Most Expensive Places To Live In Iowa For 2020


We used science and data to determine which cities in Iowa that will put a big dent in your wallet.

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

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Everyone wants a home that mixes affordability with comfort and Iowa does this very well. Families love the Hawkeye State's beaches, midlands, and mountains as tourists before moving here and calling it home.

But before you decide to relocate, you have to do some research into the exact cost of living around the state -- and that's how we're going to help you.

These are the places in Iowa that cost a pretty penny -- the most expensive cities in the state.

After we saved up for months and could finally afford it, we landed on this list of the ten most expensive cities in Iowa for 2020.

So where is the most expensive place to live in Iowa? That would be Iowa City.
the 2014-2018 American Community Survey for the 78 places in Iowa with more than 5,000 people.

What's the most expensive place to live in Iowa? Well, HomeSnacks crunched the numbers and discovered that Iowa City is the most expensive place to live in Iowa.

So hopefully Denison (the cheapest place to live in Iowa) can show these guys how to live on a budget in the coming years. Read on for how these places had costs rise faster than inflation.

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

The 10 Most Expensive Places To Live In Iowa For 2020

Iowa City, IA

Overall SnackAbility

8
/10

Population: 74,566
Rank Last Year: 1 (No Change)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 4.3x (1st most expensive)
Income To Rent Ratio: 49.6x (1st most expensive)
More on Iowa City: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Iowa City is a city in Johnson County, Iowa, United States. It is the home of the University of Iowa and county seat of Johnson County, at the center of the Iowa City Metropolitan Statistical Area. The U.S. Census Bureau estimated the city's population at 74,398 in 2016, making it the state's fifth-largest city. Iowa City is the county seat of Johnson County. The metropolitan area, which encompasses Johnson and Washington counties, has a population of over 164,000.

The median income in Iowa City comes in at $47,275 and the median home value is $203,500 for 2020.

Ames, IA

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility

8.5
/10

Population: 65,937
Rank Last Year: 2 (No Change)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 4.3x (2nd most expensive)
Income To Rent Ratio: 51.0x (2nd most expensive)
More on Ames: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Ames is a city located in the central part of Story County, Iowa, United States. It is located approximately 30 miles north of Des Moines, and had a 2010 population of 58,965. The U.S. Census Bureau designates the Ames metropolitan statistical area as encompassing all of Story County; combined with the Boone, Iowa micropolitan statistical area, the pair make up the larger Ames-Boone combined statistical area. While Ames is the largest city in Story County, the county seat is in the nearby city of Nevada 8 miles east of Ames.

The median income in Ames comes in at $46,127 and the median home value is $196,400 for 2020.

Hiawatha, IA

Overall SnackAbility

8.5
/10

Population: 7,281
Rank Last Year: 4 (Up 1)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 3.4x (5th most expensive)
Income To Rent Ratio: 56.1x (4th most expensive)
More on Hiawatha: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Hiawatha is a city in Linn County, Iowa, United States. It is a suburb located north of Cedar Rapids and is part of the Cedar Rapids Metropolitan Statistical Area. The population was 7,024 in the 2010 census, an increase from 6,480 in 2000.

The median income in Hiawatha comes in at $44,188 and the median home value is $149,300 for 2020.

Coralville, IA

Overall SnackAbility

8.5
/10

Population: 20,645
Rank Last Year: 3 (Down 1)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 3.4x (4th most expensive)
Income To Rent Ratio: 73.3x (43rd most expensive)
More on Coralville: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Coralville is a city in Johnson County, Iowa, United States. It is a suburb of Iowa City and part of the Iowa City Metropolitan Statistical Area. The population was 18,907 at the 2010 census.

The median income in Coralville comes in at $65,387 and the median home value is $224,300 for 2020.

Grinnell, IA

Overall SnackAbility

8
/10

Population: 9,223
Rank Last Year: 6 (Up 1)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 3.2x (6th most expensive)
Income To Rent Ratio: 60.9x (11th most expensive)
More on Grinnell: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Grinnell is a city in Poweshiek County, Iowa, United States. The population was 9,218 at the 2010 census.

The median income in Grinnell comes in at $43,608 and the median home value is $137,400 for 2020.

Cedar Falls, IA

Overall SnackAbility

8.5
/10

Population: 41,202
Rank Last Year: 7 (Up 1)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 3.0x (9th most expensive)
Income To Rent Ratio: 71.2x (36th most expensive)
More on Cedar Falls: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Cedar Falls is a city in Black Hawk County, Iowa, United States. As of the 2010 census, the city population was 39,260 and has the smaller population of the two principal cities in the Waterloo-Cedar Falls metropolitan area. It is home to the University of Northern Iowa, a public university.

