Meet Trailblazing Builder Behind Brand-New $2.55M Paramus Property

Agnes Wanat was always a builder of sorts.

Agnes Wanat debuts her latest home construction project at 228 Diane Pl., in Paramus.

Agnes Wanat debuts her latest home construction project at 228 Diane Pl., in Paramus.

Photo Credit: Edwing Hernandez

The Paramus resident created a diverse series of businesses throughout North Jersey — until she turned 35, and discovered her passion for building homes far outweighed her desire to own another in a series of businesses that left her wanting more.

On Thursday, April 11, Wanat debuted her latest home construction project: A 7,500 square-foot, L-shaped home at 228 Diane Pl. in Paramus. The 6-bedroom, 6.5-bathroom house hit the market at $2.55 million, with Tony Nabhan of Keller Williams City Views Realty as the listing agent (click here for the full listing).

"This business has everything I’ve been looking for that I couldn’t find in other businesses," said Wanat, 45, of AT Home Developers. “Navigating a male-dominated industry requires a unique blend of strengths, and I strive to push through these difficulties with determination. But if you don't try, you will never know."

Taking a chance is something ingrained in Wanat’s DNA. Her family emigrated to Garfield from Poland when she was 9. Not long after that, she began babysitting, following the example set by her father, who was an entrepreneur, and her mother, who started out as a lab technician before going to nursing school.

"You come to another country and you have no choice but to work and make a better life for yourself," she said. "I come from a blue-collar family where hard work was a part of daily life."

Wanat waitressed and bartended straight out of high school, working six or seven days a week and double shifts on weekends to support her family following the sudden loss of her father. She eventually opened her first business, a home healthcare placement and cleaning service for the elderly. She later opened a tanning salon but sold the business after five years.

When she was 28 years old, she went to college, but decided that route wasn't for her after just one semester, diving right back into commerce — this time, a wholesale custom jewelry business. She did try school one last time and ended up working as a makeup artist for celebrities and designers out of a New York City office shared with the Fashion Institute of Technology.

When she turned 35, Wanat decided to build herself a home. And not just any house, one that she would design.

"I had renovated a townhouse, but this would be my actual first house from the ground up," Wanat said.

It was on a lot in Paramus, and Wanat had an idea of the floor plan and design. She hired an architect and executed a plan. Then, she hired a builder.

"When I hired the builder and he saw the plans, he was so impressed with the layout and wanted to hire me to design homes for him," she said. “When the house was done, the builder expressed interest in replicating the home because he liked it so much. I realized, there's something here and that was pretty much that."

Wanat left her job to pursue building, where she felt there was more potential for a lasting career. All she had to do was learn the trade.

She began taking on small construction jobs, accumulating bits and pieces of information as she went. What she noticed almost immediately, though, was how much more difficult things would be because she is a woman. Establishing credibility as a woman remains one of the greatest challenges Wanat faces to this day, she says.

"It is a male dominated industry and it is difficult to learn as a woman being that it's geared towards men," Wanat said. "It's fast-paced, stressful, and you're expected to know a lot. Numerous times, especially in the beginning when I started my first project, I’d get estimates from subcontractors and would hear a woman’s voice and would triple the price."

"Overcoming assumptions about your knowledge and expertise in construction may require extra effort to prove yourself to clients, subcontractors, and other industry professionals.”

According to the National Association of Home Builders, women accounted for nearly 11% of construction workers in the workforce as of 2022.

Wanat added that she's lost upcoming projects due to people finding out she's a woman. And, of course, so much of home building requires lifting heavy materials and operating machinery, something that doesn't come easily to a petit Wanat.

However, Wanat's tenacity and sheer passion have proven invaluable.

"This business fits me so well because I’m feisty, I’m a go-getter, and I'm not afraid to call people out if they're wrong,” she said. "The completion of a project and the construction of a new home is a milestone that often precedes a family moving in. The thought of this fills me with happiness, knowing that I have built a gorgeous home where a family will live and create lasting memories.

"To me, this is the most rewarding aspect of the business — the realization that I have built a space that will play a backdrop to a family's cherished moments. Of course, witnessing the transformation from a vision to a completed home is equally fulfilling, but it's the idea of contributing to the happiness and life stories of others that truly defines the essence of my work."

The listing agent on the Diane Place home is Tony Nabhan, of Keller Williams City Views Realty, who said the appeal of a woman in the construction industry is a "huge void."

"Agnes’ kindness is akin to the warmth of her new construction projects, where every detail is carefully crafted," Nabhan said. "Agnes breathes life into innovative designs and approaches her projects with creativity, precision, and a touch of grace."

There are no more business ventures on the horizon for Wanat, who said simply that she's arrived at her final destination of home building.

"It took me many businesses in all different industries to figure out what I love to do and what I was meant to do,” Wanat said. “In the beginning, I didn’t have any funds. I started from nothing and built myself up. 

"The dream doesn’t all come together in one day, it takes little pieces to get there."

to follow Daily Voice Paramus and receive free news updates.