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 use to put our profession in the context of where we live: number of jobs, average salary, cost of living and location quotient. Employing those four metrics to cities around the U.S., we compiled the best places for real estate agents to call home. Buying or renting there is up to them.

To contribute to ValuePenguin’s coverage on careers, follow us on Twitter @VP_CareersPlease also feel free to use the comment section below.

Best Five Cities for Real Estage 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, Ga. (5,900) and Houston, Texas (5,700). One potential drawing card: West Palm Beach is home to a pristine, Donald Trump-branded golf course.

*Statistical region includes: Boca Raton 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' 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 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 realtor.org.

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

5. Wilmington, N.C.

Narrowly bested by Fort Lauderdale, 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.

Population Breakdown

Although we adjusted for population in our rankings, it is still difficult to compare a small city to a large one. To account for this fact, we separated the safest cities into three categories: cities with populations less than 100,000 people, midsize cities with populations between 100,000 and 500,000, and larger cities with populations greater than 500,000. Here are our findings:

Top 100 Cities for Real Estate Agents 

Rank City Average Salary  Jobs Location Quotient Cost of Living Score
1 Virginia Beach, VA $68,180 1,830 2.15 106 43
2 West Palm Beach, FL $64,970 2,060 3.23 102 46
3 Austin, TX $69,380 1,790 1.73 98 57
4 Fort Lauderdale, FL $61,660 2,620 2.96 97 61
5 Wilmington, NC $70,430 300 1.78 102 65
6 Tulsa, OK $60,850 1,030 2.07 88 75
7 Houston, TX $63,700 5,700 1.72 93 76
8 Olympia, WA $62,460 270 2.33 114 80
9 Salt Lake City, UT $64,580 1,220 1.57 106 94
10 Savannah, GA $70,730 240 1.32 91 99
11 Washington, DC $63,620 4,030 1.45 157 102
12 Bellingham, WA $57,820 190 2.08 123 105
13 Lubbock, TX $66,700 220 1.41 85 105
14 Chicago, IL $76,790 4,470 1.02 111 105
15 Oklahoma City, OK $52,740 1,400 2.00 86 108
16 Atlanta, GA $51,770 5,900 2.12 110 109
17 Las Vegas, NV $60,160 1,460 1.44 94 111
18 Barnstable Town, MA $73,490 140 1.20 161 112
19 Wilmington, DE $65,800 510 1.29 102 112
20 Denver, CO $80,910 1,450 0.94 108 113
21 Pittsburgh, PA $63,660 1,650 1.25 88 114
22 Abilene, TX $70,950 90 1.25 85 114
23 Bethesda, MD $68,730 740 1.12 157 116
24 Charlotte, NC $54,170 1,740 1.64 94 116
25 Richmond, VA $53,490 1,270 1.77 98 118
26 Raleigh, NC $62,280 870 1.37 109 118
27 Santa Ana, CA $52,480 3,150 1.82 155 119
28 Dallas, TX $54,790 3,890 1.49 96 124
29 Boston, MA $78,970 1,780 0.85 152 128
30 Philadelphia, PA $53,350 3,170 1.46 101 135
31 Nassau, NY $72,000 1,260 0.86 160 136
32 Brunswick, GA $54,110 80 1.80 89 136
33 Yuba City, CA $49,600 140 3.24 107 137
34 St. George, UT $48,100 190 3.11 97 142
35 Cape Coral, FL $44,910 930 3.57 92 144
36 Boulder, CO $53,090 310 1.57 145 149
37 Miami, FL $44,660 3,710 3.04 112 150
38 Kennewick, WA $53,820 170 1.44 100 157
39 Seattle, WA $47,550 3,070 1.76 137 158
40 Greenville, SC $54,800 410 1.14 93 162
