I've had quite a few discussions with people concerning some aspect of being both a real estate agent and a real estate photographer. I find when a subject like this pops up out of the blue from a bunch of different people I usually indicate a trend going on. There were four different questions that people posed on this subject:
Is there a benefit to be an agent-real estate photographer?
Yes, the benefits are substantial. As an agent you can legally go in a home that has a lock-box on it without the listing agent. This is a huge convenience for the listing agent. They just call you and say go photograph my listing over on Main St, it has a lock box on it. They don't have to go meet the photographer there. It's worth noting that this is not an issue every place in the world. Some areas of the world photographers can just go contact the home owner and do the shoot.
Also, as an agent you have an inside perspective to the real estate business. You see how it works. Understand who the major players in your area are and gives you a lot of contacts in the business. It just gives you an inside track to be up to your armpits in the business.
Is there a conflict of interest?
No, I don't see any conflict. Does anyone else see a conflict? I'm frankly puzzled why anyone would even think there might be a conflict.
Are there many people doing both?
Yes, as a matter of fact there are many more people being both an agent and a photographer than you'd think. A poll I did several years ago indicated that about 10% of PFRE blog readers (~40,000 people world wide) are agents that shoot for themselves and other agents. I believe this percentage has increased substantially in the last few years just because it's more difficult in the last few years to be a listing agent so anyone that has photographic skills and a passion for photography can help pay the bills by doing real estate photography. There is a very natural symbiosis between these two activities. However, if you are good at being a listing agent you can make more that doing just real estate photography.
What are the problems?
I think the major problem is cost. That is, I don't think it makes sense to go get a real estate license just to get the real estate photographer benefits. Training costs and fees force any agent to do several transactions a year just to break even. I don't think you can find a broker that will let you hang your license in the office and do no transactions. Can you?
Why People are doing both?
I think more and more agents are being both a listing agent and a real estate photographer because since 2009 at least in the US being a listing agent has gotten to be really hard work. Harder than it's been for as long as anyone can remember. Home sellers don't want to hear what their homes are worth so it's hard to get them to price their home at a price that will sell. So listings stay on the market a long time. Frequently more than a year. It really does help to have another source of income. And real estate photography demand is increasing because you have to have something to make a listing stand out. Photography can do that.