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She Bought A House At 14 - Then Ellen Gave Her A Call

Herald-Tribune / NBC

Do you remember what you were doing at age 14?

Hanging out with friends? Playing sports? Maybe mowing lawns for spare change in the summer?

That's how most people remember their teenage years. So don't feel bad when you learn that a teenager from Florida bought her first home at age 14.

The savvy businesswoman's' story made headlines around the world, and even Ellen DeGeneres took notice.

Turning Junk Into Cash

Willow Tufano's incredible story began in 2012, near her home in Fort Myers, Florida.

Tufano's mother, Shannon Moore, is a real estate agent, and her daughter spent many years tagging along as she toured homes for sale.

Moore says that Tufano never showed any interest in the family business, until one day they came across a foreclosed home full of furniture.

Tufano offered to sell the furniture on Craigslist - it would have been thrown away otherwise - and the owner agreed to let her keep any money she made.

eBay
Tufano made about $500 a month selling junk on eBay.BBC

The one-time job soon became a small business for Tufano, who earned about $500 a month thanks to her pluck and internet auction skills.

Soon, she had thousands of dollars saved up. And Tufano decided to expand her business in a surprising way.

The Teenage Landlord

The idea to buy a home struck Tufano when she heard her mother talking about the local real estate market.

One home that had sold for $100,000 - a two-bedroom brick bungalow - had been put up for auction at just $12,000, almost in Tufano's price range.

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

It wasn't so crazy after all, it seems, because Tufano convinced her mother to "go in halves" on the home.

Despite being the parents of a young business wiz, Tufano says even her mom and dad were shocked by the idea.

"I had a paper route when I was a kid!" her dad told her. "You shouldn’t be doing that!"

Willow Tufano
Willow's family helped get the house in shape.ABC News

But they warmed up to the idea, especially when they realized the home could become a rental property, and an investment in Tufano's future.

But getting it in shape took quite a bit of work, as Tufano said the home looked "like there was a riot or something."

A Call From Ellen

News of Tufano's business skills spread from Florida, to national news outlets, and eventually to talk show host Ellen DeGeneres.

She invited the teenager to visit her show and share her incredible story.

"When I heard this story I was like, 'I have to meet this girl,'" she told the young entrepreneur. "It's just amazing what you did."

Tufano took the chance to show off the hard work she did "flipping" the house, with impressive before and after pictures.

She also shared her more ambitious plans: to buy even more homes and expand her business.

And DeGeneres was happy to help - she gave Tufano a new dryer for one of her homes, and a $10,000 gift card from Ace Hardware to cover more renovations.

Not A Teenager, But Still A Business Wiz

In the years since her appearance on Ellen, Tufano has not slowed down one bit.

She was already finalizing a deal for her second home, this time at $17,500, during her appearance on the talk show.

Willow Tufano
Willow poses in front of her first home.Dan Wagner - Herald-Tribune

While she had plans to develop her own show on HGTV, they eventually fell through.

Instead, Tufano has been quietly and steadily learning the ropes of the real estate business, buying cheap homes and flipping them for a profit.

She also shares her story with other teenagers, to remind them that they're never too young to follow their dreams.

"You create your own path, you choose what’s right for you, and you paint yourself," she said.

"If I can do this, anyone can do this."

Were you inspired by Willow's incredible story?

[H/T: NPR, ABC News, Herald Tribune]

I write about all sorts of things for Shared, especially weird facts, celebrity news, and viral stories. CONTACT: zachary@shared.com