Personal Finance

Best Cities for Real Estate Agents

Best Cities for Real Estate Agents

Far be it from us at ValuePenguin to offer advice about location to real estate agents, but these professionals care about many of the same statistics that the rest of us use to put our profession in the context of where we live. We compiled the best places for real estate agents to call home. Buying or renting there is up to them.

Best 5 cities for real estate agents

Of the 252 cities reporting data, these five earned our best score, comprising the factors of median salary, cost of living and location quotient. Speaking of salary, the 157,660 real estate sales agents employed in the U.S. in May 2014 earned $55,530 on average, or an hourly wage of $26.70, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

1. Virginia Beach, Va.

Virginia's southeastern-most major city rose to the top of the list thanks to its top-25 rankings in number of jobs (16th), location quotient (20th) and average salary (22nd). This is despite the fact that it's 6% more expensive to live here than in the average American city — a fact we chalk up to Virginia Beach's tourist-attracting coastline, which attracts six million overnight visitors annually.

Statistical region includes: Norfolk, Va., and Newport News, N.C.

2. West Palm Beach, Fla.

The only other city to register a sub-50 ValuePenguin score, West Palm Beach came in second, in part, because its metro statistical region has 2,060 jobs in the field. That's the 15th-highest total in the country and still pales in comparison to the country's bigger cities, including Atlanta (5,900) and Houston (5,700).

*Statistical region includes: Boca Raton, Fla., and Boynton Beach, Fla.

3. Austin, Texas

The most populous city among the top, Austin is also a very affordable place to live: 2% cheaper than the average American city, to be exact. Texas's most innovative city also pays its real estate sales agents the country's 18th-highest salary, $69,380, or 43% higher than the study's average. It's worth noting, however, that Austin residents pay a relatively higher amount of real estate taxes ($3,999 on average), regardless of whether they have a mortgage.

Statistical region includes: Round Rock, Texas, and San Marcos, Texas

4. Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

The second Florida metro statistical region to crack the top, Fort Lauderdale ranked 14th in both number of real estate agent jobs (2,620) and location quotient (2.96); the latter metric points to the relative demand for an agent's services. The Florida city's median single-family home price rose 31% between 2012 and 2014, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Statistical region includes: Pompano Beach, Fla., and Deerfield Beach, Fla.

5. Wilmington, N.C.

Narrowly bested by Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Wilmington rounds out our top five with a ValuePenguin score (65) that was 76% lower, and therefore better, than the study's average. This climb was due, in part, to Wilmington paying its real estate professionals an annual average salary of $70,430, the 15th-best figure in the nation. In the course of producing our "Best Cities for Young Families" study, Wilmington did rank poorly in the nation for the percent of its residents (36) who spend 40% or more of their income on rent.

Top 100 cities for real estate agents


Average salary
Location quotient
Cost of living


Virginia Beach, Va.$68,1801,8302.1510643


West Palm Beach, Fla.$64,9702,0603.2310246


Austin, Texas$69,3801,7901.739857


Fort Lauderdale, Fla.$61,6602,6202.969761


Wilmington, N.C.$70,4303001.7810265


Tulsa, Okla.$60,8501,0302.078875




Olympia, Wash.$62,4602702.3311480


Salt Lake City$64,5801,2201.5710694


Savannah, Ga.$70,7302401.329199


Washington, D.C.$63,6204,0301.45157102


Bellingham, Wash.$57,8201902.08123105
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What's it like to be an agent in… ?

20. Denver

Sarah Bowles | Broker | Colorado Homes Denver

"Currently, we are in a leading market for the entire U.S., dealing with low inventory, lots of cash investors, 48 hours or less on market, negotiation and relationships with other agents."

30. Philadelphia

Kimberly Wingfield | Regional manager | U S Spaces, Inc.

"Honestly, it's about fighting the crime-infested horror-show stereotype of Philly in general, and especially in certain neighborhoods. It's really amazing how many neighborhoods with a terrible reputation are actually quite pleasant and safe."

42. Los Angeles

Josh Myler | Agent | The Agency | Coastal

"Los Angeles has become one of the most important metropolitan destinations on the global stage. It’s not just the film business and weather that are principal draws. It is the restaurants, the architecture, the museums. There are more tech companies here now than any other city. It is one of the most ethnically expansive and diverse cities in the world. And I am right in the middle of it. I feel blessed to live here. I am constantly reminded about how vibrant Los Angeles is, and I enjoy watching as it continues to evolve."

