Real estate agents work with a real estate broker, and they are both focused on helping clients buy, sell, and rent properties. Typically, agents provide guidance in the buying and selling process of a home or even help with property management. There’s a great deal of complexity with residential or commercial property, and agents are there to help. Among their many responsibilities, agents advise on prices, mortgages, and markets; market properties through advertisements, open houses, and listings; mediate negotiations; prepare documents like purchase agreements and deeds; and take prospective buyers or renters to see properties. Most real estate agents work irregular hours, and many are able to set their own hours.
There are close to 2M active real estate licensees in the US and growing at a 6% rate. But where are the best opportunities for real estate agents?
Our study at AdvisorSmith ranked 219 U.S. cities to determine the most attractive cities for real estate agents to pursue their careers in. We list the top 50 cities for real estate agents below, and we also break down the top small, midsize, and large cities for real estate agents.
Our analysis found that many of the best cities for real estate agents are large and midsize cities. Of the top 50 cities, 52% were large, 36% midsized, and 12% small cities. A majority of cities was located in the Midwest and eastern U.S. Larger cities won out in our study with 44 out of the top 50 cities having populations above 150,000, which intuitively makes sense because of the density of supply and demand, making for a more liquid marketplace.
Top Cities for Real Estate Agents by City Size
Forty-four of the top 50 best cities for real estate agents were midsize or large cities, which makes sense due to more transactions in the marketplace. Our study segments cities into different sizes based on population, listing the top 10 small (population under 150,000), midsize (population of 150,000-500,000), and large (greater than 500,000 population) cities for real estate agents.
Best Cities for Real Estate Agents
1. Midland, TX
Midland is located between El Paso and Dallas, near San Antonio. The city flourished in the 1920s and 30s during the great oil boom, and the area is one of the nation’s largest producers of petroleum and natural gas. Midland still relies heavily on petroleum to fuel its economy but has since diversified with telecoms and distribution centers like Walmart. In 2014, Midland had one of the lowest unemployment rates in the US at 2.3%, with employers from various industries, including medical, education, government, retail, and oil and gas. Historical temperatures range from hot summers and cool to mild winters, and with its location close to Odessa, a popular trucking location, Midland makes for an ideal midsized town.
As a city that’s situated on a key vein that transports goods across the nation, Midland hosts 149% more jobs for real estate agents than the average number of jobs in the US. Real estate agents in Midland earn a whopping 81% more than the average across the nation.
2. Hilton Head Island, SC
Known for its resort-town feel, Hilton Head Island, also known as Hilton Head, is the second best midsized city in our study for real estate agents. Located north of Savannah, GA and south of Charleston, SC, this city estimates 2.67 million visitors per year. Understandably so, the climate is warm year-round at a mid-70 degrees F (21 degrees C). Hilton Head also boasts a variety of physical and cultural activities, from water sports, biking, golfing, dolphin-watching, and tennis to arts centers, theater, dance schools, symphonies, and museums. There’s no shortage of dining and shopping options in this idyllic city. Real estate activity has steadily grown in the area and so have the median home prices. Hilton Head saw its busiest year yet in 2017, with $3.8B in property transactions and an 11.5% increase from the previous year in properties sold.
Real estate agents in Hilton Head earn an average annual salary of $64,160 which is 4% more than the national average. There are more job opportunities for real estate agents here than any other top-50 city we studied, with 530% more jobs than the average.
3. Charleston, SC
As the oldest and largest city in South Carolina, Charleston ranks as the #1 large city in our study for top cities for real estate agents. The city was ranked #12 for World’s Best Cities in Travel+Leisure in 2019. Due to its inlet and proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, residents have multiple options for living, whether downtown near the harbor or on one of the many islands, like James Island or Daniel Island. The climate in Charleston is extremely attractive as the winters are short and mild, while fall remains relatively warm through November. Since the 1990s, Charleston has seen double-digit population growth decade over decade, with tens of thousands of people coming to the city. There’s also no shortage in sights and adventures due to its rich culture that combines English, French, and West African influences. The downtown also has many attractions like theaters, art galleries, museums, historical sites, and festivals throughout the year that make this city so attractive for residents and tourists alike.
