Real Estate as a Side Hustle: Flexibility and High Income Potential


Real estate is one of the few career options that offers both flexibility and high income with no college degree required. And with so many workers looking for a career change following the fallout from the 2020 COVID pandemic, real estate is worth a closer look. In fact, a solid 85% of real estate agents surveyed report being happy with their decision to pursue real estate.

In this article, we’ll explore the flexibility and income potential real estate offers.

How Flexible is Real Estate?

real estate offers flexibility

A whopping 93% of nearly 1,000 real estate agents surveyed agree that a career in real estate offers exceptional flexibility. Not only can you choose among dozens of career paths in the real estate industry, but when you work in real estate sales, you get to decide how much you’ll work and when. You can get started in real estate part-time as a side hustle or you can launch a new full-time career. You can even choose which tasks you’ll do and which you’ll outsource.

All of this flexibility and control also means you get to decide how much money you make.

Let’s take a closer look at the different ways real estate offers flexibility. Then we’ll discuss how much money you can make as a real estate professional.

Choose Your Career Path

Real estate is a big industry, and there are lots of different positions available to anyone who chooses a career in real estate. Here’s just a partial list of your flexible real estate career options:

  • Residential or Commercial real estate agent

  • Real estate broker

  • Leasing agent

  • Appraiser

  • Property manager

  • Real estate investor

  • Real estate developer

  • Asset manager

  • Foreclosure specialist

  • Mortgage broker

  • Loan officer

  • Escrow officer

There are many more types of jobs and career paths throughout the real estate industry. Take our Real Estate Career Quiz to see which career paths you would be well-suited for.

Set Your Own Schedule

Having the power to set your own schedule is a game-changer for many professionals. While some real estate careers require typical 9-5 office hours, being a real estate agent or broker typically allows you to work as many (or as few) hours as you choose. 81% of real estate agents surveyed agree that they have control over their hours.

This means you can fit your real estate career around your life. Many newcomers are choosing to enter the field as a part-timer, using real estate as a side hustle while working a day job, and transitioning to full time when they’re ready. We also have lots of agents who choose to work part-time so they can be home when the kids get home from school. With real estate sales, you have the power and flexibility to start part-time and increase your hours when it makes sense for your lifestyle. 

And it’s nice to be able to take vacations or days off as needed without making a formal request for time off from a supervisor! 

Be Your Own Boss

Real estate agents are supervised by real estate brokers, but many brokers offer complete anonymity to their agents. And brokers themselves have complete anonymity. As long as everyone is operating within legal guidelines, real estate professionals are typically free to run their business as they see fit.

This means you get to decide how you work. You decide how you want to market yourself, how to conduct client meetings, whether or not to do open houses, how to generate new leads. You can even decide to outsource tasks you don’t enjoy doing. Many agents hire people to cold call, follow up on Internet leads, and/or coordinate the escrow process. 

With a broker’s license, you can even create a team of real estate agents to work under you. And you can manage that team as you think it should be managed, without interference from the micromanagers that so many of us are tired of reporting to.

Earn Unlimited Income

The unlimited income potential is yet another way in which real estate careers offer unmatched flexibility. 86% of agents surveyed report that real estate offers them good earning potential (we’ll get into average income figures in the next section).

If you’re concerned about your income potential being limited by the number of hours in the day, remember that you can also leverage other people to increase your income. You can outsource tasks as we mentioned. Or you can get your broker’s license and hire agents to work under you. This entitles you to a share of their commissions and allows you to earn money that isn’t tied to the number of hours you work.

How Much Money Do Real Estate Agents Make? 

Since real estate agents have the flexibility to control their income, they can make anywhere between $0 and millions of dollars per year. Before we look at some averages, let’s consider the factors that determine how much money you can make as a real estate agent:

  • Part-time vs. full-time: if you’re only spending a few hours per day on real estate, you will likely make far less than if you work in real estate full-time.

  • Ability to generate leads and close deals: You only get paid when you close a deal, so your income is directly tied to your sales numbers.  

  • Local property values: Since your pay is a percentage of the purchase price, higher-value markets will give you higher commissions. 

  • Longevity: The longer you’re in the industry, the more repeat and referral business you can generate.

Keeping these factors in mind, the US Bureau of Labor Statics (BLS) has some data on the mean average income for real estate agents nation-wide, by state, and by metro area. According to the BLS, the mean annual wage for real estate agents in the US is 62,060 as of May 2019. 

US Bureau of Labor Statistics map of income for real estateImage by US Bureau of Labor Statistics

If you’re looking for an idea of how much money real estate agents make in different states, here are five varied markets to consider (all figures based on the BLS data for 2019):

  1. Georgia: $54,670 (learn more about getting a Georgia real estate license

  2. Florida: $62,790 (learn more about getting a Florida real estate license

  3. Texas: $72,830 (learn more about getting a Texas real estate license

  4. California: $74,140 (learn more about getting a California real estate license

  5. New York: $111,800 (learn more about getting a New York real estate license

In many cases, agents are currently making even more than these annual mean figures because home values have risen since the most recent BLS data, driving commission incomes up. 

How Do I Get Started in Real Estate? 

92% of agents surveyed reported having questions about how to start their new real estate careers. If your goal is to maximize flexibility and income by becoming a real estate agent, your new career starts with a real estate license.

How Do I Get a Real Estate License? 

The process for getting a real estate license varies by state, but the five basic steps are the same, nationwide:

  1. Meet the age and residency requirements.

  2. Complete a state-approved real estate course (or courses as some states require more than one). In most states, you can complete your real estate course and get your real estate license online.

  3. Pass your real estate exam.

  4. Find a broker to supervise your work.

  5. Complete the application for your real estate license. 

Is Getting a Real Estate License Worth It?

Agents report investing an average of eight weeks and $1,266 in preparing to pass their real estate exams. Compared to the time and expense of getting a college degree to launch a career as respected as real estate, this time and expense investment is minimal. 

Interestingly, 69% of agents surveyed said that this cost was higher than expected. But despite the higher-than-expected cost, an impressive 86% of agents surveyed feel that getting a real estate license is worth the time and money invested. T  

Can I Get Started in Real Estate Without a Real Estate License?

While some real estate career paths offer options for starting without a real estate license, those paths typically use an employee status that reduces your flexibility and income potential. Leasing agents, for example, are most often hired by property management companies as salaried or hourly employees. So you lose the flexibility of making your own hours and being your own boss. Many of these positions offer a small base income with the potential to earn bonuses based on new leases and renewals. 

Start Your Flexible Real Estate Career Today!

With so much flexibility in terms of career paths, scheduling, autonomy, and income, a real estate career (or side hustle) is a perfect option for those who want more control over their lives. So don’t wait another day to start your new career. Enroll in your pre-license courses and start working toward your real estate license now!

Want to get your Real Estate License? Begin your Pre-Licensing Course today!

Get Started Now!
Sarah Jeter


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