I agree with Sheryl. You should start with getting prequalified by a lender so that you know how much you can afford before you start looking. A good lender will take into account HOA and Mello Roos fees when calculating how much you can spend. In CA, Mello Roos fees are in addition to HOA fees and are usually paid semi-annually. Mello Roos fees pay for schools, police, fire, etc in the newer neighborhoods. I work with a lender who can actually get your loan approved in underwriting before you make an offer. This is huge because it makes you a stronger buyer against other offers.
Once you find out how much you are approved for, you need to start researching properties and neighborhoods online. Get to know how much homes sell for in a certain area and do your research on the schools, crime, etc. of the neighborhoods you are interested in. This will save you and your real estate agent tons of time when you actually start physically looking at homes.
Good luck to you! You will love San Diego, especially after the winter you have had!
Keller Williams Carlsbad