10 Cheapest Places To Live In Iowa For 2019


We used data and science to determine which places in Iowa go easy on your wallet.

Editor’s Note: We updated this article for 2019. This is our fourth time ranking the cheapest places to live in Iowa.

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If the good people of Iowa could pay for everything in corn, they would be super rich and life would be super affordable. But since they can’t, HomeSnacks calculated the most affordable places to live in Iowa for 2019.

How did we determine the most affordable places to live in Iowa? We consulted the latest Census data on cost of living.

Most Iowans have never really experienced unemployment. The crossroads of the Midwest has managed to stay ahead of the national unemployment rate holding strong at 2.4%. And this is because we can thank Iowa for anything corn and soybeans. But did you know that Iowa is home to Pella windows and Winnebago? Coincidentally we can thank Iowa’s education institutions like the University of Iowa for producing smart, hard-working individuals who want to make Iowa available and affordable for all.

It’s simple economics, folks. Good jobs increase median incomes which translates to most people being able to live in our top most affordable Iowa places. Have we peaked your interest? If you want to know where the most affordable places in Iowa are located, keep reading.

Ask any Iowan, they will say, hands down, that their corner of the world is the best. Heck, there’s a reason The Hawkeye State is the 30th most populous in the country.

Yes, we think it has a little something to do with the great people and strong jobs in agriculture; however, to the economically savvy, to truly be the best, the state must have the nicest, most affordable places to call home.

What’s the most affordable place to live in Iowa? That would be Iowa Falls according to the most recent Census data on incomes, rent, and home prices..

So, if you care about home values and cost of living, take a look at the list below to see where your Iowa dollar will go the furthest.

And if you already knew these places were cheap, check out some more reading about Iowa and the cheapest places in the country:

The 10 Cheapest Places To Live In Iowa For 2019

Iowa Falls, IA

Overall SnackAbility

8.5
/10

Population: 5,132
Rank Last Year: 2 (Up 1)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 1.8x (3rd most affordable)
Income To Rent Ratio: 82.8x (22nd cheapest)
More On Iowa Falls: Homes For Sale | Data | Photos

Iowa Falls is a city in Hardin County, Iowa, United States. Iowa Falls is the home of Ellsworth Community College. It is also a regional transportation center, located along U.S. Routes 20 and 65 and the Canadian National and Union Pacific Railroads. The population was 5,238 at the 2010 census. A landmark in the city is its movie theater. Built as the Metropolitan Opera House in 1899, it presented plays, operas, and vaudeville in the town during the first half of the twentieth century, and today is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The median income in Iowa Falls comes in at $50,000 and the median home value is $88,300 for 2019.

Cherokee, IA

Overall SnackAbility

6
/10

Population: 5,018
Rank Last Year: 6 (Up 4)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 1.9x (6th most affordable)
Income To Rent Ratio: 82.5x (24th cheapest)
More On Cherokee: Homes For Sale | Data

Cherokee is a city in Cherokee County, Iowa, United States. The population was 5,253 at the 2010 Census, down from 5,369 at the 2000 census. It is the county seat of Cherokee County.

The median income in Cherokee comes in at $45,103 and the median home value is $83,500 for 2019.

Maquoketa, IA

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility

6
/10

Population: 5,954
Rank Last Year: 14 (Up 11)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 1.9x (8th most affordable)
Income To Rent Ratio: 76.7x (32nd cheapest)
More On Maquoketa: Homes For Sale | Data | Photos

Maquoketa is a city in Jackson county in the U.S. state of Iowa. Located on the Maquoketa River, it is the county seat of Jackson County.

The median income in Maquoketa comes in at $46,173 and the median home value is $87,500 for 2019.

Review Of Maquoketa by HomeSnacks User

Maquoketa: Most boring, #14 on crime, #7 in unemployment, and poorest in State of Iowa. This based on only the small cities. It is more economical for me to live there, that is why I moved to Maquoketa. I am helping their economy by buying locally my groceries, household goods, etc. and hiring locals to fix up my place and maintain my lawn. Maquoketa population is a little over 6k. However, it now has a fine arts center and one of the best fairs in the State.

They never mentioned how friendly the people are and I have gotten to know quite a few. They have a newer Walmart, Fareway, True Value, Kwik Star, and Comfort Inn. If the poorest people in the State, then how can they think they could support all these establishments- Maquoketa Caves is also one of the most popular parks in the State!

Manchester, IA

Overall SnackAbility

5
/10

Population: 5,047
Rank Last Year: 5 (Up 1)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 2.1x (15th most affordable)
Income To Rent Ratio: 97.4x (9th cheapest)
More On Manchester: Homes For Sale | Data

Manchester is a city in Delaware County, Iowa, United States. The population was 5,179 at the 2010 census. It is the county seat of Delaware County. Manchester is located at the intersection of U.S. Highway 20 and State Highway 13, and is the largest community in Delaware County.

The median income in Manchester comes in at $52,089 and the median home value is $107,900 for 2019.

Clarinda, IA

Overall SnackAbility

6
/10

Population: 5,377
Rank Last Year: 1 (Down 4)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 1.9x (10th most affordable)
Income To Rent Ratio: 75.3x (37th cheapest)
More On Clarinda: Homes For Sale | Data | Photos

Clarinda is a city in and the county seat of Page County, Iowa, United States. It is located in Nodaway Township. The population was 5,572 in the 2010 census, a decline from the 5,690 population in the 2000 census.

The median income in Clarinda comes in at $41,566 and the median home value is $80,700 for 2019.

