(No, seriously. There are eight times more than anywhere else in Massachusetts.)
There are a lot of real estate offices in Boston – a short walk down Newbury Street or Commonwealth Avenue takes you past dozens of real estate brokerages. And because each real estate brokerage needs to hire real estate agents, licensed agents are in demand. The demand for agents in Boston is so high that some days it feels like every third person you meet has their real estate license, is getting their license, or plans to get their license sometime soon. (Spoiler alert: the real number is nowhere close to that.)
That got me thinking: does Boston really have that many more brokerages and agents than other towns, or does it just feel that way because real estate brokerages tend to cluster in certain high traffic areas of the city?
It turns out that data about real estate agents in Massachusetts isn't hard to come by: the Board of Real Estate makes its database of Massachusetts real estate licensees publically available. That database includes both individual licensees and corporate licensees (AKA real estate brokerages), along with every agent's home address. That puts me an Excel spreadsheet and a few Python scripts away from the answer to my question.
So I got a hold of the Massachusetts licensee database and did some analysis. The data showed three suprising facts:
It turns out that it doesn't just feel like there are a lot of brokerages in Boston; there are a lot of real estate brokerages in Boston. In fact, Boston has 480 licensed real estate brokerages – 800% more than the next city (Cambridge, which happens to be right next door).
That's so many brokerages that the City of Boston has an average of 10 brokerages for every square mile of land.
Keep in mind that Boston isn’t even the largest city in Massachusetts by land mass. It's #2 in the State after Barnstable, and other cities like Taunton and Westfield have nearly the same land area as Boston, but none of them rank in the top 10 (or even the top 20) for total number of real estate brokerages. Compared to any other town or city in Massachusetts, Boston is absolutely packed with real estate brokerages.
Plus, look at the towns on that top 10 list. We might as well re-label it, "Cities in the Greater Boston Area." The T or the commuter rail visits every town and city on this list, many of which also have a high number of real estate brokerages per square mile. So even when you leave Boston proper, you're still surrounded by real estate brokerages. Cambridge, for instance, has 9.38 brokerages per square mile, and it's right across the Charles River from Boston.
This helps explain why it feels like there are so many real estate agents in Boston: there are far more brokerages stuffed into the city of Boston than other comparably sized cities, which means lots of job opportunities for licensed agents. That kind of hiring climate makes getting your real estate license a no-brainer if you're interested in real estate.
The data also shows that real estate brokerages in Boston tend to cluster in certain areas (most notably Newbury Street in the Back Bay, and Commonwealth Avenue in Allston/Brighton). This means that, for some parts of the city, the number of brokerages per square mile is actually much higher than the average. The map below shows the location of each licensed brokerage in Boston, illustrating this distribution:
Seriously, it's not even close. Boston's high density of real estate offices means lots of opportunities for agents, so it not surprising that Boston is home to 5,628 individual real estate agents. The next closest city (Quincy) is home to only 934. In fact, if we rank each town and city in Massachusetts by how many real estate agents call it home, we end up with the following top 10:
Boston absolutely dominates this list! Its real estate agent population is more than 600% larger than the next largest agent population. That said, there's something surprising about Boston's agent population compared to other towns and cities (keep reading below to find out what).
The fact that Boston is home to Massachusetts' largest population of real estate agents might not be that surprising: after all, Boston has a population that's nearly six times larger than the next most populous city in the state (Worcester), and Boston has far more real estate brokerages than other comparably sized cities. So what happens if we control for population and look at the number of real estate agents per capita for each municipality in Massachusetts, rather than the raw number of agents?
Remarkably, we discover that Boston doesn't rank anywhere in the top 10 list for agents per capita.
The distinction for the most real estate agents per capita goes to the Town of Chilmark on Martha's Vineyard, where a whopping 1 out of 24 people has a real estate license. The Town of Nantucket comes in a close second, with 1 out of 30 residents holding a real estate license.
Boston, by comparison, doesn't come near these numbers: only 1 out of every 119 people in Boston has a real estate license. While there may be a lot of real estate agents in the city, there actually aren’t nearly as many as you'd expect based on how much larger Boston's population is compared to other cities in the state. This is doubly true when you account for the number of brokerages in Boston.
Boston's agents per capita statistic is probably why a career change to real estate is so common among city professionals looking to escape the 9 to 5 grind: the per capita supply of real estate agents in Boston isn't large enough to satiate the hiring appetite of local real estate brokerages, so real estate jobs are easy to come by. Not a bad problem to have if you're an agent (though competition for new hires presents a real challenge if you own a brokerage!).
Here are the 10 towns in Massachusetts that have the most real estate agents per 100 residents:
Interestingly, 50% of these towns are located in resort or vacation areas (Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket, or Cape Cod). Keep in mind that this list reflects where the agents live – these aren't necessarily the towns where they work. This means that real estate is a popular career choice among the residents of resort communities, which makes sense: a desk job isn't very appealing when you live by the beach.
Oh, and in case you've been wondering where real estate agents live besides beach towns, here's every agent in Massachusetts mapped out, based on the home addresses they reported to the Board of Real Estate:
(Note that, unlike the Brokerage map, I've made this map a static image to avoid inadvertently doxxing every single real estate agent in the State.)
That wraps up our tour of Massachusetts real estate agent statistics. The next time you're on Newbury Street and you feel like you're surrounded by real estate brokerages, know that it's not just you: there really are a ton of real estate brokerages in Boston!