Florida teen landlord turns foreclosure crisis into opportunity

(CBS News) NORTH PORT, Fla. - A report out today says America's home builders are more optimistic about a turnaround in the housing market than at any time since the bubble burst. That's exactly what one 15-year-old girl in Florida is betting on as well.

Willow Tufano may look like a typical teen, dress like one and act like one, but growing up during Florida's foreclosure crisis gave her the opportunity to become something else too.

"I bought my first house, and I am buying my second house here soon," Turfano said.

Tufano is a landlord. She's likely Florida's youngest landlord, taking her cues from her realtor Mom who buys cheap bank-owned homes.

"I would go around with my Mom and look at these houses, and there was one filled with a whole bunch of different furniture that was nice, and I said, Well, I can sell this stuff.' So that was how it started," she said.

Tufano eventually made $6,000 by selling furniture, which she used to help her purchase a $12,000 home. She'll soon close on her second house. It costs $17,500.

"I'm trying to get as many houses as I can while the market is low," she said.

She said her goal is to have around 10 houses by the time that she is 18.

"I want to try for two a year, pretty much," she said.

Fifteen-year-old Willow Tufano collects rent from one of her tenants.
CBS News
Today, Tufano spends her spare time gathering and selling items not just from foreclosed homes, but from garage sales, from charities and even street curbs.

"I just try and save every penny that I can to invest in more houses," she said.

As a minor, Tufano can't legally be on the deed. But when she turns 18, her mother, Shannon Moore will sign the properties over to her.

"I said, 'Willow, lead the way, show me where you need to go.' And she has," Moore said.

Not bad for a kid with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) who left a gifted school because teachers told her mom her daughter couldn't focus.

"I guess it's hard to listen to people say 'your kid has a problem,' you know, and now look at her. I don't know, I guess I'm really proud of her," Moore said choking up with emotion.

These days, Willow's busy collecting rent from her tenant, shopping for building materials and taking stock of her next project.

All from a girl who is too young too drive but has plenty of direction.

  • Anna Werner

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