“So one thing I would invest in, and this is a tip that I would give to any entrepreneur, especially if you have multiple things going on: Get an assistant.” -Dr. Saira Ahmed
Tune in to today’s episode on real estate investing with Dr. Saira Ahmed. Jen sits down with Dr. Ahmed to discuss how she got started in real estate investing, how she purchased her first properties, what tips and tricks she has learned along the way and how she plans to keep growing her real estate portfolio. If you’ve been interested in getting started in real estate investing, this is the episode for you!
Dr. Ahmed manages a busy practice, Mediversity, she also has a real estate business, a school that trains people to become phlebotomists, Premier Health Academy, an e-commerce business selling scrubs and other medical accessories, A Plus Medical Scrubs, and she and her husband run a non-profit organization through which they do multiple community service projects throughout the year.
Dr. Ahmed went to New York Institute of Technology for her undergraduate degree. Attended Ross University School of Medicine for Medical School and did her residency at Seton Hall University Internal Medicine Residency Program. Her current affiliations are Jefferson Health System and Salem Memorial Medical Center. You can find her on instagram.
Useful links to things mentioned in the show: Bigger Pockets, real estate investing community and advice. Book, Rich Dad, Poor Dad: What the Rich Teach Their Kids About Money That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not!
Excerpts from the show:
“So tell me about how you got into the real estate niche and about your experiences.” -Dr. Jen Barna
“Sure, so I kind of already knew about real estate because my parents owned real estate. They owned rentals. Just seeing my parents, well, just to give you some background, my father passed away around five years ago but before that, ten years ago he was actually diagnosed with head and neck cancer and he had to retire immediately, and my mom was a beautician who used to work in a beauty salon and she had to quit her job to take care of my dad. So they found themselves without jobs kind of instantly when all this went down and I think the only thing that saved them was their real estate and that was a real life example that I saw in my life. They were able to do what they needed to do and live, and not have to worry financially because of the real estate they owned.” -Dr. Saira Ahmed
“We basically just started small. At the time we lived in a townhouse. I said, ‘Well the first thing is, let’s pay this townhouse off and let’s rent it out, (then) let’s buy a house and let’s rent it out.’ So that was the first thing we did. Then once we got into our house we started to look for deals. I just did it on my own. Honestly, just going through Zillow and Auction.com, finding auctions in my town, just locally anything that was on foreclosure. Just evaluating the deals myself and discussing it with my husband and that’s basically how we got started. So just one after the other.” -Dr. Saira Ahmed
“Real estate is the one investment that is solid. Honestly, it’s a long-term thing. In a way all these other businesses that we started were kind of started to help support our real estate so that we could invest more eventually. And I think that the goal is to continue building the portfolio. I mean, no projects are perfect. We bought a project and there was something wrong that we didn’t realize was wrong before we bought it, and it turns out our budget needed to be bigger to fix that issue. But I think, so far, every project has paid us back.” -Dr Saira Ahmed
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Podcast produced by: Amanda Taran
Please enjoy the full transcript below
Dr. Saira: So, one thing I would invest in, and this is a tip that I would give to any entrepreneur, especially, if you have multiple things going on, get an assistant.
Jen: This is Jen Barna. I’m here again with Dr. Saira Ahmed. Thank you for joining me, again.
Dr. Saira: Thank you for having me. I’m honored to be here.
Jen: It’s a pleasure to get to talk with you and delve in a little bit deeper on one of the many topics that I would love to talk with you about. There’s certainly a long list here. I’m especially curious about your real estate business. So, Dr. Ahmed is an internist and sleep medicine specialist. She practices full time in utilization review, and also helps run a busy Sleep Medicine practice. Is that right?
Dr. Saira: Yes.
Jen: And in addition to that, has a number of businesses with her husband. They run a real estate business, they run a school for teaching phlebotomy skills, they also run a clothing store that sells scrubs. That’s an online store, is that online only?
Dr. Saira: Yes. It’s only online. E-commerce.
Jen: Great. And also, run a nonprofit for Muslims in their community, and also to educate their community about Islam.
Dr. Saira: Right.
