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Your early twenties are often a time of exploration: Maybe you've just graduated from college, and you're still figuring out what kind of career you want to pursue, how to make new friends as an adult, and even where you want to live.

Nadja Amaguana, however, was laser focused on one of her life goals: buying her own home. At 23 — after years of diligently saving — she bought her first home in suburban Maryland. Becoming a homeowner as soon as possible has always been Amaguana's dream, partially because of how she was raised.

"As I got older, my mother always made it a point to compliment smart and independent women she admired — not famous women, just women she knew," Amaguana says. "She never once made home ownership something you do after you're married." It's a sentiment that many other single women apparently share: 19 percent of all home buyers in 2022 were single women, more than double the amount of single men (9 percent). Though buying a home so young took some sacrifices, Amaguana says it was worth it. Here's how she made her homeownership dreams a reality.


Saving for a Down Payment

Amaguana knew she'd need to save up for a down payment, but luckily, she'd been in the habit of saving money since she was a child. "My mother was relentless about my brothers and I saving our money into our piggy banks," she says. "My mom told my dad to take us to open a joint savings account one summer when we were off from elementary school."

By the time Amaguana was in college, she had about $10,000 saved. "Hitting that goal fired me up so much that I was spending all my free time taking more shifts waiting tables or finding odd jobs if I didn't need to study," she says. "I knew if I kept it up by the time I graduated from college I'd have more than enough for a down payment."

After graduation, Amaguana became even more thrifty, trimming any unnecessary expenses and impulse purchases from her budget. "I knew saving for a house was so important to me so it was easy to not spend my money on frivolous things," she says. Amaguana even moved in with her parents so she could save more of her take-home pay.


Finding the Right Real Estate Team

Once Amaguana was ready to start looking at properties, she knew she needed to assemble her home buying team. "Finding a trusted real estate agent and mortgage lender was crucial for me," she says. Amaguana knew she specifically wanted to work with a lender and real estate agent who had experience with first-time buyers, which helped narrow down her search. A coworker at her waitressing job let her know that she could use an offer letter for a new job to get pre-approved for a mortgage, then referred her to an agent he knew. (If you don't have a personal referral, resources like Rocket Homes℠ can also help you connect with agents in your area.)

Amaguana already knew that Maryland offered first-time homebuyer programs she qualified for, too. "After learning about the offer letter fact, I went to my state government's website and found lenders who had successfully worked with other candidates using the state's programs," she explains.

In addition to looking for real estate agents and lenders with experience in your particular type of transaction, Amaguana also says she made sure everyone she worked with had her best interests in mind. "You are signing documents that will affect you for a very long time so you want to make sure you're working with people who are going to help you understand everything that's going on," she explains. That's why Amaguana recommends finding a mortgage lender you trust. Rocket Mortgage® makes the entire process easy, from applying for pre-approval online to helping you calculate how much you can afford.


Standing Out in a Crowded Market

After assembling her team and getting pre-approved for a mortgage, Amaguana looked at homes for about eight months before finally getting an offer accepted. Because she was looking for a home in a competitive housing market, Amaguana faced tons of competition from buyers who could make all-cash offers or offer fewer contingencies.

"Negotiating opportunities were limited, and properties I desired were in high demand," she explains. Instead of looking only at picture-perfect homes with all the features on her wishlist, Amaguana broadened her search to properties that had been on the market for weeks or months – a good sign that she wouldn't face as much competition.

The property she eventually bought — a townhouse with a lovely front yard — was smaller and older than many of the other properties Amaguana had looked at, but that didn't deter her. The smaller footprint of the kitchen worked for her needs as a single woman living alone. "I quickly put in an offer and two weeks later, I was told they accepted," Amaguana says. After a month-long renovation, she moved into her new home in December 2021 and promptly started decorating it to fit her sleek, modern aesthetic.


Learning to Trust the Process

Though her home buying journey included a few bumps along the way, Amaguana says remaining optimistic was key. "I firmly believe in the notion that what is meant for me will come to fruition," she says. "Looking back, I am grateful for the offers that weren't accepted because I now understand why."

Amaguana says being able to purchase her first home at such a young age was incredibly empowering, even though she faced some judgment from others along the way. "Shopping for homes as a young, single woman was interesting because I often brought my parents along. While some people assumed I wasn't the sole purchaser, the agents seemed to take me more seriously once they realized I was a committed buyer," she says. "I enjoyed dispelling stereotypes and changing people's perceptions about who can own a home."

Before starting her home buying journey, Amaguana anticipated that it would be an enormous challenge. After she signed the papers and received the keys to her new home, though, Amaguana realized buying her own home was really not as difficult as she expected. "It really can be that easy if you set yourself up with some savings, good credit, and consistent income," she says. "It's not as scary as you may think and it's such a fulfilling process once it's all said and done."

Credits: Editor: Annalise Mantz; Photography: Heami Lee; Prop Styling: Julia Rose; Production: Hannah Lee

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