Alex Parlar | Alex Parlar Real Estate

"The Los Angeles area attracts the most creative and wealthy people in the world. This has given me opportunities that I would not have realized in other cities. They have ideas that send me in directions and search in areas that I never would have considered as a realtor. This has opened my horizons and thinking so that I am now able to service the most eccentric client's dreams, and I have fun doing it. I love my clients and the creative ideas that they bring to my business."

67. Tampa Bay, Fla.

John William Barger III | Agent | Barger Real Estate | Coastal

"The market, especially in St. Petersburg, was hit very very hard by the recession and has only rebounded really in the past year or so. What that means is that prices are still very low compared to other markets in Florida, and the word is getting out. As a result, many buyers are now from somewhere else. Local buyers are still looking for deals, but most foreclosures and short sales have long since been flushed out of the system. I have people coming to me all the time asking about distressed properties, and they just don't exist anymore. Any property priced at or under the market value normally sells before it even hits the market, normally to a developer or a friend of the owner. Local buyers like to take their time and weigh their options, and they miss out because you just can't wait any longer. If you find something, you have to grab it immediately, or someone else will. That's how low the inventory is compared to demand.

"Out-of-town buyers come in and want a home now. They come in, look at three or four houses, and make an offer, all in a few hours… Our town sells itself, we have miles of waterfront parks, the largest public bike trail system in the Southeast, beautiful tree-lined streets, picturesque historic neighborhoods, modern high rises, a bustling downtown, countless museums and cultural institutions, and a mild and sunny climate year-round. All it takes is a five-minute stroll down Beach Drive and you're hooked. You have to live here, right now, so you need to find somewhere to live... right now. I'm proud to live here and proud to show it off to each and every person I encounter, and I think that level of civic pride, which you can see in all agents here, is very rare."

UR. New York

Philip Lang | Principal broker | TripleMint| Coastal

"It's truly the city that never sleeps, especially for real estate. I've shown apartments at 9 p.m. at night, taken calls up until 11 p.m., and have had morning meetings as early as 7 a.m. If you want to be an agent in this city, don't plan on shutting down — ever."

Sharon Gonzalez | Broker

"There are no rules in the city. You have to be a beast. You have to be precise, and as a woman, you need to be confident and know exactly what you're saying and mean it. The less negotiation is the best."

UR. Bloomington, Ind.

Deb Tomaro | Agent | REAL Real Estate Today

"Bloomington is a great town for entrepreneurs. We are a college town, with Indiana University, so we have some great intellect and amazing talent for a town our size. Not a lot of big business, though, so many people have made their way by being entrepreneurs. That creates an awesome environment for small business owners. The town is really welcoming of new people because of the semi-transient nature. When I came to Bloomington nine years ago, I only knew one person. But within just a couple years, I was able to become one of the top realtors in town, all by building new connections."

UR. Newport Beach, Calif.

David Feldberg | Broker, owner | Coastal Real Estate Group

"There is a huge range of property values, from $500,000 to the current highest listing of $24 million, so you deal with many different types of buyers. We also have homes on the sand, a large number of homes on the water in the harbor with boat slips, homes with ocean views and of course your standard homes, so you really need to have a good knowledge of the overall market to operate here."


These were the three key questions we asked in coming up with the list.

1. What can real estate agents earn in the city?

We ranked the best cities for agents based on the median annual pay. Income is likely the most important factor people consider when starting their career or relocating elsewhere. A high salary in an expensive city, however, may be less attractive than a lower salary in an affordable town. Our next metric takes affordability into consideration.

2. How affordable is it to live in this city?

Now that we have the median salary, we'll look next at the cost of living. The cost of living is a measure of how far earnings can be stretched. Cities with lower cost-of-living index numbers ranked higher in our study. For example, the average city is benchmarked at 100. A city with a cost of living index of 188, such as Honolulu, would mean that generally speaking, living expenses are 88% more expensive compared to the average city.

3. What is the location quotient for real estate agents in the city?

A place with a high median salary and low cost of living may seem perfect, but job opportunities may be limited. Our third factor accounts for this by favoring cities with high location quotients. Location quotient measures the concentration of agents in an area as a percentage of all occupations, and then compares that to the national average. We interpret a higher location quotient to mean a relatively higher demand for an agent's services.