As the spring home-buying season gets underway, first-time home buyers will be out in force searching for their dream homes. Many will come away disappointed in what they find.

The number of homes for sale on the market, particularly those at entry-level prices, has declined dramatically in the past few years. A recent report by Trulia found that, compared with six years ago, starter-home inventory nationwide has decreased 48.6 percent, and prices have climbed 57.9 percent.

The average first-time buyer in the Washington area is likely to spend about $300,000 on a home. To some, that might sound like a lot of money. But in this area, where housing costs are high, it is typical.

In addition to a constrained supply, someone looking to pay $300,000 for a home faces other hurdles. Escalation clauses, cash offers from investors and multiple bids that drive up prices can be daunting to the hardiest home-buyer.

“In this price range, townhomes in northern Montgomery County and Prince George’s County, as well as areas five or more miles outside the beltway in Virginia, are flying off the market,” Holly Worthington, principal broker at Compass, wrote in an email. “We just haven’t built enough housing in this price range to meet the current demand. Most of what is being constructed is upper bracket or rentals. This is a challenging market for first-time buyers, and having an agent who understands these strategies can really help.”

First-time home buyers can be overly optimistic about what they can get for their money. It is often discouraging to learn what $300,000 buys.

“There are two types of properties that a buyer could buy who would be spending about $300,000,” Worthington wrote. “One would be a condo or co-op in the [District]. There are lots of neighborhoods with many one-bedrooms and studios from which to choose, but they all sell quickly. . . . So many first-time buyers want a place that looks brand-new, when often an unimproved unit in an older charming building near the Metro may offer a tremendous long-term upside. A year or two after purchase, new properties can suffer the same depreciation that occurs when you drive a new car off the lot. Properties that are near walkable amenities, including the Metro, are selling at a premium.”

We asked the folks at Realtor.com to help us calculate what the monthly cost would be to own a $300,000 home. Of course, the amount of debt you have will alter these calculations. But, based on a 20 percent down payment and a 30-year fixed rate mortgage at 4.5 percent, the monthly mortgage payment on a $300,000 home would be about $1,637, including taxes and insurance. (Realtor.com used average national tax and insurance rates in their calculation.) To keep within the general guidelines of spending no more than 30 percent of your gross income on housing, a buyer would need to earn at least $65,475 to afford a home at this price range.

Within the $300,000 price range, the size of home you can buy varies greatly, depending on where you are looking. With the help of Realtor.com, we found a mix of properties at this price level in and around Washington and across the country.

Wondering what $300,000 buys you? Here’s what we found.

District

**ONE TIME USE ONLY 37 Danbury St SW Washington DC (Photo by Struxture Photography/Photo by Struxture Photography)

2 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms.
Price per square foot: $298.
Square footage: 1,008.
Lot size: 0.01 acre.
Features: The 2006 townhouse in the Bellevue section of Congress Heights has a finished basement and one-car garage. Main level has hardwood floors. Kitchen has stainless-steel appliances and granite countertops. The monthly homeowners association fee is $175.
Listing agent: David Burns, Keller Williams Capital Properties.


**ONE TIME USE ONLY 3010 Wisconsin Ave NW No. 207 (Photo by HomeVisit/Photo by HomeVisit)

1 bedroom, 1 bathroom.
Price per square foot: $494.
Square footage: 605.
Lot size: N/A.
Features: The condo in the Cathedral Court Condominiums in Cathedral Heights has hardwood floors and a washer/dryer in unit. The pet-friendly building has a private dog park and outdoor community area for grilling. The monthly condo fee, which includes heat, water and gas, is $409. Parking is available for rent across the street.
Listing agent: Laura London, Compass.


**ONE TIME USE ONLY 305 C St NE No. 105 Washington DC (Photo by Scott Goodson/DC Home Photos/Photo by Scott Goodson/DC Home Photos)

0 bedroom, 1 bathroom.
Price per square foot: $638.
Square footage: 468.
Lot size: N/A.
Features: The efficiency at the Capitol House condo building on Capitol Hill has a separate sleeping alcove. The west-facing windows bring in abundant natural light. The updated kitchen has granite countertops and stainless-steel appliances. The monthly condo fee, which includes utilities, is $323.
Listing agent: Todd Bissey, Compass.

Maryland

**ONE TIME USE ONLY 11482 Brundidge Terrace Germantown Md (Photo by Artography/Photo by Artography)

2 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms.
Price per square foot: $250.
Square footage: 1,160.
Lot size: 0.05 acre.
Features: A recently remodeled end-unit townhouse in the Brandermill community includes a two-year home warranty and has new doors, windows and lighting. The updated kitchen has new appliances, countertops and cabinets. The monthly homeowners association dues are $93.
Listing agent: Merilee Paran, Re/Max Town Center.