41 Oakland, CA $66,610 970 0.81 144 163
42 Los Angeles, CA  $65,950 3,590 0.76 152 165
43 Champaign, IL $59,970 120 1.10 95 165
44 Indianapolis, IN $99,540 710 0.65 102 167
45 Billings, MT $68,950 80 0.87 104 169
46 Naples, FL $42,550 740 5.06 148 169
47 Phoenix, AZ $49,810 2,810 1.32 90 169
48 Ogden, UT $45,480 450 1.86 93 170
49 Spokane, WA $48,650 370 1.56 91 172
50 Orlando, FL $41,300 4,850 3.85 90 174
51 Blacksburg, VA $47,000 130 1.79 100 179
52 Fort Worth, TX $59,500 920 0.85 92 179
53 Poughkeepsie, NY $73,790 190 0.67 119 184
54 Ocean City, NJ $64,860 40 0.96 166 185
55 Bismarck, ND $50,790 110 1.39 98 190
56 Fort Collins, CO $51,600 190 1.18 109 192
57 Colorado Springs, CO $44,540 490 1.66 100 193
58 Sacramento, CA $70,150 580 0.58 117 198
59 Carson City, NV $52,300 40 1.35 99 198
60 Durham, NC $73,200 190 0.59 113 201
61 Tallahassee, FL $42,330 370 1.98 98 202
62 St. Louis, MO $51,760 1,350 0.88 86 203
63 Baltimore, MD $47,900 1,660 1.10 107 205
64 Roanoke, VA $54,160 160 0.88 89 206
65 State College, PA $44,630 130 1.72 118 207
66 San Francisco, CA $59,630 900 0.71 200 207
67 Tampa, FL $39,040 2,840 2.06 89 207
68 Myrtle Beach, SC $37,960 760 5.61 97 207
69 Boise City, ID $42,420 560 1.72 94 208
70 Birmingham, AL $54,060 470 0.82 95 208
71 Huntsville, AL $64,700 160 0.68 96 210
72 Mobile, AL $55,340 160 0.81 85 213
73 Redding, CA $67,100 50 0.70 111 214
74 North Port, FL $37,770 970 3.21 92 215
75 Charlottesville, VA $42,090 210 1.79 109 217
76 Harrisonburg, VA $41,870 140 1.95 105 219
77 Cincinnati, OH $47,950 1,060 0.90 85 222
78 Allentown, PA $65,040 230 0.58 95 223
79 Ithaca, NY $77,250 30 0.58 108 225
80 Wenatchee, WA $43,810 80 1.63 110 225
81 Sioux Falls, SD $68,020 100 0.57 100 229
82 Fargo, ND $47,800 170 1.07 98 230
83 Edison, NJ $55,770 760 0.65 134 233
84 El Paso, TX $43,700 390 1.19 86 233
85 Jacksonville, FL $36,420 1,340 1.91 88 237
86 Panama City, FL $34,430 290 3.47 98 242
87 Riverside, CA $54,050 930 0.64 109 244
88 Athens, GA $35,760 270 2.92 96 245
89 Reno, NV $83,620 100 0.41 94 246
90 Logan, UT $41,750 100 1.59 97 247
91 Albuquerque, NM $47,930 370 0.85 103 247
92 Harrisburg, PA $46,110 330 0.90 93 248
93 Cleveland, OH $42,410 1,330 1.12 92 248
94 Stockton, CA $66,340 120 0.50 103 249
95 Greensboro, NC $44,440 420 1.03 90 249
96 New Orleans, LA $52,560 410 0.66 93 250
97 Montgomery, AL $66,800 90 0.49 90 250
98 Flint, MI $63,970 90 0.54 76 250
99 Fort Smith, AR $45,640 130 0.98 85 251
100 Deltona, FL $30,440 650 3.56 86 252

What’s It Like Being an Agent in… ?

20. Denver, Col.

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, Pa.

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, Calif.

Josh Myler | Agent | The Agency

"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 world. This has given me opportunities that I would not have realized in other cities. They have ideas that send me in directions and searching 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

"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 City, N.Y.

Philip Lang | Principal broker | TripleMint

"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 at 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."

Methodology

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 percent 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.

Comments and Questions