Throw a dart in any direction and you’re bound to hit a realty office. Look around and you’ll see the smiling face of an agent on a bus, shopping cart seat, or park bench. It’s one of those universal acknowledgments: Everyone, from your Uncle Pete who retired 15 years ago to your cousin’s friend’s little sister, seems to “be in real estate.”
And the 5.5 million home sales in 2017 indicate there’s lots of real estate business to go around. But just how many Realtors are there in the U.S.? And, do all of them know what they’re doing (because Uncle Pete doesn’t appear to have a clue)?
We dug into agent licensing records from local real estate commissions, the National Association of Realtors, and HomeLight’s own internal databases to bring you total agent numbers at the metro, state, and country-wide level. The data shows that although there are millions of agents out there and likely thousands alone in your market, not all of these professionals have the same level of experience and track record of success.
That’s why when you set out to sell the house, you’ll need to know your options and choose an agent who can rise to the occasion.
How many real estate agents versus Realtors are there in the U.S.?
Data from HomeLight shows there are over 2 million active real estate agents in the U.S.
According to data from NAR, 1,359,208 of those licensed agents are Realtors.
Wait, what? Aren’t real estate agents and Realtors one and the same? Actually, no. While we use these two titles interchangeably in everyday conversation, real estate agents aren’t always Realtors.
To become a Realtor, you must have a real estate license, then register as a member of the National Association of Realtors, the largest trade organization in the country. Among other requirements, Realtors must pay annual dues ($150/year) and abide by the NAR Code of Ethics Standards of Practice. As one of the benefits of joining, Realtors have access to the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), a private database that shows more listings and houses on the market that non-Realtors can’t access.
By state, California has the most registered Realtors in the country, with 194,572 active in 2017; Florida ranks a close second with 173,482 Realtors. NAR has a full list where you can see exactly how many Realtors there are in your state as of 2017.
How the real estate market impacts the ebb and flow of agents entering the business
The number of active real estate agents fluctuates depending on the climate of the housing market. After the market crash starting in 2008, the number of active Realtors dropped by 23.32%, according to NAR data. We can see the same trend with brokerages—the number of establishments dropped from 109,472 in 2007 to 86,095 in 2012 (a 21.4% decrease).
But, with the increase in property value and boost in the housing market starting in 2012, the number of members grew 22.1%. When there’s less business to go around, agents leave the business in droves, then re-enter when market conditions are promising.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates 20,200 real estate jobs will open up from 2016 to 2026 based on projected 5.8% employment growth over that same time period.
How many real estate agents are in the top metros across the U.S.?
How does the total number of real estate agents vary across the country? HomeLight has data on millions of agents and real estate transactions in our database including city-level numbers for agents across top markets in the U.S. We thought you’d like to know how many agents are in your particular city, so we pulled data for dozens of markets.
Here’s a table with quick-glance agent numbers in different U.S. cities:
For each city in the U.S., HomeLight compiled the number of real estate agents active in the area, 6 of which are in the chart below. On the west coast, San Francisco has 7,364 agents, while Miami on the east has 9,498 agents.
Why are there so many real estate agents in the U.S.?
What makes real estate a popular and attractive career choice? Is it the money, independence, or opportunity for growth? Check all of the above, and then some.
We calculated the average paycheck with the 6% commission by state: the average home price in Oregon is $227,000 and after the 6% commission split between the seller’s and buyer’s agents, each party would take home $3,405. That’s pretty good cash, isn’t it?
In addition, the list of requirements to become a licensed real estate agent is fairly short compared to other occupations such as accountants or lawyers. As long as you’re 18 years old and a high school graduate, once you study and pass the real estate license exam in your state (if you even have one), you can transact.
CareerBliss, a company dedicated to helping people land jobs, conducted a survey that found real estate agents are the happiest employees. Why? They have control over the work they do and the costs are low.
Real estate isn’t a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. desk job—and that flexibility can be an attractive selling point for getting into the business. An agent’s schedule is instead based how many clients they’re working with and their needs (which may be ‘round the clock unless you’re able to set boundaries).
Many agents decide to sell homes part-time and run other gigs on the side. Oftentimes, retirees take a shot at the real estate biz as a hobby, which is why your elderly neighbor can “do real estate” and also travel on three cruises a year.
With these many perks and such a low entry barrier, why wouldn’t you want to be a real estate agent? It’s a hot market and jobs are available!
Now, not so fast…
Dee Dee Cortez, a top real estate agent in Corpus Christi and Kingsville, Texas, explains that while it’s a relatively easy industry to enter, it’s far more difficult to actually achieve success. She agrees that anyone can be an agent, but it takes experience, training, and the right communication skills to succeed as an agent.
According to Georgetown University, School of Continuing Studies, effective real estate agents have these six soft skills:
- Active Listening
- Social Cues
Real estate agents worth their salt wear a lot of hats—they have to employ soft communication skills between multiple interests in the transaction and play hardball negotiation to get their client the best deal. The best listing agents are also brilliant marketers and know how to generate buzz about a listing to bring buyers to the table.
As we saw from the data, there are millions of real estate agents in the U.S. But, the real question is: are all of them good at what they do? If you want to sell your home for a better price and faster rate, you’ll need a top real estate agent on your side.
Hire a top real estate agent in your area to get the job done right
The truth is while there are tons of agents out there, not all of them have the same level of experience or track record of success.
Here’s an example: As of 2019, top real estate agents in San Antonio, TX sell 348 houses a year, compared to average agents who only sold 43, according to HomeLight data. Agents in the top percentiles of the San Antonio market also sell houses 1.5x faster and for $12,753 more than the average agent.
People entering the real estate industry “have the impression that it’s easy money,” says Cortez. On the contrary, “it takes a lot of work. You have to learn either be a buyer specialist or a seller specialist. It takes time and dedication, but most of all it takes effort.”
When you partner up with an agent to help you sell your house, it’s best to look at performance indicators such as agent’s days on market and final sale price averages to find someone who’s proven to sell homes faster and for more money. You’ll also need a hyperlocal expert who knows what makes buyers in the area tick and who’s sold homes similar to yours in location, price range, and layout.
With 1.3 million active Realtors in the US (and counting!), you can’t just close your eyes and point at a name in a directory. Selling a house is one of the most important transactions of a lifetime and you’ll need to make sure that the agent you hire is qualified to get the job done right.
HomeLight analyzes over 29 million transactions to find the top real estate agents in your area that sell faster and for more money. In minutes, buyers and sellers receive free, unbiased, and data-backed recommendations based on their specific needs and location. Don’t gamble on one of the 2 million active agents in the U.S., find a top real estate agent who’s got the chops to handle your largest financial asset with care.