Willow Tufano, 14, Buys House and Becomes Landlord

A Florida teenager took advantage of the housing collapse to make a great investment in her future.

Willow Tufano, a 14-year-old girl from Florida, lives in an area that’s been hit hard by the recession. Home prices have taken a steep drop, and many of the houses in Willow’s area have gone into foreclosure.

But, with her mother’s help, Willow’s already learned to turn the poor economy into an opportunity for shrewd business moves. Several years ago, she began going along with her mother, Shannon, a real estate broker, to visit distressed homes that Shannon’s investor clients were interested in flipping. Many of the houses were still full of furniture.

Willow had a bright idea: She told the buyers that she could clear the houses of furniture and other possessions, if they’d let her keep the proceeds. Most of the buyers agreed to her plan, and soon, Willow was selling the items on Craigslist for $500 a month or more.

She saved the bulk of her money, and before long, an investing opportunity came up that seemed too good to resist: Last year, her mother told her that home that had once sold for $100,000 was selling at auction for $12,000.

Willow saw an opportunity. “I was like, ‘What if I bought a house? That would be crazy,’ ” she told NPR News. 

Crazy, but not a bad idea, actually. Willow ended up splitting the cost with her mother, though Willow plans to buy her mother’s share within the next few years. Once they’d closed on the deal, they set to work cleaning the filthy home up, and then began offering it for rental. They found tenants who are paying $700 a month for the house: In little more than a year, they’ll already have recouped their investment.

While Willow’s opportunities have come about as a result of tough economic times, her savvy business sense provides hope that younger generations might just get us out of this mess we’re in.

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