Where the Highest-Earning Real Estate Pros Live

5 min read

After the housing market crash of 2008, the real estate business looked bleak. That has changed. Today, many U.S. housing markets show healthy growth, which is good news for real estate professionals. So where are the best places to be?

We decided to take a look at nearly 200 metro areas covered by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to find out. By comparing average real estate agent salaries and factoring in the cost of living, we found a solid list of 10 places that offer real estate agent job potential. We can already see the commission checks rolling in.

1. Lake County, IL

Topping our list at number one is real estate heaven, Lake County, Illinois. Home to multi-million dollar markets such as Highland Park and Lake Forest, the average salary for real estate agents in Lake County is a whopping $97,480, the highest of all the places we reviewed. It gets better: Adjusted for the cost of living, that average becomes $104,739.

Home values in this market have gone up more than 6% in the past year – a strong indicator of a healthy market.  Beyond that, Lake County sits in an ideal location. Much of the county border beautiful Lake Michigan, and it’s easily within commuting distance of Chicago.

2. Chicago-Joliet-Naperville, IL

Another Illinois area comes in second on our list. Chicago, along with surrounding cities Joliet and Naperville, offers tremendous opportunity for real estate professionals. The average salary sits at $82,780, and small cities such as Joliet and Naperville offer a relatively low cost of living.

Both smaller cities are about 45 minutes away from Chicago and have seen an increase in home values during the past year.  To top it off, these charming cities each offer a wide variety of dining, shopping, and recreation opportunities for buyers.

3. Nassau-Suffolk Counties, NY

If you’re looking to sell multi-million dollar real estate, look no further than Nassau and Suffolk counties in New York. In fact, some current listings are upwards of $50 million – think about that commission.

These counties, both with reasonable commutes to Manhattan, border the picturesque coast of the Atlantic Ocean and the Long Island Sound. The average salary for real estate agents in these counties is $83,580. Beautiful homes combined with desirable locations equal real estate gold.

4. Durham-Chapel Hill, NC

Situated in the fast-growing Research Triangle of North Carolina, the city of Durham and town of Chapel Hill come in next on our list. Buyers flock to these areas for the abundance of jobs, top colleges and universities, and some of the best medical facilities in the region.

Home values in these areas have increased in the past year and the average salary for real estate professionals is high at $78,390. With the low cost of living, you get more for your money – the adjusted salary climbs to $84,227.

5. Wilmington, NC

Another North Carolina city ranks high on our list. The coastal city of Wilmington offers a bevy of second home beach properties along with family-friendly suburbs. Home values continue to rise and even though the average salary is a bit lower than other places at $68,730, the low cost of living allows your dollar to stretch further.

When it comes to closing the sale, all you have to do is point to the beach or Wilmington’s charming downtown.

6. Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, MA

You got a thing for clam chowder? Beantown might be the right place for you to hustle some homes. Neighboring cities such as Cambridge and Quincy are experiencing huge growth – home values in Cambridge have gone up more than 6% in the past year.

Besides the draw of Boston, Cambridge is a charming town in its own right with cobblestone streets, historic homes and, of course, Harvard University. In Quincy, buyers can enjoy being right on the bay. The average salary for real estate professionals here is $72,340, with a lot of growth opportunity.

7. Birmingham-Hoover, AL

Situated just outside Birmingham, the city of Hoover offers a growing housing market. This southern city saw almost a 4% growth in home values in the past year, with predictions to rise another 2.4% within the next year. The average salary for a real estate agent in this area is $67,940 but combined with the low cost of living, your paycheck goes a long way. With easy access to the amenities of Birmingham and the abundance of beautiful properties, this is a city to watch.

As for Birmingham, the largest city in Alabama entices buyers with its vast array of opportunities for work and play. Combined with its diverse housing selection, it’s a win for real estate agents.

8. Asheville, NC

Nestled in the gorgeous Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, it’s no surprise that Asheville comes in at number eight on our list. Over the past year, this ultra-cool city has seen a whopping 10.9% increase in home values. Why? From the culinary mecca of downtown Asheville to surrounding attractions such as Chimney Rock Park and The Biltmore Estate, this city offer buyers beautiful scenery and tons to do. The average salary for a real estate agent here is $63,370.

9. Indianapolis-Carmel, IN

The Indiana city of Carmel, just north of Indianapolis, is quickly becoming a haven for real estate professionals. This city was ranked #3 on Money Magazine’s Best Places to Live 2014. Why? For its high median family income, projected job growth and it’s healthy housing market.

The city also home to more than 50 corporate headquarters. With an average salary at $62,510, all signs point to success for a real estate agent here.

10. Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT

Rounding out our list are these three coastal Connecticut cities. Brushing up against the scenic Long Island Sound, these cities offer beautiful homes and breathtaking views. During the past year, all three chave seen an uptick in home values, with Bridgeport having the most substantial increase of 9.3%.

The average salary for real estate agents in this area is $65,310. With just an hour and a half drive to NYC, these cities are a win.



Employment and mean salary data are from the geographic profile for Real Estate Sales Agents (41-9022) obtained through the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Employment Statistics Query System (http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes419022.htm).  To account for differences in cost of living, mean salary data was normalized using the most recent average price data of white bread from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (October 2014, http://www.bls.gov/data/).  To qualify to be ranked, the metropolitan statistical area must have reported data for at least 100 employees. Home value data was retrieved Dec. 4 from Zillow.com.

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