Summary: The goal of our Investor Spotlight series is to provide you with stories of real physicians and professionals who are at different points in their journey to financial freedom through real estate investing. At Semi-Retired MD, we love to share many perspectives and learn from others’ experiences along the way. Today’s spotlight is on Jessica Hernandez, an emergency medicine physician originally from New York City. Jessica now lives in Texas and is raising her two children as a widow. After her husband’s death, Jessica pivoted to real estate investing.
She completed Zero to Freedom in Fall 2019, and quickly realized the power and impact of real estate investing. Jessica went from owning 1 door to owning 19 doors and syndicating her first multi-family property by early 2021.
[Disclaimer: We are not accountants, lawyers or financial advisors, so please consult your own team of professionals about the topics covered in this article.]
We interviewed Jessica during our Fast FIRE to Freedom Summit in August. You can watch the interview here to hear Jessica’s real estate journey in her own words!
How did you become interested in achieving financial freedom through real estate investing in the first place?
Jessica: I would say 2017 is when it really started. My husband and I moved out of our first home into our second home, and we had to make a decision about what we were going to do about our first home.
So the options were to sell it, move on to the next or hold onto it and rent it out. So at that point, we decided, “Hey, let’s try to hold onto it and rent it out.”
We always thought it was a good investment. It was in a good location in downtown Dallas. So we decided to test that market. Simultaneously around that time, I started learning a little bit more about real estate and looking at the Semi-Retired MD blog, and joining the Semi-Retired MD communities. So that’s where I started learning about real estate. My interest in real estate was growing and I was hoping to pursue it more with my husband. However, I didn’t start ramping up my real estate career until 2020.
What is your “why” behind this? Was there a triggering event that led you to start your journey of achieving financial freedom through real estate investing?
Jessica: Unfortunately, my husband was diagnosed with cancer in 2018 and he passed away in 2019. After he passed away, I really started realizing that I needed to grow wealth and make up for the fact that he’s not here.
We have two children and I needed to provide for us. So I really started diving into the real estate world at that time.
Then, when COVID hit in 2020 being an ER doctor and a recent widow, I felt a ton of pressure and anxiety thinking about going to work. Medicine has always been so stable, but it’s kind of an illusion, and COVID really brought that into focus. Initially, I would batch my shifts together, and isolate from the kids and grandparents to minimize the risk of getting them sick. I knew that I needed a plan B with flexibility. If I needed to exit medicine, I needed to have something to fall back on. I anticipated that COVID was only going to get worse over the months, and that even if I was working, there might be a time where I’d have to pull away. So I said, “Okay, real estate is it!”
Once you decided to pursue financial freedom through real estate investing, how did you get started?
Jessica: Leti and Kenji hosted a real estate meetup here in Dallas. Since I was already following the blog, following their posts, and was a part of that community, I went. We met up and I learned even more about the possibilities with real estate, and it opened my eyes to different avenues.
That’s when I started thinking, Hey, I really need to educate myself in this space very quickly. I started taking different courses in real estate and just learning about different things that you can do with real estate. So, 2020 was really my year. I ramped it up and really went full throttle.
What type of properties make up your real estate investing portfolio (SFH, multifamily, etc)? Were they in state/out of state?
Jessica: Currently, I have 19 doors and syndicated a multi-family property that was over a hundred units in Houston. I invested in three different markets by leveraging partnerships within my community.
I have a fourplex in Rome, New York. As well as another fourplex in Tacoma, Washington, that I obtained by working with a group there. Then, I ended up picking up two duplexes, and partnering with someone in Rome to pick up a few more duplexes by the end of the year.
So, it was a lot of momentum, a lot of focus, and just a lot of massive action, actually. I invested in three different markets by leveraging partnerships within my community.
How are you balancing gaining financial freedom through your real estate investing with your career(s) and your clinical work?
Jessica: One of my goals became to obtain real estate professional tax status (REPS) for myself in the year 2020. I was supposed to be working, you know, three quarters to full-time as an ER doctor, but I actually remained part-time and didn’t increase my hours. So, I decided to put those hours into real estate.
I’m always wondering: at what point am I going to pull back a little bit from medicine? What does that look like? Luckily because I’m in the ER, I can always kind of maintain a part-time status. So we’ll see where that takes me. I also work at academic centers, so I teach part-time. So it’s a good life balance in that way.
Can you tell us about any difficulties or failures you’ve had in real estate investing? Any big learning points you’ve taken from these experiences that you can share with us?
Jessica: As a new investor, I had this feeling of fear, thinking, “I don’t know about real estate. I don’t know about finances.” And then I kind of walked into the fire with my husband’s illness.
I had to do it alone. However, I realized that when you surround yourself with like-minded people, you’re really not alone. So it was a matter of working on myself, my own mindset, and taking steps when I was uncomfortable.
I’ve learned that the messiness of life also makes it rich and beautiful. There’s happiness, and there’s pain, and there’s success. All of it, even failure pushes us to grow in a new direction.
How about any big successes? Anything you learned from these good outcomes that you can share that might help other real estate investors?
Jessica: My advice to people who want to get involved in real estate investing is really just investing in yourself. You have to invest in education and you have to invest in relationships. Those were the two big things that I focused on. And that was really what pushed me along and got me further very quickly.
If that’s where you put your efforts, that will go a long way. You don’t have to do it all alone. There’s a community and people who are willing and excited to help.
Where are you now in your real estate investing journey? What are your goals for where you want to be in 1 year, 5 years, or 10 years from now?
Jessica: I had made some investments as a limited partner (LP) in syndications, and then my overall goal was to hit real estate professional tax status (REPS). So I put in hours towards direct ownership. I am also self-managing many of my units. So that was another way that I got REPS hours.
Looking ahead, I’m thinking that my growth is going to be in syndication. I’m also considering adding an Airbnb to my portfolio. I’ve been crunching the numbers and thinking about picking up another syndication before the end of the year—that’s one of my big goals. It has to make sense. The market has been really, really great, in terms of selling, but it’s been a little bit competitive. We want to approach things with caution and just make sure that we’re running numbers. So similar to medicine in that way, the learning never stops. It’s definitely interesting and exciting!
Have you found a way to creatively fund your real estate portfolio and achieve financial freedom? Join the conversation! Follow our Semi-Retired MD Facebook page and join our Physicians (for MDs or DOs only) or Professionals group! Also, if you missed it, check out our prior Investor Spotlight.
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