Sales & Real Estate Workers, Plagued with Low Wages, Should Move to These Cities

In our mission to help every renter find a great place to live, we spent much of last year examining different occupations — where the most jobs in a given career are, and how affordable housing is on their wages. We examined eight of the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ occupation categories, including tech, health care, construction, and finance. This month’s report marks the last in our Cost & Opportunity series, this time delving into sales and real estate jobs.

As the renter population continues to decline, jobs in real estate are becoming extremely popular and financially rewarding. And with an influx in new programs for home buyers, realtors are able to use non-traditional financing methods to close even more details. For example, some are using the contract for deed method and others are using the Lenders Network. Long story short, the real estate industry is full of opportunity and innovation.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this category includes salespeople in just about every industry: real estate, retail, manufacturing, insurance, finance, and news and street vendors, including real estate brokers, models, promoters, and product demonstrators.

Looking only at job concentration, Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach-Deerfield Beach, FL, leads the country. Out of every 1,000 jobs in that metropolitan district, 142.4 are in sales and real estate. Three more Florida areas are in the top 10 for job concentration: Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford (#2) has 134.8 jobs per 1,000, Miami-Miami Beach-Kendall (#3) has 132.2, and Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater (#7) has 121.4. Wilmington, NC (122.1); Birmingham-Hoover, AL (122); and El Paso, TX (121.8) are also relatively rife with sales and real estate opportunities.

If we bring median wages to the forefront, sales and real estate workers earn the most in California. According to our friends at Gerry Goodman Real Estate Services, San Francisco-Redwood City-South San Francisco, CA; San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA; and Boulder, CO. However, in none of the 95 MSAs we examined do median annual wages exceed $40,000. In fact, the above three are the only MSAs with a median wage above $35,000. So where are these workers most able to afford housing?

Sales and Real Estate: Best Cities for Job Density, Earnings, and Rent

Sales and real estate workers in Wichita, KS, and Detroit-Dearborn-Livonia, MI, earn 4.2 times more than what they’re paying for one-bedroom rent, while those in Springfield, MO, and Green Bay, WI, earn about 4 times more than their rent payments. Other Midwestern cities, like Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, WI (3.1); Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI (1.9); and Madison, WI (2.2) land in the broad middle range.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development recommends that renters shouldn’t put more than 30% of their income toward housing costs. But for 80% of the cities we examined, based on local median rent and earnings, sales and real estate workers must spend well beyond that. In New York-Jersey City-White Plains, NY-NJ, and Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV, workers are earning just 94% and 97% of what median rents cost. Sales and real estate workers in San Francisco-Redwood City-South San Francisco, CA, are just breaking even, and those in Oakland-Hayward-Berkeley, CA; Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA; and Miami-Miami Beach-Kendall, FL, aren’t much further ahead.

The highest income to rent ratio gets for this category is 4.2. When you compare that with construction and extraction (8.5); PR, media, and entertainment (7.4); tech (12.2); legal (12.3); or even education (7.8), it’s clear that an income problem plagues sales workers, many of whom earn minimum wage.

For the best chances of both finding work and affording housing, sales and real estate workers find an apartment in Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach-Deerfield, FL; Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL; or Lubbock, TX. Those cities earned final scores (combining job density and income-to-rent ratio on a scale of 1 to 10) of 8, 7.4, and 6.8, respectively. By the same right, salespeople and real estate agents and brokers should avoid Ann Arbor, MI, and Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV, both of which scored less than 1. Durham-Chapel Hill, NC, with a score of 1.01, might also prove a shaky choice.

For press inquiries, contact contact Sam Radbil.


We used 2016 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics on employment per 1,000 jobs and median annual wages for all sales and real estate occupations by metropolitan statistical area. Wage data is for all part-time and full-time workers who are paid a wage or salary. Annual median wage is calculated by multiplying the hourly median wage by 2,080 hours.

We paired this income data with Rentable data on median one-bedroom rent prices. To calculate the income-to-rent ratio for each MSA, we divided the median annual wages by 12 to get a median monthly wage, then divided the result by the current median 1-bedroom rent price for the area. We then scaled both the employment per 1,000 jobs and the income-to-rent ratio to give each a relative value between 0 and 10. The final score is a weighted sum of the scaled values, with employment per 1,000 jobs carrying a 75% weight and income-to-rent ratio 25%.