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This time last year, Christie Heimbach was shelling out $1,000 in rent every month to live with a roommate in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. 

Heimbach, a teacher and photographer, realized she could spend the same amount of money each month — give or take a couple of hundred dollars — on a home of her own. The pandemic gave her the push she needed to get her finances in order and then “invest” in a house, rather than “pour her savings into a living situation she felt she couldn’t control.”

In December, she scored her first home and moved into one of the 5.64 million existing homes that changed hands in 2020. That figure, from the National Association of Realtors, was up 5.6% from 2019 to its highest level since 2006.