**ONE TIME USE ONLY 5900 Whale Boat Dr. No. 201 Clarksville Md (Photo by HomeVisit/Photo by HomeVisit)

2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms.
Price per square foot: $214.
Square footage: 1,399.
Lot size: N/A.
Features: The 2004 condo in the Village of River Hill has an open floor plan. The kitchen has granite countertops and a breakfast bar. The living room has a gas fireplace and balcony access. The complex has abundant parking spaces. A storage space is included. The monthly condo fee is $367.
Listing agent: Creig Northrop, Northrop Realty.


**ONE TIME USE ONLY Metro Pointe Stanley Martin 2716 Pinebrook Rd Landover Md

2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms.
Price per square foot: $185.
Square footage: 1,484.
Lot size: N/A.
Features: The Jordan model of the newly built townhouse and condominium community, Metro Pointe by Stanley Martin, can be customized to fit your needs with an additional island countertop in the kitchen or a main level powder room. The upper level can be a family room or an additional bedroom. The second level features a deck off the family room. The kitchen has access to the one-car garage.
Listing agent: Martin Alloy, SMC Real Estate.

Virginia

**ONE TIME USE ONLY 2465 Army Navy Dr Unit 1-210 Arlington Va (Photo by HomeVisit/Photo by HomeVisit)

1 bedroom, 1 bathroom.
Price per square foot: $428.
Square footage: 701.
Lot size: N/A.
Features: The condo at the Grove at Arlington condominiums has an in-unit washer/dryer and a balcony overlooking the courtyard. The kitchen has maple cabinetry, granite countertops and stainless steel appliances. The unit comes with one parking space. The monthly condo fees, which include access to a pool, sun deck, outdoor grill, gym, movie theater and clubhouse, are $306.
Listing agent: Brittany Camacho, Century 21 Redwood Realty.


**ONE TIME USE ONLY 8349 Scotland Loop No. 54 Manassas, Va (Photo by HomeVisit/Photo by HomeVisit)

2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms.
Price per square foot: $199.
Square footage: 1,470.
Lot size: N/A.
Features: The 2013 three-level townhouse in the Heritage Crossing community has hardwood floors on the main level. On the second level, the kitchen opens to a deck. The one-car garage is attached to the home. The monthly homeowners association dues, which include access to a swimming pool, tennis courts and playground, are $120.
Listing agent: Mike Convin, Re/Max Agility.


**ONE TIME USE ONLY 12221 Allspice Ct Woodbridge Va (Photo by Eva Lightfoot/Photo by Eva Lightfoot)

3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms.
Price per square foot: $189.
Square footage: 1,546.
Lot size: 0.04 acre.
Features: The 1983 townhouse in the Lake Ridge community was recently remodeled. A spacious deck overlooks a fenced back yard. The unit comes with two assigned parking spaces. The quarterly homeowners association dues, which include access to five pools, a boat ramp, sports fields, basketball and tennis courts and community centers, are $204.
Listing agent: Courtney Kuykendall, Make Impact Real Estate.

National

**ONE TIME USE ONLY 866 Oak Ridge, Elgin, Ill. (Photo by VHT/Photo by VHT)

3 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms.
Price per square foot: $156.
Square footage: 1,916.
Lot size: 0.21 acre.
Features: The single-family house in a northwest suburb of Chicago has a two-story foyer, a family room with a wood-burning fireplace and hardwood floors. The master bedroom has a tray ceiling, walk-in closet, and a bathroom with a whirlpool tub and separate shower. The professionally landscaped back yard has a brick patio. The monthly homeowners association dues are $30.
Listing agent: Fran Lawson, Starck Real Estate.


**ONE TIME USE ONLY 6316 Marilee Way, Colorado Springs, CO (Photo by Sandy Westerough/Design to Sell/Photo by Sandy Westerough/Design to Sell)

3 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms.
Price per square foot: $118.
Square footage: 2,544.
Lot size: 0.14 acre.
Features: The single-family home, located in the Painted Sky at Waterview neighborhood, has mountain views. The main level has vaulted ceilings and carpeted and tile floors. The spacious back yard is fenced. The three-car garage is attached. The monthly homeowners association dues are $23.
Listing agent: Chad Wimberly, Keller Williams Realty.


**ONE TIME USE ONLY 33 Westview Danbury CT (Photo by Gregg Cappello/Photo by Gregg Cappello)

4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms.
Price per square foot: $161.
Square footage: 1,862.
Lot size: 0.21 acre.
Features: The 1979 Cape Cod has a cozy living room with a wood-burning fireplace. The eat-in kitchen has stone countertops, stainless steel appliances, an island and opens to a spacious two-tier deck. The finished lower level has a family room and bonus space for office or exercise room. The one-car garage is detached.
Listing agent: Pam McHenry, William Raveis Real Estate.