The median income in Cedar Falls comes in at $60,068 and the median home value is $181,900 for 2020.

Pella, IA

Overall SnackAbility

9
/10

Population: 10,273
Rank Last Year: 10 (Up 3)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 2.9x (11th most expensive)
Income To Rent Ratio: 71.3x (37th most expensive)
More on Pella: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Pella is a city in Marion County, Iowa, United States, with a population of 10,352 at the time of the 2010 U.S. Census. Founded by immigrants from the Netherlands, it is forty miles southeast of Des Moines. Pella is the home of Central College, as well as several manufacturing companies, including Pella Corporation and Vermeer Manufacturing Company.

The median income in Pella comes in at $64,770 and the median home value is $185,000 for 2020.

West Des Moines, IA

Overall SnackAbility

9
/10

Population: 64,400
Rank Last Year: 8 (No Change)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 2.8x (15th most expensive)
Income To Rent Ratio: 75.7x (48th most expensive)
More on West Des Moines: Real Estate | Data | Photos

West Des Moines is a city in Polk, Dallas, and Warren counties in the US state of Iowa. As of the 2010 census, the city population was 56,609. West Des Moines is the second-largest city in the Des Moines metropolitan area and the tenth-largest city in Iowa. It ranked 94th in Money magazine's list of the "100 Best Places to Live and Launch" in 2008, 77th and 57th on the 100 Best Places to Live in 2014 and 2015, respectively, and 18th on the Hipster Cities of 2015.

The median income in West Des Moines comes in at $74,787 and the median home value is $210,200 for 2020.

Fairfield, IA

Overall SnackAbility

6
/10

Population: 10,216
Rank Last Year: 9 (Down 1)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 2.8x (16th most expensive)
Income To Rent Ratio: 54.9x (3rd most expensive)
More on Fairfield: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Fairfield is a city in, and the county seat of, Jefferson County, Iowa, United States. It has a population totaling 9,464 people according to the 2010 census. It is a Midwestern city surrounded by rolling farmlands filled with corn, soybean, cattle, and hogs with a median family income of $46,138. The city became the county seat in 1839 with 110 residents and grew to 650 by 1847. Its library was established in 1853, and it held its first fair in 1854. Early architecture includes work by George Franklin Barber and Barry Byrne, who trained under Frank Lloyd Wright.

The median income in Fairfield comes in at $36,266 and the median home value is $101,900 for 2020.

Winterset, IA

Overall SnackAbility

8
/10

Population: 5,203
Rank Last Year: 5 (Down 5)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 2.8x (18th most expensive)
Income To Rent Ratio: 68.6x (28th most expensive)
More on Winterset: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Winterset is a city in Madison County, Iowa, United States. The population was 5,190 at the 2010 census. It is the county seat of Madison County. Winterset is part of the Des Moines West Des Moines Metropolitan Statistical Area. Winterset is the birthplace of actor John Wayne.

The median income in Winterset comes in at $52,636 and the median home value is $145,000 for 2020.

How We Determined The Most Expensive Places To Live In The Hawkeye State For 2020

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 2014-2018 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 most 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 78 places in Iowa that have more than 5,000 people.

The place with the highest cost of living in Iowa according to the data is Iowa City. You can download the data here.

Taking A Chunk Out Of Your Paycheck In Iowa For 2020

Well there you have it, the places in Iowa that have the highest cost of living, with Iowa City ranking as the most expensive city in the Hawkeye State.

Here's a look at the most affordable cities in Iowa according to the data:

  1. Denison
  2. Iowa Falls
  3. Clarinda

For more Iowa reading, check out:

