14 Mar 2014
Jenelle Isaacson is the hip owner of Living Room Realty. After starting her company 5 years ago while pregnant, Jenelle credits her creative background, fresh approach and attitude towards real estate to her success.
Full Name: Jenelle Isaacson
Location: Portland, OR
Started investing in: 2001
Years spent investing in real estate: 13
Estimated portfolio size: $3.5M, 5 properties, residential and commercial real estate
As a woman in the real estate industry, what inspired you to get started?
I had previous success in sales in an art and jewelry gallery. During a conversation with my step mom, who had been selling real estate for a few years, she encouraged me to take those skills and see what I could do in real estate. I loved houses, interior design and had just bought my first house at age 26 which empowered me to make the leap into the industry.
When did you start investing and how did you get started?
A few months after getting my real estate license and helping a lot of my friends buy their first houses and fix them up, I found a house in my neighborhood that was a great value and snatched it up. My dad had just retired from teaching and we decided to fix it up as a family.
Besides each of us choosing to repaint the front door 3 times, we were on the same page. Each of us brought a different skill and that little house ended up making us a $7,000 profit each. Success! I got the bug from there.
What do you love most about investing in real estate?
Creating community. Every house, development and project is a chance to bring something new to a community. Putting together my team of contractors, lenders, inspectors and tradespeople feels like family.
Also, my favorite deals are those that come to me from the most unexpected places.
It’s in those moments that I realize how a healthy, diverse community has supported my success.
I played in a girls punk band up into the time I started my career in real estate. Years later, a drummer in a band we played with saw I was now the owner of a real estate company. When he needed to sell his house, he came to me knowing I would be able to relate to him.
We worked together to help him get out of a tough financial situation and one of my partners ended up buying the house, rehabbing it and turning it into an amazing home for herself. It feels good to know that my connections made in the art and music world make me relevant to business in a way that I would not be without that experience. Everyone came out a winner.
Have you encountered any challenges that you think are unique to being a woman in real estate?
Being a woman in real estate can be challenging. I am petite and look younger than I am which can lead to people underestimating me, but I have learned to turn that into a strength. When I was first starting my real estate business, I endured a lot of sexism.
I often got asked if my company was just for women, a comment that always surprised me seeing that most people in residential real estate are women. Our company actually had a higher ratio of men to women than our competitors, but when I looked around at the other firms in our market, we were the only one of our size that was owned, operated and managed by women. I think this is what makes us even more competitive when it comes to going after market share.
It’s also a misconception that has benefited us at times. The majority of home buyers are single women who are attracted to our brand and company because we have so many empowered women who are successful in real estate.
What is your biggest accomplishment so far?
I think buying my first commercial property has been my biggest triumph. I managed to put together financing for a commercial building in 2009 after the market crashed. A lot of banks laughed at me, I was a realtor with a new realty firm in the depth of the housing crash. I also had a 2 month old and an 18 month old.
When I finally found an advocate at a local bank and some help from the city, we were able to put together the deal. I felt proud of what I had done and owning a piece of real estate on a popular main street in the city felt like a major achievement.
Have you made any poor investment decisions?
I’m lucky in that I don’t have any nightmare stories, but I have made decisions I would do differently. I wish I would have held on to more property in the beginning of my career, rather than flipping it.
At the time, I needed the capitol to work with and didn’t have the connections I do now for financing so selling property freed up the money I needed to rehab or purchase. Bringing in partners and getting more creative are things I consider now that I didn’t before.
Do you recommend women get into property investing? What would you advise a young woman who is thinking about getting into real estate investing?
Definitely, yes. Women generally have very good instincts for houses and neighborhoods.
My biggest piece of advice is to be selfish!
Don’t put your boyfriend on the house as a way to show him you trust, care, love, etc. him. Time after time I see women put their boyfriends and partners on their real estate purchase. Women want to share “home” and mistake making a home as needing to share an asset.
What do you think are the most important things every investor should know when investing in real estate?
Know yourself first, your threshold for risk and your ability to see a project through. Believe in yourself, no one knows more than you, has more talent, luck or opportunities than you do. You will learn along the way. Know your market, values and demand. If you are weak in any one of these, hire someone who can help you.
What are your investing goals for the future?
I would really like to do more commercial projects where I can take more risks and be an active collaborator in shaping the businesses that I lease to and develop for. A whole market concept or micro retail in an urban setting also sounds exciting with a residence on top for me and my family.