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The Top 10 Cities to be a Real Estate Agent in 2016


In real estate it’s all about location, which is why some cities are more profitable and have higher salaries for real estate agents than others. For the 2016 edition of our annual study we crunched the numbers to find the ten best cities to be a real estate agent.

This is the 2016 edition of our annual study on the top ten cities to be a real estate agent. To see the 2015 rankings, head here.  

Key Findings

  • Florida is the place to be. Only one Florida city made the top ten in last year’s study, but this year there are three Sunshine State cities on our list of the best places to be a real estate agent. Port St. Lucie is back, joined by Cape Coral and Jacksonville.
  • Oregon and Nevada are tied for second place. Both Oregon and Nevada have two cities on our top ten list. That means that the three states of Florida, Oregon and Nevada together tie up seven of the ten spots on our list. Real estate agents looking to move to greener pastures have three solid options, in the Southeast, Southwest and Northwest.
  • The Northeast isn’t everything. The so-called Acela Corridor of Northeast cities may be an economic hub but it’s not such a great place for real estate agents. For the second year in a row, not one Northeast city made our top ten list. Though real estate prices in places like New York and Boston are high, our analysis shows the cities of the Northeast aren’t ideal for real estate agents.

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The Best Cities for Real Estate Agents - 2016 Edition

1. Salem, OR

Salem, Oregon moved up from the #4 spot in last year’s study to claim the #1 spot on the 2016 list of the ten best places to be a real estate agent. Between the fourth quarters of 2014 and 2015, real estate prices in Salem jumped 17.5%. That, combined with the high number of sales per agent, helped Salem claim the top spot. High prices mean real estate agents get paid more, and it’s also a sign of a competitive market.

Related Article: The Cost of Living in Oregon

2. Reno, NV

Last year’s #1 was Reno, which this year came in a close second to Salem. Though the median annual real estate agent salary in Reno is higher than in Salem ($67,420 vs. $41,100), Reno home prices “only” rose 9.91% between the end of 2014 and the end of 2015. That’s still a high rate of growth. Northern Nevada has one of the fastest rates of economic growth in the nation, which has led to an influx of new residents, all searching for housing. The numbers show we can probably expect prices to continue to climb unless new housing inventory can be added in time to keep up with the region’s growth.

3. Denver, CO

The only Colorado city on our list, Denver has the highest median annual real estate agent salary of any of the cities on our list, at $75,900. Denver agents may not make as many sales each year as the other cities on our list, but they’re earning hefty salaries on the pricey homes they do sell.

Like Reno, Denver may be facing a housing bubble. At a recent conference on housing issues, Colorado governor John Hickenlooper said that if Denver homes don’t become more affordable the city risks losing millennials to cheaper cities.

4. Springfield, IL

Springfield hasn’t seen the same double-digit growth percent change in real estate prices that some of the other cities on our list have enjoyed. Still, the city boasts a high number of sales per agent and a median annual real estate agent salary of $55,800. Springfield is new to the top ten this year, replacing its neighbor to the north, Peoria, as the only Illinois city on our list.

5. Port St. Lucie, FL

The first Florida city on our list is Port St. Lucie, which came in 6th in last year’s study and claims the #5 spot this year. Prices in Port St. Lucie rose 15.74% between the fourth quarters of 2014 and 2015. One factor that could be contributing to the rising prices? Retirees are flocking to Port St. Lucie. It’s #7 on our list of the cities where retirees are moving. The population of Port St. Lucie has doubled in the last 15 years.

6. Cape Coral, FL

The percent price change in Cape Coral was even higher than in Port St. Lucie, at 16.05%. However, sales per agent and salaries in Cape Coral were both lower than in Port St. Lucie. Still, Cape Coral beat out its northern neighbor, Jacksonville. Cape Coral also made the top ten on our list of the cities where millennials are buying homes.

7. Jacksonville, FL

Though the median annual salary for real estate agents in Jacksonville is a modest $29,220, the city saw a stunning 25.2% increase in prices between 2014 and 2015. That’s the biggest percent price change of any of the cities in our top ten. Jacksonville is also one of the best cities for boat owners.

8. Eugene, OR

The second Oregon city on our list is Eugene, home to the University of Oregon. The median annual real estate agent salary in Eugene is $64,800. Sales per agent and turnover are both fairly high, but prices are holding steady. Eugene real estate prices rose just 3.29% between 2014 and 2015.

9. Mobile, AL

Mobile, Alabama has enjoyed a bit of a renaissance in recent years, spurred in part by the opening of an Airbus U.S. Manufacturing Facility (which recently delivered its first A321 to American Airlines). The city’s real estate agents have benefited from the economic upswing. Prices in Mobile rose 11.5% between 2014 and 2015, and the median annual real estate agent salary is $60,180.

10. Las Vegas, NV

Las Vegas is famous for many things, including its relatively affordable housing. However, prices in Sin City rose 9% between the end of 2014 and the end of 2015. That’s good news for the city’s real estate agents, who earn a median annual salary of $56,260. It’s also a sign that Las Vegas, which was hit hard by the foreclosure crisis, may be rebounding.

The Top 10 Best Cities to be a Real Estate Agent in 2016

Study Specifics: Methodology and Sources

To find the best cities for real estate agents, SmartAsset pulled data from several sources. Our turnover data came from Zillow, which tracks the percentage of homes sold in U.S. cities. We used the turnover data for January 2016.

To find the percentage of home sales per agent in each city we took the Zillow data on percent turnover and multiplied it by Census Bureau data on the number of units in each city to get the number of units sold. The Census data came from the 5-Year American Community Survey (2009-2014).

We then took the number of units sold in each city and divided it by the number of real estate agents in each city to get sales per agent for each city. The data for the number of real estate agents in each city came from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as did the data on the median annual salary of real estate agents.

The data for the percent change of home prices between the fourth quarters of 2014 and 2015 came from the National Association of Realtors.

For each city that had data in each of the four factors (sales per agent, median annual salary, turnover and percent price change) we then calculated the number of standard deviations above or below the mean on each factor. Each city ended up with a standard deviation score on each of the four factors. We then totaled these scores and indexed them from 0 to 100 for each of the 118 cities in our study.

Questions about our study? Contact us at

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