The North End has old, well maintained, family homes. There are lofts available in some of the old brick buildings, but be prepared to pay a premium. The West Side by the river is cheap, but if you go to the West side of the West Side, there are nice family homes, and a trail that links around to the community sports centers. (Ice Arena, soccer and football fields, etc.) There's also Rimmon Rock that you can easily hike up and have a view of the city. Beginning repellers use Rimmon Rock as well.
I don't know where you're from, but being from Cali, I found that the most important thing to look for out here is off-street parking if you have a vehicle, because otherwise, Winter will be even more of a bitch to get through.