Detailed List Of The Most Expensive Cities In Iowa

Rank City ExpensiveScore Population Home/Income Ratio Income/Rent Ratio
1 Iowa City 5.33 74,566 4.3x 49.6x
2 Ames 6.67 65,937 4.3x 51.0x
3 Hiawatha 12.67 7,281 3.4x 56.1x
4 Coralville 17.67 20,645 3.4x 73.3x
5 Grinnell 18.0 9,223 3.2x 60.9x
6 Cedar Falls 22.0 41,202 3.0x 71.2x
7 Pella 22.67 10,273 2.9x 71.3x
8 West Des Moines 24.0 64,400 2.8x 75.7x
9 Fairfield 25.67 10,216 2.8x 54.9x
10 Winterset 25.67 5,203 2.8x 68.6x
11 Eldridge 26.0 6,399 3.4x 92.9x
12 North Liberty 26.33 18,357 2.5x 71.5x
13 Dubuque 28.33 58,340 2.6x 67.8x
14 Waukee 30.0 19,344 2.5x 79.6x
15 Ankeny 30.33 59,152 2.6x 79.9x
16 Spencer 31.0 11,092 2.7x 70.0x
17 Davenport 31.33 102,318 2.5x 66.1x
18 Carroll 31.33 9,899 3.0x 78.8x
19 Anamosa 32.33 5,461 2.7x 65.2x
20 Indianola 32.67 15,653 2.7x 77.4x
21 Decorah 32.67 7,765 3.1x 90.8x
22 Johnston 32.67 20,767 2.5x 86.7x
23 Asbury 33.0 5,469 2.8x 117.2x
24 Sioux Center 33.33 7,499 2.8x 100.8x
25 Waterloo 33.33 68,134 2.5x 62.6x
26 Bettendorf 34.0 35,793 2.6x 87.2x
27 Des Moines 34.33 215,932 2.4x 63.6x
28 Clear Lake 35.0 7,644 2.8x 88.7x
29 Sheldon 35.67 5,132 2.9x 85.3x
30 Urbandale 36.33 42,881 2.5x 100.1x
31 Council Bluffs 37.0 62,478 2.3x 62.4x
32 Grimes 37.33 11,930 2.5x 89.7x
33 Atlantic 37.33 6,709 2.5x 65.7x
34 Clive 38.0 17,195 2.5x 113.8x
35 Independence 38.33 6,027 2.5x 71.5x
36 Bondurant 38.33 5,826 2.4x 83.4x
37 Pleasant Hill 38.67 9,736 2.4x 80.1x
38 Waverly 38.67 10,075 2.6x 91.4x
39 Storm Lake 39.33 10,672 2.5x 70.9x
40 Glenwood 40.33 5,276 2.5x 85.1x
41 Washington 40.33 7,345 2.2x 62.8x
42 Altoona 41.0 17,936 2.4x 84.1x
43 Algona 42.33 5,455 2.5x 78.4x
44 Le Mars 44.33 9,894 2.5x 95.3x
45 Clinton 44.33 25,637 2.2x 64.7x
46 Newton 44.33 15,167 2.2x 65.0x
47 Muscatine 44.33 23,864 2.1x 62.8x
48 Cedar Rapids 44.67 131,360 2.4x 78.8x
49 Mason City 45.0 27,309 2.2x 70.1x
50 Charles City 45.0 7,413 2.4x 67.7x
51 Fort Dodge 45.33 24,417 2.3x 63.6x
52 Sioux City 47.33 82,486 2.1x 70.9x
53 Vinton 47.67 5,124 2.5x 83.9x
54 Norwalk 47.67 10,568 2.3x 103.5x
55 Red Oak 48.0 5,434 2.1x 60.5x
56 Burlington 48.33 25,127 2.0x 58.1x
57 Perry 48.67 7,667 2.0x 58.0x
58 Orange City 49.67 6,115 2.3x 104.1x
59 Marion 50.0 38,699 2.3x 105.6x
60 Centerville 50.33 5,487 2.0x 57.8x
61 Nevada 51.33 6,798 2.3x 88.6x
62 Oskaloosa 52.0 11,505 2.2x 71.9x
63 Mount Pleasant 52.5 8,528 2.2x 75.6x
64 Ottumwa 52.67 24,676 1.8x 57.1x
65 Boone 53.0 12,529 2.1x 74.7x
66 Estherville 53.0 5,859 1.8x 60.2x
67 Oelwein 54.33 6,050 1.9x 61.1x
68 Creston 55.33 7,832 2.1x 70.5x
69 Keokuk 56.67 10,412 1.8x 61.3x
70 Knoxville 57.0 7,200 2.0x 72.3x
71 Fort Madison 57.33 10,614 1.9x 65.2x
72 Webster City 58.67 7,779 1.9x 74.4x
73 Maquoketa 59.67 6,026 2.0x 71.7x
74 Marshalltown 59.67 27,275 1.9x 74.9x
75 Manchester 62.17 5,037 2.1x 96.2x
76 Clarinda 63.0 5,398 1.9x 77.6x
77 Iowa Falls 67.0 5,124 1.8x 77.1x
78 Denison 68.0 8,358 1.7x 82.7x

How Is The Area 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.