch of listings.
It seems our choices come down to:
1. fantastic large houses in far away 'out in the sticks' areas for low prices. These houses all are in good public school districts but although they are within city limits, they are more suburban/borderline rural areas. These houses feature large backyards, cool amenities (like 2 decks! 4 bedrooms! 2 car attached garages! newly remodeled kitchen!) plus all the basics we've decided on (which is a very long list, including fenced in yard, good school district, big kitchen with lots of storage, garage or carport, hardwood floors, 3+ bedrooms 2+ bathrooms). They are within our price range, and around the low-median end of our range. The commute to my job would be about 20 minutes each way.
2. Mediocre or more expensive smaller houses closer to the job. These are about a 5-10 minute commute, have smaller backyards, smaller houses, less nice houses, carports or detached garages instead of attached garage. They are more suburban/borderline urban and close to nice restaurants. They are at the higher end of our price range. They still have all the basics we want. Some do not come with appliances.
So far we've found 5 listings we like of the first kind of house and 3 of the second kind of house.