Best Places To Live In Iowa For 2020

We analyzed over 80 places in Iowa to determine the cream of the crop.

Editor’s Note: We updated this article for 2020. This is our sixth time ranking the best places to live in Iowa.

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When the good people of Iowa aren't rooting for their Huskies or gnawing on a fresh ear of sweet corn at the West Point Sweet Corn festival, they can be found maintaining some of the best places to live in the country.

While the whole place is downright lovely, some spots in the Hawkeye State deserve special attention for standing out as truly extraordinary. This is why HomeSnacks created a list of the top ten best places to live in Iowa for 2020.

Iowa has quite the mix of great places to call home. Cool college towns like Sioux Center, yuppie cities like West Des Moines, and quaint farm towns like Carroll are not only some of Iowa's best places to live, they're also some of the best places to raise a family.

We can also thank some of Iowa's best places for giving the rest of the country businesses like Casey's General Store, Winnebago, and Pella windows. Business is great in Iowa and the economy is strong: we're talking 2.4% unemployment strong. Iowa is also currently one of the least dangerous states. We're not at all surprised. Iowans are so busy making their corner of the country great, they don't have time to be naughty.

So where are these amazing places in Iowa where homes are affordable, jobs are secure, and neighborhoods are safe?

Grab a Maid Rite, some ice cold lemonade, and read on.

Picture rolling hills, cornfields for miles, and good, wholesome Iowans, and you will know what it's like to live in Iowa's number on place.

Where is the best place to live in Iowa for 2020? According to the most recent FBI and Census data, that would be Clive.

To see Iowa's other best of the best places to live, take a look below. And if you don't find your favorite there, head to the bottom.

If you're looking for something more national, check out the best states in America or the best places to live in America.

For more Iowa reading, check out:

The 10 Best Places To Live In Iowa For 2020

Clive, IA

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility


Population: 17,195
Rank Last Year: 1 (No Change)
Median Home Value: $252,500 (1st best)
Unemployment Rate: 2.7% (20th best)
More on Clive: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Who doesn't want to live in Clive? Because, according to the data, most everyone should want to.

Crime is lower than the state average, and the unemployment rate sits at only 2.7%. The school systems are generally well funded, meaning lots of personal attention for area kids.

Expect to see more of Clive in the news in the coming months.

Urbandale, IA

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility


Population: 42,881
Rank Last Year: 7 (Up 5)
Median Home Value: $226,700 (5th best)
Unemployment Rate: 3.0% (29th best)
More on Urbandale: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Urbandale has a strong showing in our best places to live in Iowa analysis, coming it at 2nd best.

It ranks highly like many others in the top ten for a low unemployment rate and high adjusted median income. It scored extra points relative to the top ten for its size and things to do.

If you're thinking of moving to Iowa, Urbandale is a great option.

Waukee, IA

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 19,344
Rank Last Year: 2 (Down 1)
Median Home Value: $221,500 (7th best)
Unemployment Rate: 0.7% (5th best)
More on Waukee: Real Estate | Data | Photos

The Waukee has the 5th lowest unemployment rate in Iowa. The population growth here has been 8% over the last 15 years, meaning a lot of people want to live here. If they can afford it; the cost of living in Waukee is higher than the national average and households make $87,433 per year.

We'd move to Waukee if we could in a heart beat.

Asbury, IA

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 5,469
Rank Last Year: 4 (No Change)
Median Home Value: $252,200 (2nd best)
Unemployment Rate: 1.7% (10th best)
More on Asbury: Real Estate | Data | Photos

If you want to live in Iowa, you can't go wrong if you decide to make the Asbury area your home. However, everyone and their mother wants to live here.

Can you blame them? It's a beautiful place with really low crime, where a majority of residents are wealthy (a $91,080 median income will do that).

Plus, the residents are really involved with helping to make Asbury as great as possible. You can't get it much better than in Asbury.

