While other kids are out blowing their babysitting money at Claire’s, 14-year-old Willow Tufano has saved up enough money to buy a freaking house. First reported on NPR’s All Things Considered, Willow is now a landlord renting out her property for $700 a month.
Willow’s mom is a real estate agent in South Florida, where the housing market has tanked. Tagging along with her mom on appointments since she was seven, Willow has seen homes in her community foreclosed on, entire neighborhoods thinning out.
After the housing market collapsed, Willow’s mom Shannon began working with investors who wanted to buy foreclosed properties cheap, and flip them. Many times, those properties still have lots of stuff in them — furniture, lamps, whatever. Investors don’t want to deal with the stuff; they get a big dumpster and toss it all out.
Willow asked one investor if she could take some of the stuff to sell on Craigslist, and the investor was all, knock yourself out. She sold the stuff, and then did it again, eventually turning the hobby into a $500 a month job for herself.
And she saved the money. And saved it. And saved it. And eventually, saved enough money to buy a foreclosed property herself — a house that would have gone for $100,000 at the peak of the housing bubble, but was down to $12,000. Willow and her mom Shannon ended up buying the house together, and cleaned it up. They now rent the property out to a couple for $700 a month.
Willow is socking that rent money away toward her next home purchase.
Awesome, right? While most Americans are knee-deep in debt, this girl is learning how to save and invest.
And yet, of course, there are critics. Commenters on NPR’s article complain that Willow isn’t showing enough concern for the people whose home was foreclosed on. “… and somewhere out there is a little family of three huddled in a refrigerator box in the rain waiting for they don’t know what …” wrote one reader. Another snarked:
What I found troubling was the part when the girl went into a house I guess a few years ago that had been foreclosed on and her first thoughts were “I could sell this stuff”. No concern about who it belonged to, maybe another child around her age. Or about the people who left it behind. Sounds like your typical product of South Florida, “it’s all about me”. I’m more impressed when I hear about kids who start charities or walk across their state to raise money for a good cause.
If Willow is a typical product of South Florida, then giddyup, South Florida. Apparently you’re raising kids who aren’t going to get sucked into crushing credit card debt.
Have you ever looked at a foreclosed property? I’m sure there are some that aren’t insanely trashed, but the ones I’ve seen have been. And while sometimes there is furniture or other “stuff” left behind, they’re also often missing key things. Like wiring, which has been stripped out of the walls for the copper. The home Willow and her mom bought was no exception; it looked “like there was a riot or something,” Willow said. She and her mom cleaned up the house themselves.
Another commenter criticized Willow’s mom: “Instead of helping your 14 year old daughter buy a house she has no need for, why not help out one of the families that lost their house instead?”
Usually feminist website Jezebel calls Willow “a particularly opportunistic property baron” who had “no compunction whatsoever about asking the investor if she could peddle those leftover shards of someone else’s broken American dream on Craigslist.”
Seriously? Here’s a 14-year-old girl who, instead of collecting glitter nail polish and clip-in hair extensions, owns a freaking home. You don’t get to decry the lack of women in business and then shoot down a girl who’s succeeding.
There is nothing wrong with teaching your kid to save, invest, and understand the value of hard work. Those are skills that will help Willow for a lifetime. Nor is there any shame in renting out a fairly-priced, well-maintained home.
My husband and I currently rent our home. I am 100 percent sure that the owners of the house snapped it up for a cheap price; the house next door is also owned by an investor. Both my home and my neighbor’s home are safe, clean, and well-maintained, giving our families a place to live, in a good school district, while we save enough to buy a house of our own. Whether my landlord is 44 or 14, I don’t have a problem with it.
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