Oelwein, IA

Overall SnackAbility

7
/10

Population: 6,093
Rank Last Year: 9 (Up 3)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 1.6x (1st most affordable)
Income To Rent Ratio: 65.1x (58th cheapest)
More On Oelwein: Homes For Sale | Data

Oelwein is a city in Fayette County, Iowa, United States. The population was 6,415 at the 2010 census, a decrease of 4.1% from the 2000 census. The largest community in Fayette County, it is located at the junction of State Highways 3 and 150.

The median income in Oelwein comes in at $42,074 and the median home value is $67,900 for 2019.

Fort Madison, IA

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility

6
/10

Population: 10,634
Rank Last Year: 8 (Up 2)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 1.8x (5th most affordable)
Income To Rent Ratio: 69.3x (50th cheapest)
More On Fort Madison: Homes For Sale | Data | Photos

Fort Madison is a city and a county seat of Lee County, Iowa, United States along with Keokuk. Of Iowa’s 99 counties, Lee County is the only one with two county seats. The population was 11,051 at the 2010 census. Located along the Mississippi River in the state’s southeast corner, it lies between small bluffs along one of the widest portions of the river.

The median income in Fort Madison comes in at $43,631 and the median home value is $80,400 for 2019.

Denison, IA

Overall SnackAbility

6
/10

Population: 8,361
Rank Last Year: 6 (Down 2)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 2.0x (11th most affordable)
Income To Rent Ratio: 80.4x (26th cheapest)
More On Denison: Homes For Sale | Data | Photos

Denison is a city in Crawford County, Iowa, United States, along the Boyer River. The population was 8,298 at the 2010 census. It is the county seat of Crawford County.

The median income in Denison comes in at $51,122 and the median home value is $100,200 for 2019.

Review Of Denison by HomeSnacks User

Being a graduate from Denison Iowa #3 which said the Graduation Rate was 62% but your information is false.

Keokuk, IA

Overall SnackAbility

4
/10

Population: 10,484
Rank Last Year: 12 (Up 3)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 1.7x (2nd most affordable)
Income To Rent Ratio: 63.3x (60th cheapest)
More On Keokuk: Homes For Sale | Data | Photos

Keokuk is a city and a county seat of Lee County, Iowa, United States, along with Fort Madison. It is also the most southerly city in Iowa. The population was 10,780 at the 2010 census. The city is named after the Sauk chief Keokuk, who is thought to be buried in Rand Park. It is located in the extreme southeast corner of Iowa where the Des Moines River meets with the Mississippi. It is located at the junction of U.S. Routes 61, 136 and 218. Just across the rivers are the towns of Hamilton and Warsaw, Illinois, and Alexandria, Missouri.

The median income in Keokuk comes in at $38,750 and the median home value is $67,400 for 2019.

Creston, IA

Overall SnackAbility

8
/10

Population: 7,860
Rank Last Year: 4 (Down 6)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 2.0x (14th most affordable)
Income To Rent Ratio: 71.9x (45th cheapest)
More On Creston: Homes For Sale | Data | Photos

Creston is a city in and the county seat of Union County, Iowa, United States. The population was 7,834 at the 2010 census.

The median income in Creston comes in at $42,198 and the median home value is $85,100 for 2019.

How We Determined The Most Affordable Places To Live In The Hawkeye State For 2019

Map Of The Cheapest Places To Live In Iowa
The two most important things to think about when it comes to being able to afford if you can live comes down to:

  1. How much do money do I make?
  2. How much do I have spend to live there?

You need to understand your costs in the context of how much money you make.

For example, if the median household earns $100,000 and spends $40,000 on housing it’s actually cheaper to live there than a place with a median income of $50,000 and housing costs of $21,000. You might spend more on housing, but you have more money overall to play with.

With that example in mind, we derived several statistics from the latest Census American Community Survey 2013-2017 around incomes and costs. They are:

  • Median Home Price / Median Income (lower is better)
  • Median Income / Median Rent (Higher is better)
  • Median Home Price

We added simply median home price because high home prices generally correlate with higher expenses for all costs related to homes (heating, electricity, etc).

You can then compare these metrics in each of the places in Iowa to figure out which is the least expensive.

What you are left with is a “Cost of Living Index” by taking the average rank of each of these metrics for each city.

So we used that cost of living index in order to rank all of the 79 places in Iowa that have more than 5,000 people.

The place with the lowest cost of living in Iowa according to the data is Iowa Falls.

There You Have It Mr. Or Mrs. Iowa Cheapskate

If you’re looking at the cost of living numbers in Iowa, this is an accurate list of the most affordable places to live in iowa for 2019.

Here’s a look at the most expensive cities in Iowa according to the data:

  1. Iowa City
  2. Ames
  3. Coralville

For more Iowa reading, check out:

Where Are The Most Affordable Places To Live In Iowa?

Rank City CheapScore Population Home/Income Ratio Income/Rent Ratio
1 Iowa Falls 12.33 5,132 1.8x 82.8x
2 Cherokee 13.0 5,018 1.9x 82.5x
3 Maquoketa 17.0 5,954 1.9x 76.7x
4 Manchester 17.33 5,047 2.1x 97.4x
5 Clarinda 18.0 5,377 1.9x 75.3x
6 Oelwein 20.33 6,093 1.6x 65.1x
7 Fort Madison 20.33 10,634 1.8x 69.3x
8 Denison 20.67 8,361 2.0x 80.4x
9 Keokuk 21.0 10,484 1.7x 63.3x
10 Creston 23.0 7,860 2.0x 71.9x

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.