Decorah, IA

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 7,765
Rank Last Year: 9 (Up 4)
Median Home Value: $178,700 (21st best)
Unemployment Rate: 2.3% (17th best)
More on Decorah: Real Estate | Data | Photos

The Town of Decorah might be a bit of a surprise to some in terms of how well it ranks according to science.

The crime rate in Decorah isn't amazing, but it's far below the state average. The homes are valued at $178,700 here, and the schools get some of the most funding in Iowa.

If Decorah can get some more of their residents to work, things will look even rosier here. The unemployment rate (2.3%) is the 17th highest in the state.

Johnston, IA

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 20,767
Rank Last Year: 6 (No Change)
Median Home Value: $249,200 (3rd best)
Unemployment Rate: 2.7% (21st best)
More on Johnston: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Johnston ranks 6th on our list of best places to live in Iowa thanks to its low unemployment and high adjusted median income.

Additionally, its crime rate ranks in the lowest 10% of all places in Iowa that we examined.

People have been flocking to Johnston over the past years. Goes to show that everyone wants in on this great community.

Sioux Center, IA

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 7,499
Rank Last Year: 8 (Up 1)
Median Home Value: $208,000 (11th best)
Unemployment Rate: 0.5% (3rd best)
More on Sioux Center: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Sioux Center is another great city in Iowa with a low unemployment rate and where residents earn high salaries.

Said one reviewer on " We feel incredibly safe in Sioux Center. The houses and neighborhoods are beautiful, the people are friendly, and it's wonderful to have such good neighbors. People watch out for each other here, they teach their children to be respectful of others and things."

Enough said.

Bettendorf, IA

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility


Population: 35,793
Rank Last Year: 5 (Down 3)
Median Home Value: $204,700 (13th best)
Unemployment Rate: 3.5% (35th best)
More on Bettendorf: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Bettendorf ranks as the 8th best place in Iowa for 2020. Let's take a look at why.

Bettendorf has a lower crime rate than the cities mentioned above. Bettendorf's cost of living is a tick higher, but families also earn much higher salaries - to the tune of $78,676 a year.

The knock? We can't really find one 🙂

Carroll, IA

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 9,899
Rank Last Year: 12 (Up 3)
Median Home Value: $144,800 (30th best)
Unemployment Rate: 2.0% (13th best)
More on Carroll: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Carroll comes in 9th in our best places to live in Iowa analysis.

Ranking highly for its exceptionally low unemployment rate (13th overall) and crime rate (19th overall), Carroll is the exact kind of place you'd want to live with a family.

Several large companies call the surrounding area home which should keep Carroll in our lists for years to come.

North Liberty, IA

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 18,357
Rank Last Year: 3 (Down 7)
Median Home Value: $207,600 (12th best)
Unemployment Rate: 1.1% (6th best)
More on North Liberty: Real Estate | Data | Photos

North Liberty is known for having a great education system and has the 73rd shortest commute time.

Additionally, the unemployment rate in North Liberty is the 6th lowest in Iowa and the median income is the 9th highest in the state.

Review Of North Liberty by HomeSnacks User

This city is a part of the Iowa City community. It has a wide spectrum of economics, which makes it a great place to learn about people, and gives plenty of opportunity to help others or be helped. It is a "bedroom" community with a rapidly growing population. The schools are bursting and a new elementary school is being built. A high school was just opened in 2017.

North Liberty is convenient. Biking is an option because of a great trail, and also because two grocery stores, banks, rec center, gym, post office, car repair.... are in such close proximity to much of the city.

Mapping The Best And Worst Places To Live in Iowa

The Pressing Question: Size

Before we even started to collect data, we had to answer a tough question: Is it fair to pit Des Moines with a population of 215,932 against places with a population of 18?

We firmly decided no, that just isn't fair.

So to create our ranking, we broke places to live into three tiers:

  • Cities -- Populations over 5,000
  • Towns -- Populations between 1,000 and 5,000
  • Small Towns -- Populations below 1,000

This left us with 74 cities, 213 towns, and 645 small towns.