Charleston has almost five times more jobs for real estate agents compared to the U.S. average. On average, a real estate agent in Charleston earns an annual salary of $55,180.
4. Jackson, MS
As the most populous city in Mississippi, Jackson is located between New Orleans and Memphis at the cross between Interstate 55 and Interstate 20. Jackson is home to several major industries, including food processing, electrical equipment and machinery, metal manufacturing, and agricultural development. The real estate potential is high primarily because the greater Jackson metropolitan area is home to more than half a million people. Real estate is deemed as affordable in Jackson, with fully renovated properties starting at $75,000 with great cash-on-cash return.
Jackson real estate agents earn an average of $77,300 which is 25% higher than the average across the U.S. Jackson also has a cost of living that’s 13% lower than the rest of the nation.
5. Virginia Beach, VA
The most populous city in Virginia, Virginia Beach is located in the southeast part of the state on the Atlantic Ocean, near Chesapeake Bay. Virginia Beach has many communities and neighborhoods such as Aragona Village, Bay Colony, Bayside, Cape Henry, Chesapeake Beach, Kempsville, Lago Mar, Ocean Park, Pembroke Manor, Princess Anne, and Thoroughgood. All these different neighborhoods and communities offer a variety of opportunities to find a culture and environment that fit each person’s needs. Additionally, the city has one of the lowest crime rates compared to other regional cities. Similar to a few of the top cities mentioned, the climate in Virginia Beach is humid, subtropical with lighter winters and hot and humid summers. Virginia Beach’s main industries are real estate, defense, and tourism.
Virginia Beach real estate agents earn an average of $81,710 per year, which is 32% higher than the national average. The city also hosts 146% more jobs for real estate agents than the rest of the country.
Top 50 Cities for Real Estate Agents
Below, we list the top cities for real estate agents. We include data on the total number of jobs, the number of jobs per capita, average annual salaries, and the cost of living.
|Rank||City||City Size||Average Annual Salary||Total Jobs||Location Quotient||Cost of Living|
|2||Hilton Head Island, SC||Midsize||$64,160||520||6.3||117|
|5||Virginia Beach, VA||Large||$81,710||2010||2.46||105|
|7||Grand Junction, CO||Midsize||$79,950||130||1.95||100|
|10||Walla Walla, WA||Small||$76,380||60||2.06||102|
|13||Cape Coral, FL||Large||$65,720||790||2.74||105|
|15||Oklahoma City, OK||Large||$50,890||1890||2.82||87|
|16||Myrtle Beach, SC||Midsize||$51,960||590||3.33||97|
|32||Las Vegas, NV||Large||$62,630||2100||1.97||105|
|34||San Antonio, TX||Large||$56,450||1580||1.44||89|
|47||Yuba City, CA||Midsize||$69,400||50||1.14||114|
|48||College Station, TX||Midsize||$56,000||130||1.07||91|
AdvisorSmith’s study examined three key variables in determining the best cities for real estate agents to pursue their careers in.
1. Average annual salaries for real estate agents
We considered the average annual salary earned by real estate agents in each city in our study. The higher the average salary, the more highly we ranked a given metro area. The average salary for real estate agents in our study was $61,720.
2. Density of jobs for real estate agents in each city
Real estate agents have a special set of skills that require licensing in most states; however, the typical entry-level position may include secondary schooling. Given this, we ranked cities that have a higher concentration of jobs for real estate agents relative to the general worker population as more desirable. This density is represented by the location quotient in the Bureau of Labor Statistics employment data.
In 2018, there were 1,800,330 real estate agents employed in the United States. The BLS predicts that employment for real estate agents will grow at a 6% pace over the 10-year period of 2016-2026, which is in line with the national job growth outlook.
3. Cost of living index for each city
We adjusted the salaries earned by real estate agents in each city by a cost of living multiplier. The cost of living, including necessities such as rent, transportation, and groceries, varies by city, so it is important to normalize the salaries so that the cities can be compared fairly. Cities with more affordable lifestyles were ranked more highly in our study.
 Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook
 Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Statistics
 Sperling’s Best Places Cost of Living Index