My sister and I really would like to live near the big city to access more job opportunities. I'm interested in both LA and SF areas ( and outer areas but not too far) but I cannot find anything reasonable ( 260,000 or less) This would be our first home purchase. IS there any way to make a first time home purchase/ house-hack work in one of these areas or are we SOL? Does anyone have any investment strategies? any other advice?
I have certainly not seen anything below $300K in the Bay Area (unless you're talking about downpayment). There are opportunities for low money down (e.g. FHA) but you'd still need to make it work with the high monthly mortgage payments. If you can get in the game, there are creative ways to house hack such as doing ADU with existing square footage of the property.
If you pay cash you might get lucky with auctions... Otherwise no it's impossible, land without a house is generally that price.
Your best bet is to rent, find a decent stable job quickly and then apply to get an FHA loan with low down payment and the bank will tell you how much you can afford.