Rental properties are defined as passive income with a couple of exceptions. If you’re a real estate professional, any rental income you’re making counts as active income. If you’re "self-renting," meaning that you own a space and are renting it out to a corporation or partnership where you conduct business, that does not constitute passive income unless that lease had been signed before 1988, in which case you’ve been grandfathered into having that income being defined as passive. According to the IRS, "it does not matter whether or not the use is under a lease, a service contract, or some other arrangement."
The second category of passive income is drawing on sources that do not require capital to start, maintain, and grow. These are far better choices for those who want to start out on their own and build a fortune from nothing. They include assets you can create, such as a book, song, patent, trademark, Internet site, recurring commissions, or businesses that earn nearly infinite returns on equity such as a drop-ship e-commerce retailer that has little or no money tied up in operations but still turns a profit.
Though it can take a while to build up enough cash to put a 20% down payment on an investment property (the typical lender minimum), they can snowball fairly quickly. The key here is to correctly project income and expenses in order to calculate cash flow (the free cash you can put in your pocket after all associated property expenses have been paid). However you have to be sure to include the cost of a property manager in your calculations unless you want to manage the property yourself. Even with a property manager, you may be required to make large repair decisions every now and then – so while this is not a 100% passive activity, you are not directly trading your time for money like traditional employment.
Dividends made sense 40 years ago as a relatively simple rule of thumb, but after all the work done by John Bogle with index investing, and academics with Monte Carlo sims and the 4% rule, dividend investing just isn’t the simplest, cleanest way to invest or receive passive income anymore. It’s actually significantly more risky compared to index investing, because dividend companies are a much smaller share of the total global economy compared to the broader indices.
P.S. I also fail to understand your fascination with real estate. Granted we’ve had some impressive spikes along the way, especially with once in a life time bubble we just went through. But over the long term (see Case Shiller real estate chart for last 100 years ) real estate tends to just track inflation. Why would you sacrifice stock market returns for a vehicle that historically hasn’t shown a real return?
To create residual income, you need to create something that people will continue to buy on a regular basis long after you’ve created it. A house is a prime example of this as people will continue to pay rent for the right to live in the house. A business needs to have products that are sold over and over again rather than trading the business owner’s time for money.

You can also establish passive income through blogging. JP Livingston, who retired early at age 28 with a nest egg of more than $2 million, earned more than $60,000 in one year from her blog. With the use of affiliate commissions and online advertisements, a good portion of these earnings were passive income — she spent less than five hours a week blogging.
Finally, in the world of finance, residual income is a method for valuating a company, based on the net income it has left, once it has paid out equity charges to its shareholders, to compensate for their investment risk. To understand this absolute valuation method, check out the formulas below. Though they don’t directly fall under the scope of our endeavors, it’s important to understand that residual income can be a powerful asset in the eyes of potential investors into a business enterprise.

In equity valuation, residual income represents an economic earnings stream and valuation method for estimating the intrinsic value of a company's common stock. The residual income valuation model values a company as the sum of book value and the present value of expected future residual income. Residual income attempts to measure economic profit, which is the profit remaining after the deduction of opportunity costs for all sources of capital.
×