Jen: So, all of these things are going on, and I’m curious, have you ever read the book, The 4-Hour Workweek? [giggles]
Dr. Saira: Yeah, I have.
Jen: Do any one of these various businesses fit into that category?
Dr. Saira: I don’t think so. Not yet.
Dr. Saira: I know, one day.
Jen: Just curious. Seems to be a myth, but I think I’m going to ask everyone that as I go, because I’m still looking for that one. So, tell me about how you got into the real estate niche and about your experiences, you know, pros and cons?
Dr. Saira: Yeah, sure. So, I kind of already knew about real estate because my parents own real estate, they own rentals. So, just seeing my parents. Just to give you some background, my father passed away around five years ago. But before that, 10 years ago, he was actually diagnosed with head and neck cancer and had to retire immediately. My mom was a beautician, who used to work in a beauty salon, and she had to quit her job to take care of my dad. So, they found themselves without jobs instantly when all this went down. I think the only thing that saved them was their real estate and that was a real-life example that I saw in my life. They were able to do what they needed to do, and live and not have to worry financially because of the real estate they owned and their rental income. And even until this day, my mom is retired and her house is paid off, her car is paid off, and she has a nice little retired life, and she’s got a real estate income coming in, and she’s not usually worried about things financially.
Seeing that in my life with my parents, probably, around five years ago, my husband and I started thinking about retirement and just thinking about, what’s our long-term play here? What are we doing long term, what do we want in the years to come and just thinking about those things and talking things out, and knowing that, we’re probably going to want to live in another country one day or we might live here and somewhere else? We’d love to travel. So, what is something that we can do that is going to allow us to have that lifestyle that we want, but at the same time, be able to pay our bills and remain financially sound.
Just with my experience with my parents, I was like, “It’s got to be real estate.” That’s the only thing I could think of from what I’ve seen. So, my husband had no experience in it. His family has never done real estate or anything. So, that probably came from me. We basically just started small. At the time we lived in a townhouse, I said, “Well the first thing is let’s pay this townhouse off and let’s rent it out. Let’s buy a house and let’s rent it out.” So, that was the first thing we did. And then once we got into our house, we started to look for deals. I just did it on my own, honestly. Going through Zillow, going through auction.com, finding auctions in my town, just locally anything that was on foreclosure, just evaluating the deals myself and discussing it with him. That’s basically how we got started. So, we’re just one after the other.
Jen: Now, so, when you choose a property, are you doing single family, multi-family, apartment buildings?
Dr. Saira: Yeah. I started with a single family townhouse because that’s where I felt comfortable. In the beginning, I didn’t have experience with anything else. But I think now we’ve done multiple of those and we just bought our first multi-unit, seven unit building actually last month. So, this is our first time we’re diving into a multi-unit thing. So, yeah, we’re just kind of growing with that.
Jen: Great. Good for you.
Dr. Saira: Thank you.
Jen: And how is the multi-unit compared to the single family at least? I know, it’s way early if you just bought it last month but in terms of your projections, I’m curious– [crosstalk]
Dr. Saira: I think projection wise is going to be much bigger, financially wise the residual income we will get every month, but the building we bought has been shut down for two years. It was owned by a bank and it’s in pretty bad shape right now. So, the first thing is, we just did the demo. We just finished demoing out everything, and now, we’re hiring a contractor to go ahead and start renovating it. So, once it’s done, our plan is basically to start renting out apartments. So, we’re starting with the apartments that we think need least work. So, as soon as it’s ready, we have our real estate agent already ready to go. He’s ready to start renting them out. So, we’ll just start doing it one by one. And I think once all seven of them are up and running, it should be a good thing.
Jen: In this case, will you have a property manager who lives in one of the apartments or how do you plan to handle that part?
Dr. Saira: Yeah, so far up until this year, we’ve been managing our properties ourselves. One thing we did invest in and this is like a tip that I would give to any entrepreneur, especially, if you have multiple things going on, get an assistant. This year, we actually hired a personal assistant that me and my husband share full time. So, now, he’s also a property manager, too. So, I can take care of all the bills and all the things that need to be done like paperwork wise, but the running around part I make him do it now. So, if someone needs to go on the job site, they’ll go, take videos, pictures, things like that, and send it back to me.
