The amount of that work depends on you and the type of margins you would like to see and the amount of. It's not easy money, and there's work involved. The amount of that work depends on you and the type of margins you would like to see and the amount of sweat capital you put in. I wouldn't have done much differently if I could come back.
Be sure to research and execute the numbers ACCURATELY several times. If you compare real estate investment with investment in the stock market, the stock market will win each time based on risk. The simple reason for this is that housing is not a productive asset. When a stock rises in price, it's usually because the underlying company becomes more valuable.
More benefits to return to shareholders means that a share is now worth more, keeping the number of outstanding shares constant. Investing in real estate means that you have full control of a tangible asset. The risk is considerably lower and the house will never lose all its value. However, the potential for profitability is also lower.
Where I live, I would be lucky enough to get a 10% return year after year on a rental without having to resort to Airbnb or something similar. My only concern (besides how much work real estate is) is having to have a lot more cash available to do this in the future and lose the opportunity to invest lazily. I went into real estate mainly because of the tax benefits after being self-employed for a few years. I love people who want to invest in rental properties and talk about it as if it were just another investment.
I don't know, if you follow ChooseFi, there are a lot of people who FIRE young people exclusively with real estate (aka House Hacking). I haven't turned you down, and I don't think real estate is completely crazy (I have about 2% of my portfolio in real estate), but I do see some problems. I myself value the simplicity of index funds over potential real estate returns, and I can get where I need to be with an 8% AAR, but real estate is a fully viable alternative that can get you there much faster. Stocks and bonds alone, which you mention, are often as risky as the riskiest real estate transaction.
I don't have a problem with people buying real estate to convert it into rental properties, but as any good investor in ER will admit, the big payout doesn't come from monthly rent payments, most properties don't even have positive cash flow, it comes from capital appreciation to sell the home. Sure that eventually (or maybe right away) you can have positive cash flows, and there is the potential for appreciation, but as an investment I don't think it makes as much sense as die-hard real estate drivers make it seem. That in mind, I'm not saying that real estate is a bad investment and I personally am exposed to it. The perception that real estate is the best generator of wealth is due to the fact that most people are completely financially illiterate and know nothing about the stock market.
Overall, my feeling is that people tend to get excited about real estate because of things like the preference for tangible investments, the availability of leverage for retail investors, and the great return on obvious strategies that are available to retail investors. Real estate is the only investment that allows you to buy shares with someone else's money, then rent them out and make someone else pay the money you owe.