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Teen funds college with real estate investment made at 14

Buying and selling property is a responsibility usually taken on by adults, but a Uniontown teen is selling a house he purchased at age 14 with savings that included earnings from his Herald-Standard paper route.

“I bought it to be an investment and use the money for college,” said Harry Strauser IV, now 18 and preparing to start his freshman year at Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus, in North Union Township.

Harry is the owner of a one-story, two-bedroom house at 18 Cramer Ave. in Uniontown.

Harry first saw the house when his parents, Rachel and Harry Strauser III, considered purchasing it as a possible home for Rachel’s grandmother.

“When we told Harry we were not going to buy it, he asked if he could,” said Rachel. “We let him make that decision. It was a big purchase but that’s what he wanted to do.”

Harry bought the house in 2014 with savings accumulated from his earnings as a Herald-Standard carrier as well as monetary gifts for birthdays and Christmas.

“I started when I was 9,” Harry said of the paper route, noting he then took a little time off in those early years before resuming the route he continues to work today.

“We started early teaching him to save and to give,” said Rachel, explaining the giving includes donations to Grace Community Church in Uniontown where the family belongs.

Harry used a cashier’s check for the sale, recorded with photographs taken by his family of both the signing and Harry standing in front of the house. Rachel’s name appears on the deed as well since Harry was under 18 at the time the property was purchased.

The house, built in the 1930s, was a white, frame structure. The front wood porch had a wooden railing and steps on the side that led to the concrete driveway.

“I thought we were painting it and that was it,” said Harry.

But by Spring 2015, Harry was making major improvements to his house.

It started when Harry’s grandmother gave him a gift by offering to pay for new windows in the house.

“They wouldn’t open. Some were damaged and some were painted shut,” Rachel explained of the old, aluminum-frame windows.

Harry accepted the gift and the family soon realized it would be a good idea to replace the white aluminum siding with new vinyl siding, light brown in color. This also permitted Harry to have the large window at the bathroom replaced with a smaller window of glass block to allow for greater privacy.

While someone was hired to put in the new windows, Harry helped take out the old and worked alongside his family to remove the old siding and put up the new.

Then the front wooden porch was replaced with an expanded, concrete structure that now opens to the lawn, also re-landscaped to take out overgrown bushes and a dead tree and replace them with flowers and plants as well as a curved sidewalk that leads to the driveway. Harry had a concrete small wall put on the back porch to give it the feel of another room. Other outside work included a new roof, soffit and fascia.

“That’s what he was doing on his 16th birthday, tearing shingles off the roof,” said Rachel.

The house also underwent changes to the interior.

“For the most part,” said Harry, “while we worked on the outside, we gutted the inside.”

Improvements were made to the electrical work and plumbing, new floors were installed as well as remodeling the bathroom and kitchen, complete with new fixtures and appliances. The interior walls were painted shades of taupe and a bedroom closet improved.

While professionals were hired for some projects, Harry worked alongside them. He also received help from his parents, his brother, John, 14, and sisters Abi, 16, and Jocelyn, 11, as well as grandparents Craig Carson of Fairchance and Linda Carson of Uniontown and other family members.

“I couldn’t have done it any other way,” Harry said of the support he received from his family and some friends from Grace Church. “I was only 14. This wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.”

Harry began this project before the start of his freshman year and completed the work just after his June graduation from Uniontown Area High School. He was also involved in cross country, swimming, track and a member of Boy Scout Troop 623 that meets at Grace Church. Harry used the house for his high school senior project but earned his Eagle Scout rank by doing another project: finishing a supplies closet for groups to use at his church.

And beside the paper route, Harry started a second job this past spring working at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort in Farmington.

While Harry earned money, he also spent it on his house.

“Whenever he had to write out checks for taxes or contractors, it was a little painful, but he got an idea about how much things costs and sacrifices,” said Rachel.

But besides the work, there was fun. Harry hosted a couple of sleepovers in the house with his friends, calling a shout out to “The Quebec Boys. I love you guys!” He also wants to thank the Herald-Standard customers on his paper route who gave him support.

Harry said what he learned most from the project was “how everything takes longer than expected, as a rule.”

What pleased him the most was finishing it.

“I think it helped me grow,” said Harry of taking on the house. “It helped me learn a lot.”

By: FRANCES BORSODI ZAJAC, THE (UNIONTOWN) HERALD-STANDARD