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14-year-old real estate magnate buys her first home

Business
Willow Tuffano, landlord (Image: NPR)

Forget lemonade stands.  NPR highlights the amazing story of Willow Tufano, a 14-year-old girl who has turned Florida's housing market downturn into her own profitable investment:

In 2005, when Willow was 7, the housing market was booming. Home prices in some Florida neighborhoods nearly doubled from one month to the next. Her family moved into a big house; her mom became a real estate agent.

But as Willow moved from childhood to adolescence, the market turned, and the neighborhood emptied out. "Everyone is getting foreclosed on here," she says.

After the collapse, Willow's mom started working with investors who wanted to bid on cheap, foreclosed homes. Sometimes Willow tagged along.

One day, she went to a house that an investor wanted to flip. "It was filled with all kinds of stuff!" Willow says. "I was like, 'I can sell this stuff if he'd want to let me have it.' "

That was fine with the investor. So Willow sold the furniture and appliances from the house on Craigslist. She did the same thing with a bunch more houses. After a while, she was clearing about $500 a month, and saving a lot of it.

One day, Willow's mom, Shannon, saw a two-bedroom, concrete-block home on auction for $12,000 — down from $100,000 at the peak of the bubble. Shannon was telling her husband about the house, when Willow piped up.

"I was like, 'What if I bought a house? That would be crazy,' " Willow says.

Willow wound up splitting the house with her mom. Willow plans to buy her mom out in the next few years, and put her name on the title when she turns 18.

What makes this story even more incredible is the fact that after Willow worked to clean up the house, she began renting it out to a couple for $700/month.

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