Christiana Ting bought a NYC condo at 27 with no help from parents or a significant other — but with plenty of planning and discipline.

Like a lot of teenagers, I wanted to move to New York City after college. Unlike a lot of teenagers, I didn’t just want to move there. I wanted to buy a home there. With my own money. Before the age of 30. And I did it — here’s how.

I Had ‘the Talk’ With My Parents

There are a lot of significant conversations teens have with their parents. In addition to all the other “talks,” we had one about real estate. My ultra-pragmatic parents sat me down and (patiently, firmly) laid out the realities of buying and owning a home in a city like New York. They are both industrious immigrants who had climbed the corporate ladder and spent their free time buying, renovating, and renting out houses. My parents described the piles of paperwork a mortgage application would require. They laid out the eye-popping closing costs I would have to cover. They regaled me with horror stories of time-consuming, wallet-draining home repairs. Most critically, they stressed that I would need a certain level of financial stability and income to be considered a serious buyer in the fiercely competitive New York real estate market.

A Dream, But No Down Payment

It was a tall order, but I was committed to making it work. Throughout high school, I worked part-time and summer jobs. I cleared trash from public parks one year and sold handbags in a luxury boutique the next. I opened a savings account with $150 in saved-up birthday money. By the time I graduated high school, I had saved about $3,000, including the birthday and graduation gifts I received from family. When I went to college, my family covered my tuition and living expenses, allowing me — unlike most of my generation — to graduate without any student loans.

Like a lot of students, I worked several part-time jobs throughout college. I worked as an events photographer, earning $50 each event, and also at a local sandwich shop, where I made $7.50 an hour, plus many free sandwiches. My earnings went toward building up my future home fund, but let’s be real, taking sandwich orders wasn’t going to get me to my goal.

I recognized this and worked aggressively toward getting a summer internship in banking. These positions are notoriously lucrative and also notoriously hard to come by. To land one, I set up shop in my university’s career center and sent hundreds of cold emails to people in my alumni database. The interview processes were grueling, but it paid off. Each summer, I managed to score internships that paid $17,000 for three months of work. The work was fast-paced and grueling, but the salary jumpstarted my savings. My parents’ relative wealth and generosity, my finance internships, and my part-time gigs allowed me to graduate college debt-free with about $35,000 in savings.

My Career Choice Was a Means to an End

After college, I applied for jobs in investment banking. My motives were clear. It was the surest path to a high salary and the fastest way to pad my house fund. During my first years on the job, I regularly worked 100 hours per week. I hated the culture and found much of the work tedious, but the job provided me with a good professional skill set and a strong financial foundation for homeownership. Full disclosure, I was earning over six figures and receiving generous year-end bonuses. For a young adult with no dependents, that’s a ton of money, and it helped pave my way toward homeownership. The (large) salary aside, the job also gave me a network of like-minded colleagues whom I was comfortable telling about my budget, savings, and homeownership aspirations. A lot of the people I met on the job became friends who would later help me navigate the home-buying process.

Making Six Figures and Working a Side Hustle

While working in banking, I lived a relatively modest lifestyle. For the first few months, I stayed with a family friend who let me sublet a room for $700 per month. Once I got my own apartment, I shared a 2-bedroom in a decrepit building on the far west side of Manhattan with two roommates. I paid about $1,200 for my room, with one of my roommates converting my walk-in closet into her bedroom. To maximize my savings, I religiously hoarded leftovers, packed my lunches ahead of time, and walked everywhere.

I even maintained a few side hustles, doing freelance proofreading and working extra hours as a restaurant hostess and during holidays. My hostess wages were low — we’re talking under $7.00 per hour — but working in hospitality during the holiday season netted me a lot of cash tips (not to mention a ton of free food and drinks!). Over the years, my side gigs earned me at least $7,000. By the time I was 27, I had saved well over $100,000 and invested my nest egg in reliable, low-fee index funds. After four years, I was ready to start house-hunting in earnest.

$100K Saved But Still Got Shade

I entered the home-buying process armed with my full bank account and a lot of confidence. I was proud of the fact that I had met my financial goal, and I felt ready to put into action the dream I had aspired to for so long. But I encountered unexpected challenges that caught me off-guard. I knew that I might experience some pushback as a young, single Asian woman, but I was shocked at the number of real estate agents who asked me if I had a boyfriend or husband helping me. I had a particularly bad experience with one mortgage broker, who cut me out of crucial conversations and insisted on explaining interest rates to me after I told him (multiple times) that I had studied finance and was a career banker.

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15 Open Houses Later …

Then I found my place! In December of 2016, I closed on a 1-bedroom in a boutique condo building in south Park Slope. After negotiating to have some repairs and painting done, I paid the $625,000 asking price, putting 21 percent down to avoid the threshold for a jumbo mortgage. My monthly payments, including common charges, are now about $2,500.

I am proud of achieving my goal, but I have mixed feelings when people congratulate me on this milestone. I have to admit, I entered the home-buying process from a privileged position. Unlike most of my peers, I had no student loan debt or other financial obligations. Although I encountered casual sexism during the process, I was exempt from the discrimination that hinders many minority buyers’ efforts to secure a mortgage or pass a co-op board interview. Perhaps my greatest advantage was the emotional and educational support from my family.

My Biggest Tip? Talk About Money More

While I pride myself on my work ethic and ambition, I realize it was much easier for me achieve my goals because of my advantages. I grew up in a household where money was not a taboo topic; I learned practical skills like budgeting and investing early. Because of this, I felt confident and empowered to achieve my goals.

One year later, a lot has changed. I switched careers to become a corporate development manager at Samsung NEXT, focusing on acquisitions and investments. It offers a better lifestyle and more interesting work. I am still thrifty, but I gave up my side hustles, and I am a bit less militant about saving. And now I share my condo with my new husband! We care for our home in ways that I never cared for any rental. I am overjoyed and overwhelmed; our noisy boiler and big sunny windows feel uniquely mine. My love for my new place has shown me how rewarding homeownership can be. It is also clear that the joy of homeownership should not be limited to a small group of privileged people.

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