Buying a house in Oakland will always be totally crazy. Either you are buying a house that cost way less two months ago, or a house that was horrifyingly foreclosed on, or a house that has all kinds of problems, or a house that had horrible/sad things happen in it (potentially the house you're buying has all of these problems...). Additionally, you will be entering all kinds of difficult territory with regards to race, class, newcomer/oldtime resident stuff, etc., regardless of where you buy. Hopefully this entry will help you navigate this difficult terrain!
This entry is just getting started, so please hit the big EDIT button at the top of the screen to add more info :)
Oakland is roughly separated into "the hills" and "the flats." The hills are typically considered fancier than the flats and in many cases are indeed more expensive. Another relevant geographic division refers to things "above" Highway 580 and things "below." Things above 580 are typically considered fancier as well.
Check out the entire list of Oakland neighborhoods. Many neighborhood names are contentious/unclear and a lot of them have been created by real estate people and neighborhood business associations.
In 2012 an ordinance went into effect requiring home owners selling their property, doing work worth more than $100,000 or installing a different size water meter to fix their sewer laterals. Nearby cities like Piedmont and Emeryville had already started this program, called the "Private Sewer Lateral" or PSL that requires a certificate from East Bay Municipal Utilities District (EBMUD).
See East Bay Regional Private Sewer Lateral for complete details.
External Link: http://www.eastbaypsl.com/eastbaypsl/