Welcome in both regards. I will tell ya this -- u r certainly looking for a 1911-type at the right time. The world's your oyster. Lotta choices, but they have tended towards LOTTA quality. Might wanna lightly-used one...
RIA is a good choice for sure, don't own one but have shot one. I have the MetroArms American Classic Government Model. It has been 100% reliable, shoots straight and has tolerated me running all kinds of ammo and magazines from cheap GI mags to Wilson Combat. The only thing you can do better than that is to pay more for a gun.
You should be able find the Gov't Model for just under $500.
Visit as many local gunstores as you can. They all have some kinda 1911's. Find one made by a well-known manufacturer that feels good and has a price you can handle.
Beware the store that tries to talk you into one that is more expensive than makes sense to you.
i would have to say in your price range, either the RIA or the American Classic 1911's are what you need to be looking at. both are very well made and decently accurate. the compact versions will be a little higher than the full size Government models though. i paid $595 for my American Classic Commander in hard chrome several months ago. very pleased with it so far. i had a Government sized AC and it too was a very nice pistol to shoot and reasonably priced as well.