Real Estate, Agents, and the Gig Economy

Real estate agents are creative folk. In some ways, independent real estate agents — like rock stars — were the original gig workers.  

The gig economy is made up of freelancers and people taking independent career paths. Some of these people offer localized expertise that meshes with companies’ cyclical needs.

Of course, many real estate pros are full-time employees of major companies. Some are independent specialists who are affiliated with a brokerage and use its office space. Still others are self-employed and working by contract, in peak seasons when their talents are in high demand.

Could we say these agents are involved in a gig economy? Do some full-time agents work extra gigs alongside their agency work? Let’s take a look.

Real Estate: An Exceptionally Flexible and Inviting Career

What’s the cost of getting into real estate? It costs several hundred dollars for the course, and about $50 for the exam fee, for example, in Pennsylvania. An agent doesn’t need a college or professional degree. This makes a career in real estate especially flexible and inviting.

It’s not unusual for an experienced agent (in Pennsylvania, to stick with that example) to make $44K to 57K annually, largely from commissions on home sales.

And of course, there’s a platform for this career. One example of a website where indy agents can sign up to be matched with potential clients is the screening firm MyAgentFinderSM — presented by the licensed real estate company BTRN, LLC in Charleston, South Carolina.

Some agents themselves hire gig workers, so they can work together on a contractual basis. The gig workers, in turn, cover their own health and medical insurance through state and federal marketplaces. Gig work performed on behalf of real estate agents can include things like being a virtual assistant. A remote or virtual assistant carries out scheduling and administrative support services for agents or their clients. Typical tasks include facilitating Zoom calls, managing correspondence, keeping calendars updated, and reviewing or filing documents. Another gig task is handling open houses for agents.

There are pros and cons to the prevalence of gig work in real estate:

On the One Hand…

Temporary work relationships can be useful for filling in gaps in schedules and seasonal needs. A gig economy model values flexibility, so companies can select people with specific expertise for various situations. This parallels the dynamic of much of the building construction sector.

On the Other Hand…

Real estate is also a highly traditional field, where word of mouth, long-term relationships, trust and stability are prized. Could real estate become the latest field where services can be enlisted online, and, to a large degree, automated? How will that impact the tradition of relationship-building in real estate?

The average real estate agent is aged 56. Many people in this age group enjoy operating with a high degree of independence. And increasingly, younger generations of workers are accustomed to flexibility. They might come into their real estate careers as indy agents.

According to a recent Placester poll, slightly less than half of real estate agents work a 40-hour week or more. But to be fair, some agents work a lot more.

What Other Gigs Can Real Estate Agents Have?

Real estate agents who do this work part-time might want to tap other sources of income. What could they choose? Here are a few popular ideas for real estate agents looking to supplement their incomes, either seasonally or year-round:

  • Become a concierge. Getting a home ready for sale, including handling any needed repairs as well as the staging work, is a valuable service real estate agents can market to sellers or other agents. A person with an eye for design and the local market can anticipate what a home needs most to sell for top dollar.  
  • Offer photography and video services. This one usually involves having a beautiful website designed, in order to show off cutting-edge video tours and even drone tours.
  • Those who love drone photography might even be able to get into the appraisal field and offer virtual appraisals. Drones apply damage detection software to take house inspections and appraisals to the next level.

Learn more from about the work that goes into a home appraisal.

  • Write a book. A book won’t necessarily make its author a lot of money. Many experts who write books think of them as calling cards. A good, informative book attests to the knowledge of the author, and can be a touchstone of leadership in some aspect of the field. Experts sometimes give their books away as promotions. But there’s no need to keep a cumbersome inventory of books. Digital publishing websites (one of the simplest to use is owned by Amazon) offers print-to-order services, so authors and readers only buy what they need.   
  • Assist homeowners with property tax appeals. In a time of rising property tax assessments, many homeowners would like to appeal their property taxes, but prefer not to do it themselves. Support for the preparation of documents can be valuable to these owners. A real estate professional is able to size up and explain viable reasons to challenge a home’s reassessment.
  • Become a notary public. Some notaries are mobile. They go out to meet their clients. A look at the online job sites shows many of these opportunities. Other notaries work in real estate firms or other office buildings. They are paid per document. How much can a notary public charge? Not too much! Let’s go back to Pennsylvania. There, a notary may charge reasonable administrative and travel fees, as well as following a set (modest) fee schedule for normal procedures.  

With remote online notarizations, notary meetings are now happening in many places through audio-visual connections. States offer special requirements and courses for traditional notaries who wish to expand their services to remote notarizations. 

Then There Are the Old Standbys…

Real estate agents also do the kind of work their special knowledge has always made them good at. Some might get into rental property management. They might flip homes to sell or buy homes to rent out. Profit from home flipping isn’t a sure thing, but those who work in the business have obvious advantages.  

Being in real estate already can make it much easier to find good appraisers, inspectors, insurers, mortgage specialists, and renovation crews. That said, in 2023, many of these professionals are short-handed and overbooked. Flippers are also coping with rising interest rates, making financing more expensive.

A note of caution: Because of current economic realities, home flippers’ profits recently swooned to a three-year low.  

The agent who taps extra income sources must balance the startup costs of the available options. One tried-and-true tactic? Join networks of local agents, and learn how they have pulled it all off.

Supporting References

National Association of REALTORS®: Quick Real Estate Statistics (Nov. 3, 2022, citing the 2022 National Association of REALTORS® Member Profile).

Marc Andre for 21 Best Side Hustles for Real Estate Agents (updated Mar. 2, 2023).

Jeff Rohde for the Roofstock Blog: 20 Real Estate Side Hustle Ideas to Earn Extra Income (updated Nov. 8, 2021).

And as linked.

Photo credits (both): Anastasia Shuraeva, via