We then decided, no matter how much anyone loves their town, the best places have more of everything and therefore you need to have over 5,000 people to truly be 'the best'.

Now we also realize that city living might not be your cup of tea, so we ran the following analysis on towns and then again for small towns.

You can see those two top tens at the bottom of the post.

How We Calculated The Best Cities To Live In Iowa

Now that we had our set of cities, it was time to rank them.

We ranked each place in Iowa across a number of criteria from one to 74, with one being the best.

We then took the average rank across all criteria, with the city posting the lowest overall score being crowned the winner of the title "Best Place To Live In Iowa".

The criteria we looked at were:

  • Median Home Values
  • Median Income
  • Population Density (Higher better)
  • Unemployment Rate
  • Commute Time
  • Crime
  • Education Levels
  • Health Insurance Coverage
  • Poverty rates

Sources of criteria include the New Census Data and FBI Crime Data. You can download the data here.

After the dust settled, what was the best place to live in Iowa? That would be Clive.

If your city or town isn't among the top 10, jump down to the bottom of the post to see a detailed chart of the best places in Iowa.

Otherwise, buckle up for a ride down good living lane with Clive at the end of the cul-de-sac.

Wrapping Up The Best Places When It Comes To Living In Iowa

If you're looking at areas in Iowa with the best economic situations, where there's lower than average crime, and a lot to do, this is an accurate list.

Clive made a strong showing to take in the overall number one spot for the best place to live in Iowa for 2020.

Best Towns To Live In Iowa

  1. Fairfax (Pop. 2,418)
  2. Walford (Pop. 1,428)
  3. Mount Vernon (Pop. 4,487)
  4. Robins (Pop. 3,434)
  5. Farley (Pop. 1,688)
  6. Atkins (Pop. 1,713)
  7. Dike (Pop. 1,309)
  8. Roland (Pop. 1,312)
  9. Ely (Pop. 2,133)
  10. Gilbert (Pop. 1,183)

Best Small Towns To Live In Iowa

  1. Westwood (Pop. 96)
  2. Halbur (Pop. 243)
  3. Lawton (Pop. 900)
  4. Swisher (Pop. 846)
  5. North Washington (Pop. 161)
  6. Long Grove (Pop. 952)
  7. Underwood (Pop. 808)
  8. Orleans (Pop. 459)
  9. Oakland Acres (Pop. 116)
  10. Lambs Grove (Pop. 200)

If you're curious enough, here are the worst places to live in Iowa according to the data:

  1. Ottumwa (Pop. 24,676)
  2. Keokuk (Pop. 10,412)
  3. Centerville (Pop. 5,487)

For more Iowa reading, check out:

Where Are The Best Places To Live In Iowa?

Rank City Population Unemployment Rate Home Value
1 Clive 17,195 272.7% $252,500
2 Urbandale 42,881 301.8% $226,700
3 Waukee 19,344 68.3% $221,500
4 Asbury 5,469 174.8% $252,200
5 Decorah 7,765 227.8% $178,700
6 Johnston 20,767 274.0% $249,200
7 Sioux Center 7,499 54.7% $208,000
8 Bettendorf 35,793 345.4% $204,700
9 Carroll 9,899 196.5% $144,800
10 North Liberty 18,357 109.5% $207,600

How Is Your Town In ?

About Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar has been in the real estate business for almost ten years now. He originally worked for Movoto Real Estate as the director of marketing before founding HomeSnacks.

He believes the key to finding the right place to live comes down to looking at the data, reading about things to do, and, most importantly, checking it out yourself before you move.

If you've been looking for a place to live in the past several years, you've probably stumbled upon his writing already.

You can find out more about him on LinkedIn or his website.

One thought on “Best Places To Live In Iowa, 2020

  1. There are only two places in Iowa worthwhile – Iowa City and the Airport. This is an Iowa City joke, of course.

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