17 Best Real Estate Side Hustles to Build Wealth and Cash Flow
Real estate is one of the most popular side hustles. Whether you’re looking for some extra monthly cash flow or to build long-term wealth, there’s a real estate side hustle to help you make it happen.
In fact, it’s one of the most common routes to escape the rat race early.
That’s exactly what my friend Chad Carson did, thanks to his portfolio of rental properties. Chad built up his empire over the course of several years, capturing cash flow, appreciation, and tax benefits along the way.
And here’s some good news: you don’t need a huge down payment to get started.
In this post, we’ll cover some of the best real estate side hustles you can get started with — even if you don’t have a ton of cash today.
1. House Hacking
One of Chad’s first real estate side hustles was house hacking. He bought a run-down 4-plex, lived in one unit, and rented out the other three.
That’s how house hacking works: buy a place that’s larger than you need, and rent out the excess space. “Typically you’re going to sacrifice comfortability with profitability,” house hacking pro Craig Curelop told me.
He described a few examples, including:
- Buying a duplex, living in one unit and renting out the other unit either on Airbnb or as a long-term rental.
- Buying a 5-bedroom house, living in one room and renting out the other 4 individually.
This seems most doable for younger professionals and couples who don’t need as much space, and can be a way to save big on housing.
2. Pre-Vetted Commercial Real Estate
Fundrise allows you to invest in a portfolio of commercial properties all around the country. I’ve been a Fundrise investor for years and they’ve consistently paid quarterly dividends in the 5-10% yield range.
Plus, you can get started with as little as $10.
3. Live-In Flips
The government wants people to move into homes that need some work and fix them up—and they give you a pretty big tax incentive to do so.
To do a live-in flip you need to live in the home for at least 2 of 5 years. When you sell the home, there is zero capital gains tax.
Some basic math to illustrate this would be:
- Buy a home that needs work for $200k in a neighborhood with an average price of $300k.
- Slowly renovate over the 2-5 years, perhaps investing $30-40k in repairs.
- Sell the house for $300k.
- $300k – $200k – $30-40k = $60-70k net profit, tax free.
You might not want to do this long-term, but you can build up a nice tax-free nest-egg of $250-500k or more over an 8-10 year period.
If you want to find the best deals on houses to live-in flip, Chad recommended looking off-market.
He has found some great deals just walking the neighborhood and spotting vacant houses. Talk to neighbors to find out who owns the house and how you can contact them. Drop some hand-written notes out and you’ll be surprised what you start to find out.
4. BRRRR: Buy, Rehab, Rent, Refinance, Repeat
The popular BRRRR real estate side hustle works like this:
- Buy a fixer-upper property
- Rehab it
- Rent it out
- Refinance it for the new market value
- Repeat: Use the cash from the refinance to buy the next property
I liked Austin Miller’s creative approach to building his rental portfolio this way, which was up to 17 properties worth $1.2 million when we spoke.
The kicker? They were all acquired “free”—without any of his own money.
5. Bird Dogging
Bird-dogging is how Chad got his start into real estate.
The term “bird-dogging” is a hunting term that refers to the dogs that sniff out where the birds are hiding in the bushes.
In real estate, it means sniffing out a good deal on behalf of an investor. The big advantage is that there are no costs or risks involved from your side, and it’s a great way to learn how to find good investment properties.
It also helps you understand the market better and how to find a good deal, so when you have enough to invest in a property yourself you’ll be able to find a great deal.
In Chad’s case, he was earning $2,000 every time he found one of his investors a deal.
To find investors, join real estate investing meet-ups in your area, or just pitch the idea to people with money to invest. If you can show them how they’ll make a good return on their investment, they’ll be willing to work with you.
Note: You need a real estate license to this legally.
Chad advised the easiest way to go about it is to sign up with a referral agent brokerage for around $100/year. The agency will take a percentage of your earnings but provides you some protection in contracts and is a low cost way to get started.
6. “Turnkey” Rental Properties
Rental real estate is a great side hustle that can earn relatively passive cash flow month after month.
If your local market is too expensive, take a look at Roofstock, a cool online marketplace built for out-of-state-investors. Many houses listed already have tenants and property management in place.
My friend Dustin Heiner built up his rental portfolio and was able to retire before 40 on the passive income cash flow.
7. Buy Part of a Farm
Accredited investors can buy stakes in America’s farmland with AcreTrader, starting with $5000 minimums. Since 1990, farmland investments have seen an 11.5% annualized return (according to the site).
AcreTrader crowdfunds the purchase of active farmland, and then rents it back to the farmers who operate it. Investors make money in two ways:
- appreciation of the land in the event of a future sale
- annual cash rent payments from farmers
The company aims for annualized cash distributions in the 3-5% range.
8. Master Leasing
Master leasing is sub-leasing out a property. This real estate side hustle works best if you can find a vacant property that needs a little work. That way you can negotiate a win-win partnership with the owner.