Jen: That’s brilliant. Are you using any virtual assistants as well?
Dr. Saira: No. I thought about that. I know why people suggest that. I just figured, if I’m going to get an assistant, I want someone that can run around town, too. So, I said, “You know what, I definitely need an assistant, but I want someone who I can physically see, who I can send around town,” and that way, I’m using him for an array of things. I use him for my mom, I use him for my car. I’m like, “Take care of my car, do whatever needs to be done with my car. I don’t want to know. Just do it,” and he takes care of everything.
Jen: That’s fabulous. Anything you can get off of your plate like that really-
Dr. Saira: Exactly.
Jen: -it’s got to be critical to you so that you can use your time in the best possible way. So, has owning real estate gone as planned for every property that you’ve acquired?
Dr. Saira: Yeah. I think some properties require more work than we initially thought. But at the end of the day, it does pay off. I think real estate is the one investment that is solid, honestly, and it’s a long-term thing. In a way, all these other businesses that we started were kind of started to help support our real estate, so that we could invest more eventually, and I think that is the goal, is to continue building the portfolio. I think no projects are perfect. Sometimes, we bought a project and there was something wrong that we didn’t realize was wrong before we bought it, and it turns out our budget needed to be bigger to fix that issue. But I think so far, every project, though, has paid us back.
Jen: And so, do you have a specific formula that you use when you’re looking at a property to determine whether it will have cash flow?
Dr. Saira: Yeah. So, basically, you have to look at what is going to be the rental income, what is the income that you are projecting that you’re going to get every month. Obviously you want to make sure you can cover the property taxes, you want to make sure you can cover the insurance, and any holding you might have if you’re going to be providing utilities. So, whatever your overheads are going to be, and then you just cut them out to see what your cash flow will be monthly. For me, I have a certain amount that I feel like we will invest. If it’s going to cash flow like $500 a month to me, it’s not worth it. I just feel like we’re doing so much work. I don’t want to do it for that. So, I think it should be more, 1000 to 1,500 a month, and that’s what I feel like, “Okay, this is worth it.”
Jen: And so, that’s what you’re looking for in a single family?
Dr. Saira: Yeah.
Jen: Okay. And so that would be accounting for everything that you’ve invested in the property? Do you typically take out a mortgage on the property or do you typically pay cash for properties? Just curious. What’s your advice there?
Dr. Saira: Yeah. So, once we really started getting into real estate, I started listening to the Bigger Pockets Podcasts. [crosstalk]
Jen: I love that podcast. Yeah, it’s a great podcast.
Dr. Saira: Yeah. So, I learned a lot from that, and that’s where I learned the whole BBB strategy. So, basically, what it is, the first property we bought outright cash, but then you refinance it out after you complete the project, after the evaluations are done, then you refinance that out, and use that money to buy your next property, and that’s basically what we’ve been doing.
Jen: Okay. So, that’s brilliant. You basically saved enough to purchase your first property with cash. So, then you had that investment that you could then turn over repeatedly.
Dr. Saira: For the next one. Yeah, that’s what we’ve done with every property. So, every project, we’ve done after we complete the project, because obviously the value goes higher once you’ve completed it, then we work with the bank, and we refinance it out, and then we take that cash we get and we buy another property on cash.
Jen: That makes great sense and that’s worked well, it sounds like.
Dr. Saira: Yes.
Jen: Do you have a certain number of properties that you’re aiming for ultimately or are you just kind of going indefinitely–?
Dr. Saira: I don’t know. I think we’re not sure. We don’t have a certain number. I think we have a certain idea of how much we would like to have in our pockets every month. We’ve had that discussion where this is how much we need to let’s say, we wanted to retire and shut things down, how much would we need every month to survive? So, we have that kind of figure in our minds. I guess, when we get to that point, maybe, I don’t know.
Jen: Right. Do you have advice for someone who might be interested as a physician specifically, who might be interested in getting started in real estate?
