SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - You have a decent job and you want to buy a house but can you afford a detached home in San Diego County on an average income?

We looked at detached homes under $300,000 because, according to several experts and online mortgage calculators, that's what a San Diego family with an average annual income of $73,000 can afford.

"Finding a home under $300,000 can be quite a bit of a challenge," according to local real estate agent Louie Ortiz.

A quick search on Zillow, an online real estate database, returned several options within the city of San Diego.

One was in City Heights and it was 840 square feet but the inside looked trashed and the owners were still asking $289,000 for it.

Another home in Skyline was a major fixer upper, with a cracked slab, leaky pool and an asking price of $249,000.

RELATED LINK: The Louie Ortiz Group

In fact, in the city of San Diego most of the detached houses in our price ranch needed major work.

"You can absolutely get a deal if you buy a fixer upper. It just depends on if you're a handyman and you can do a lot of the work yourself," said Ortiz.

On Zillow, many of the homes under $300k are actually homes that up for auction.

"There's a trend right now in the marketplace where a lot of sellers will try to sell their properties at auction to try and get a bidding war and a little better price. Those starting prices are typically not where those homes sell," said Ortiz.

Experts advise first time home buyers to decide on a neighborhood first.

"If the person is looking in La Jolla or Del Mar it's pretty much impossible. But if you're willing to go out to Escondido, Spring Valley, or Chula Vista; it's doable if you're willing to buy a fixer upper," said Ortiz.

We found several detached family homes for sale in Escondido and Chula Vista within our price range.

Once the buyer decides on a neighborhood, Ortiz suggest canvassing the area.

"A lot of real estate agents will do phone calling for them or they'll door knock in an area and there's a big advantage to that for the buyer," Ortiz said.

If you can find an owner who's willing to sell before the house is listed, both parties can save some money.

"The seller is not having to pay the real estate agent commission so the seller can net a little bit more for the home, and often the buyer can get a little bit better price as well," Ortiz said.

Duplex homes are another option. We found one in Santee for $265,000.

And the good news is, mortgage interest rates are still low.

If you can afford to put 20 percent down, your monthly mortgage payments will be even lower. If not, there are first-time home buyer plans that can finance with zero down.

"We live in one of the most desirable places in the entire world and so it is a little bit more expensive to live here. But I truly believe it's worth it and the American dream is still alive and well," Ortiz said.