There's another industry on the rise, and it's not tech | June 7, 2019 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Real Estate - June 7, 2019

There's another industry on the rise, and it's not tech

Palo Alto among top places to be a real estate agent

by Melissa McKenzie

Tech isn't the only lucrative sector in high demand along the Midpeninsula. There's another industry on the rise — and it doesn't require a college degree.

According to a new survey by WalletHub, the Bay Area is the hottest place to be a real estate agent.

The metro areas of San Francisco, San Jose and Oakland all ranked among the top five major U.S. markets with the highest demand for housing and the highest salaries for agents, according to the personal finance company's survey that compared more than 170 cities nationwide to determine the best markets for realtors.

In Palo Alto, conditions are even better: Luxury homes remain on the market for the fewest days out of any region in the nation. On average, high-end homes sell within 86 days compared to San Francisco (the second-most robust luxury market) where homes take about 103 days to sell on average, according to the U.S. Luxury Homes Index from New York-based real estate auction firm Concierge Auctions.

Salaries also are higher in Palo Alto: Agents earn an average salary of $96,253 per year, or about 14% more than the national average and 8% more than agents in neighboring San Jose and 2% more than those in San Francisco, according to the online job search engine Indeed. And based on the city's median home value of $2.8 million, agents who take even an ultra-competitive 4% commission rate can expect to receive approximately $56,000 per sale and twice that if they represent both the buyer and seller.

"Real estate is pretty much a booming industry hereabouts, as any realtor, investor, home owner, home shopper, taxicab driver or beautician can attest," said Marc Gottlieb, a longtime real estate instructor at the College of San Mateo, which offers certificate and associate degree programs in real estate and has been in operation for more than 50 years.

Gottlieb described enrollment in the college's real estate program as very robust and rapid.

"It is regrettably quite commonplace for a good number of folks to be unable to squeeze into these very popular classes," he said.

Enrollment for the summer session, which starts on June 10, already had 80 signups within the first two weeks of registration in May, he said.

The area's high home prices can provide agents with incomes comparable to tech workers, which probably explains the current uptick in public interest in obtaining a real estate license, he added.

Even with the recent acquisition and consolidation of some top-selling Bay Area brokerage firms in recent months, which has created mega-brokerage firms with as many as 3,000 agents, demand for sales agents hasn't decreased, Gottlieb said.

"It only means there are a few more larger-sized brokerage firms," he said. "Some firms (are) offering — and even advertising — to train new sales agents just to get them in the door."

A quick search on the job-search website Glassdoor returned 139 job listings for real estate agents in the greater Palo Alto area last week. These included postings for entry level to senior positions at many major agencies in the area. In comparison, San Francisco had 107 listings.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics attributed the demand for more real estate agents and brokers to the strong job market, as well as a growing number of millenials entering the housing market, according to its Occupational Outlook Handbook that projects employment in the real estate industry to increase by 6% between 2016 and 2026.

"The millennial generation will be entering the prime working-age and household-forming age cohort over the next decade. This generation has delayed home ownership because of financial and personal considerations. Therefore, their entry into the housing market should increase demand for real estate agents and brokers," the report states.

Gottlieb said he doesn't see any shortage of opportunities for a new agent in the local market.

"Most clients still want and expect personal service with a local agent," he said.

Associate Editor Linda Taaffe contributed to this article. She can be emailed at


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