For example, you might find a property to lease for $1k a month, then sub-lease it out for $1,500 a month.
There are some benefits to both sides of the master lease partnership. On your side:
- Much lower upfront costs than investing in a property.
- Not a huge time investment.
- You can scale this up as a business model.
- You’re not responsible for tax and insurance.
And for the property owner:
- Guaranteed rental income.
- No hassle managing the tenants.
- Some property improvements depending on the agreement you reach.
9. Rental Arbitrage
Similar to master leasing, rental arbitrage gives you a chance to make money from real estate you don’t even own.
How it works is you sign a long-term lease on a property, and (with the landlord’s consent) turn around and list it as a short-term rental on Airbnb or other platforms. You profit on the spread between whatever you can collect in short-term rental fees and your fixed monthly rent.
For example, maybe your monthly rent is $2,500, but you can earn $200 a night on Airbnb. If you rent it out 20 nights a month, you’ll be brining in $4,000 a month in revenue, and roughly $1,500 a month in gross profit.
There’s an art and a science to rental arbitrage, and it’s controversial in tight rental markets. Still, some enterprising Airbnb hosts report bringing in 6-figures in profit — all while traveling the world.
While startup costs are pretty low here, furnishing the property is one upfront expense to consider.
10. Leasing Agent
Working as a leasing agent is a great way to learn how the rental market works and make some cash at the same time.
Finding and screening tenants is a huge time drain for landlords and property managers. Leasing agents solve that pain and often earn a half to a full month’s rent as a finder’s fee.
How it works is you find tenants for a property, show them around, help them fill out all the necessary paperwork and take the applications to the landlord.
Leasing agents are more popular in larger cities, but you could potentially negotiate a deal wherever you live.
You’ll need a property manager license or a regular real estate license. Check the laws in your state, but you can typically expect to pay $400-500 and take a week or two of classes to learn the basics.
Chad explained, “You’re learning how to do one of the more important parts of the rental business on someone else’s dime.”
As a starting point, try contacting property managers and offer to work for them as a leasing agent as an independent contractor.
You’re probably familiar with Airbnb and similar sites, where you can turn the extra space in your home into extra cash.
But if you don’t want to deal with guests at all, the Neighbor platform might be worth a look. Neighbor lets you store people’s extra stuff where you have space for it.
This is likely to be very passive monthly income after the initial drop off. Some hosts are earning up to $10,000 a year running their own mini self-storage operations.
Check out our full Neighbor review to learn more.
12. Raw Land Flipping
Almost every seasoned landlord will have a horror story about tenants, toilets, or termites. One real estate side hustle that avoids all those problems is raw land flipping.
How this one works is you:
- Find distressed land owners, often through country records and direct mail.
- Make them a cash offer for their property.
- Re-sell the land for a quick cash flip or low monthly installments.
I connected with one Side Hustle Show guest who built his land flipping business to $10k a month in his first year.
Real estate wholesaling involves:
- Finding distressed properties and motivated sellers.
- Getting them under contract.
- Quickly selling them to other investors.
You don’t need much capital upfront, just a lot of legwork to find deals and network with potential buyers.
14. Short-Term Real Estate Loans
Help fund real estate rehab projects through short-term loans on sites like Groundfloor. These notes typically range from 3-12 months and earn 6-10% interest.
The minimum amount per loan is just $10 so you can easily spread your investments around to diversify, and Groundfloor has an easy-to-use interface that lets you shop for these investments.
If things go south, you’ve got the property as collateral so you can typically recover your principal.
15. Traditional REITs
Publicly-traded real estate investment trusts (REITs) are perhaps the most passive real estate side hustle. You can buy shares through any brokerage, including fan-favorite M1 Finance.
16. Mobile Notary Service
Mobile Notary loan signing agents can make around $100 an hour for completing loan signings for new home buyers. It’s a great real estate side hustle because most signings take place in the evenings. (Banks like to lend money to people who have jobs!)
To learn more, check out some of the resources at Loan Signing System to learn more. (Use promo code sidehustle for 10% off, or check out this review featuring a couple Loan Signing System students.)
Once you know what you’re doing and are on board with a few signing services, you’ll start to get text message notifications of gigs near you. With each one, you can choose to accept or reject it based on your availability.
17. Mobile Home Investing
Mobile homes are a compelling real estate niche because you typically have much lower initial investments that traditional single family homes.
My friend Rachel Hernandez made her first mobile home purchase for $3,600 and re-sold it for $10,000 on a lease-to-own contract. These days, she earns around $10,000 a month from her mobile home investments.
Which Real Estate Side Hustles Are Best?
In choosing the real estate investments that are best for you, you need to take into account:
- the time you have available
- your existing handyman skills (or lack thereof!)
- your available capital
For me, I’ve concentrated my efforts so far on online and traditional REITs and short-term real estate loans. What about you? Let me know in the comments below!