It may feel like you could throw a dart in any direction and you’ll hit a realty office. And the pandemic has caused even more real estate agents to flood into the profession. If you’re preparing to buy or sell a home, it’s natural to wonder how many real estate agents are conducting business in the U.S. And you’re probably curious how many agents will take your home transaction seriously.
We dug into agent licensing records from local real estate commissions, the National Association of Realtors® (NAR), and HomeLight’s own internal databases to bring you total agent numbers in the U.S. 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. Here’s how many real estates there are in the U.S. and how to find one you can count on.
How many real estate agents versus Realtors® are there in the U.S.?
Before jumping into the numbers, it’s important to understand that there is a difference between real estate agents and Realtors®. While many people 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 (NAR), the largest trade organization in the country. Among other requirements, Realtors® must pay annual dues and abide by the NAR Code of Ethics & Standards of Practice.
So, how many active real estate agents and Realtors® are there? According to estimates from the Association of Real Estate License Law Officials (ARELLO), there are more than 3 million people holding active real estate licenses in the United States. Of those agents, there are 1.6 million Realtors®, as of November 2022, according to a 2022 NAR report.
That same NAR report found Florida has the most registered Realtors®, with 223,617 members. California ranks a close second with 215,4772 Realtors®.
How the number of real estate agents shifts with housing markets
The number of active real estate agents fluctuates, depending on the climate of the housing market. For instance, between 2007 and 2008, the collapse of the housing market saw the number of active Realtors® drop by more than 140,000 members in a single year, according to a NAR historic membership report. That figure continued to fall until 2012, with total membership dropping below 1 million that year.
But with the increase in property value and boost in the housing market starting in 2012, the number of Realtors® grew by more than 500,000 by 2021, according to a Statista report. That’s because, often, when there’s less business to go around, agents leave the business in droves, then re-enter when market conditions are promising.
A challenging market also favors expert agents, weeding out less experienced agents who may have found success when selling homes was easy but struggle more when market conditions tilt to favor buyers. According to data from HomeLight’s Top Agent Insights survey for New Year 2023, agents are reporting just such a shift toward buyers in most areas of the United States and describe the increasing importance for sellers of working with a top-performing, experienced agent.
The number of real estate agents skyrocketed during the pandemic. According to the same NAR membership report, more than 156,000 Realtors® became members during 2020 and 2021. That uptick was likely triggered by record-high housing prices and a chance to dive into a flexible real estate career during a time of high uncertainty.
How many real estate agents are in the top metros across the U.S.?
Wondering how the total number of real estate agents and their home sales vary across the country? Here’s a look at agent numbers within the U.S. metro areas that are home to the most agents:
|Metro area*||Number of agents*||Average income for local real estate agent *|
|Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL||9,940||$56,530|
|Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX||7,200||$60,650|
|Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA||6,960||$74,820|
|New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA||7,120||$86,650|
|Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX||7,290||$58,290|
|Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA||3,580||$58,930|
*Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2021
Why are there so many real estate agents in the U.S.?
The real estate agent’s job offers flexibility, independence, and high opportunities for growth. These are just a few reasons the career is so popular. At the same time, it’s easier to obtain a real estate license than with other occupations.
However, this easy entry into the career also means a high percentage of real estate agents decide to sell homes part-time and run other gigs on the side. Oftentimes, retirees will take a shot at real estate as a hobby or as an extra source of income. According to a Placester survey, fewer than half of real estate agents engage in the career on a full-time basis. Simply put, if a real estate agent is only selling a few houses a year, they’re probably a hobbyist or treating the job as a side-gig.
And if real estate agents aren’t laser focused on their real estate career, it could cut into your home sale. 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 a top agent.
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. And not every agent will hand you the same level of value or secure the same amount of money for your home sale.
People entering the real estate industry “have the impression that it’s easy money,” says Cortez. She says, instead, “it takes a lot of work. You have to learn either to be a buyer specialist or a seller specialist. It takes time and dedication, but most of all it takes effort.”
If you’re buying or selling a home, your agent’s skills and expertise can dramatically impact your sale. As a whole, high-performing real estate agents will secure significantly higher sales prices and faster sales for you than the average agent. For instance, a top real estate agent in San Antonio sells houses 1.5x faster and can bring in $13,528 more than the average agent. And that pattern is consistent across the country, with the top 5% of real estate agents landing as much as 10% more money on the average home sale than the typical agent, according to HomeLight data.
Once you have an idea of where to look for a top agent, there are a few ways to spot the best real estate agent for your home transaction:
Dig into agent stats
To track down an agent that will help you sell your house, it’s best to look at real estate agent performance indicators. Here are a few statistics that can help you pick a high-performing real estate agent:
- Number of home sales they’ve secured
- The list price vs. sales price of their recent transactions
- Days their sales listings stayed on the market
- Their professional ranking
- The average sales price of their transactions
Watch out for red flags
You can save yourself time, money, and frustration by ruling out any agents that set off red flags early on. Here are a few signs of a sub-par agent:
- They’re overly pushy
- They don’t know about or don’t have experience selling in your local area
- They aren’t excellent at marketing homes
- They’re only selling part-time or as a hobby
Examine the real estate agent’s online presence
Your agent’s online presence can tell you a lot about how well they will market your home. When you search for them online, look for quality photos, their listing style, social media posts, websites they pop up on, awards they’ve won, and other indicators that they know what they’re doing. These factors can give you a glimpse of their personality and show you if they’re prepared to showcase your home to the online world.
Find the best real estate agent in your area
With millions of active real estate agents in the US, 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 your life and you’ll need to make sure that the agent you hire is qualified to get the job done right. By taking the time to pick out a top selling agent now, you can bring in more money, save time, and lock in a stress-free home transaction in the future.
Header Image Source: (Aaditya Ailawadhi / Unsplash)