Dr. Saira: Yeah. I think there’s a lot of resources out there now. There’s a lot of physicians doing real estate now. So, I would definitely help out. There’s a bunch of masterminds, there’s a bunch of Facebook groups, the Bigger Pockets Podcast has been so awesome. I’ve learned a lot of tips from just listening to that. So, yeah, I would just get started with surrounding yourself with that type of stuff and those kinds of people to know what to do. I believe there’s classes and courses out there, too. I haven’t done any of those but that’s an option as well.
Jen: When you were a kid, did your parents actually sit down with you and show you the books, so that you really understood the workings or did you just observe as you were in and out of the house?
Dr. Saira: No. They didn’t show me anything. But now that my mom is retired, I manage all her properties. So, we actually helped my mother-in-law buy a property that I manage now. Because she saw what we were doing– My mother-in-law saw what we were doing. She was like, “Well, I’ve got money in the bank. Why don’t you buy me something?” So, I helped her buy something. So, I think, once it came down to me, my mom threw everything on me when she moved down here, and she said now, “You’re going to inherit all this. So, you might as well start working for it.” [laughs]
Dr. Saira: So, I manage it for her now and my mother-in-law. So, I just learned as I went along.
Jen: What was the hardest thing to learn as you–? We like to say, you know, flying the plane as you’re building it? [laughs]
Dr. Saira: Yeah. I think the hardest thing to learn was dealing with tenants. I didn’t know how to deal with tenants in the beginning, because you don’t know if you’re supposed to be nice, or you’re supposed to be strict, I mean, they’re not your employees or they don’t work for you, and what kind of relationship are you supposed to have with them? Are you supposed to be really friendly with them or not really friendly with them? I think, in the beginning, I was unsure of how to navigate that whole relationship. Now, it’s okay. I think depending on the property, everybody’s different, sometimes, I have my assistant deal with them, sometimes, I deal with them, and now it’s just a normal thing.
Jen: Do you have specific guidelines that you’re using to choose your tenants or for your applications?
Dr. Saira: No. I think, one big mistake I made in the beginning was, I thought I can find the tenants myself, and I can bypass the whole real estate agent part, and that’s a big mistake. I definitely would invest in an agent, giving them that one month commission is totally worth it. If it’s going to ensure having a good quality tenant, I’ve been there done that where I’ve had to evict somebody, I’ve been through the whole eviction thing already, and it’s not a fun thing. So, I definitely would recommend having an agent to work with.
Jen: That’s brilliant advice. It definitely pays for itself right away.
Dr. Saira: Absolutely. Yes.
Jen: Do you have a favorite real estate book?
Dr. Saira: I don’t. I’ve read a few different books. I actually don’t have a favorite one. I think the favorite book is probably like the all-favorite Rich Dad Poor Dad. Everybody talks about that.
Dr. Saira: But yeah, I don’t have a favorite now.
Jen: Yeah. It sounds like you’ve taken that advice to heart for sure.
Dr. Saira: Yeah.
Jen: Terrific. So, Saira, can you please tell us how people can find you [crosstalk] if people want to reach out?
Dr. Saira: Yeah, sure. I think the best way to get me is probably through Facebook. I check Facebook a lot and through messenger. So, just go ahead and send me a friend request on Saira Ahmed. S-A-I-R-A A-H-M-E-D, and that’ll be the best way. Our website for our Ecommerce store is www.aplusmedicalscrubs.com. So, you can definitely send me a message through there, too. I do get those emails. And I think that would be the best way to get me.
Jen: Well, thank you, again, so much for coming on the podcast and I definitely look forward to talking with you, again.
Dr. Saira: My pleasure, absolutely anytime.
Amanda: Hello, and thank you for listening. This is Amanda Taran. I’m the producer of the DocWorking Podcast. If you enjoyed that podcast, please like and subscribe. We would also love it if you check out our website which is docworking.com. You can also find us on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and on Instagram. On Instagram, we are @docworking1 and that is with the number one. When you check us out on social, please let us know what you would like to hear on the podcast. Your feedback really means a lot to us. And if you’re a physician with a story you’d like to tell, please reach out to me at [email protected] to apply to be on the podcast. Thank you, again, and we look forward to talking with you on the next episode of DocWorking: The Whole Physician Podcast.