Most Expensive Places To Live In Wisconsin For 2020


We used science and data to determine which cities in Wisconsin 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 Wisconsin.

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Everyone wants a home that mixes affordability with comfort and Wisconsin does this very well. Families love the Badger 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 Wisconsin 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 Wisconsin for 2020.

So where is the most expensive place to live in Wisconsin? That would be Madison.
the 2014-2018 American Community Survey for the 141 places in Wisconsin with more than 5,000 people.

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

So hopefully Merrill (the cheapest place to live in Wisconsin) 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 Wisconsin and the most expensive cities in the country:

The 10 Most Expensive Places To Live In Wisconsin For 2020

Madison, WI

Overall SnackAbility

8.5
/10

Population: 252,086
Rank Last Year: 1 (No Change)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 3.7x (7th most expensive)
Income To Rent Ratio: 58.9x (19th most expensive)
More on Madison: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Madison is the capital of the U.S. state of Wisconsin and the seat of Dane County. As of July 1, 2016, Madison's estimated population of 252,551 made it the second-largest city in Wisconsin, after Milwaukee, and the 82nd-largest in the United States. The city forms the core of the United States Census Bureau's Madison Metropolitan Statistical Area, which includes Dane County and neighboring Iowa, Green, and Columbia counties. The Madison Metropolitan Statistical Area's 2010 population was 568,593.

The median income in Madison comes in at $62,906 and the median home value is $234,100 for 2020.

Lake Geneva, WI

Overall SnackAbility

8
/10

Population: 7,815
Rank Last Year: 2 (No Change)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 3.6x (8th most expensive)
Income To Rent Ratio: 53.5x (5th most expensive)
More on Lake Geneva: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Lake Geneva is a city in Walworth County, Wisconsin, USA. The population was 7,651 at the 2010 census. A resort city located on Geneva Lake, it is popular with vacationers from Chicago and Milwaukee areas.

The median income in Lake Geneva comes in at $49,580 and the median home value is $180,900 for 2020.

Whitewater, WI

Overall SnackAbility

6
/10

Population: 14,766
Rank Last Year: 3 (No Change)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 4.8x (1st most expensive)
Income To Rent Ratio: 47.9x (2nd most expensive)
More on Whitewater: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Whitewater is a city in Walworth and Jefferson counties in the U.S. state of Wisconsin. Located near the southern portion of the Kettle Moraine State Forest, Whitewater is the home of the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. As of the 2010 census, the city's population was 14,390. Of this, 11,150 were in Walworth County, and 3,240 were in Jefferson County.

The median income in Whitewater comes in at $34,563 and the median home value is $164,500 for 2020.

Hudson, WI

Overall SnackAbility

6
/10

Population: 13,650
Rank Last Year: 4 (No Change)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 3.3x (18th most expensive)
Income To Rent Ratio: 62.5x (31st most expensive)
More on Hudson: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Hudson is a city in St. Croix County, Wisconsin, United States. As of the 2010 United States census, its population was 12,719. It is part of the Minneapolis-St. Paul Metropolitan Statistical Area. The village of North Hudson is directly to the north of Hudson.

The median income in Hudson comes in at $72,181 and the median home value is $240,300 for 2020.

Fitchburg, WI

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility

7.5
/10

Population: 28,722
Rank Last Year: 6 (Up 1)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 4.4x (3rd most expensive)
Income To Rent Ratio: 69.8x (66th most expensive)
More on Fitchburg: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Fitchburg is a city in Dane County, Wisconsin, United States. The population was 25,260 at the 2010 census. Fitchburg is a suburb of Madison and is part of the Madison Metropolitan Statistical Area. Fitchburg consists of a mix of suburban neighborhoods closer the border with the city of Madison, commercial and industrial properties, and more rural properties in the southern portion of the city. Despite its status as an incorporated city, some rural parts of Fitchburg still lack certain municipal services such as sewer, water, and natural gas.

The median income in Fitchburg comes in at $69,338 and the median home value is $306,400 for 2020.

Middleton, WI

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility

9.5
/10

Population: 19,235
Rank Last Year: 9 (Up 3)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 4.4x (4th most expensive)
Income To Rent Ratio: 70.5x (72nd most expensive)
More on Middleton: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Middleton is a city in Dane County, Wisconsin, United States, and a suburb of the state capital, Madison. Middleton's motto is "The Good Neighbor City." The population was 17,442 at the 2010 census.

The median income in Middleton comes in at $74,141 and the median home value is $326,100 for 2020.

Pewaukee, WI

Overall SnackAbility

7
/10

Population: 8,207
Rank Last Year: 7 (No Change)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 3.3x (17th most expensive)
Income To Rent Ratio: 60.5x (22nd most expensive)
More on Pewaukee: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Pewaukee is a city in Waukesha County, Wisconsin. The population was 13,195 at the 2010 census. The Village of Pewaukee, which was incorporated out of the town before it incorporated as a city, is surrounded by the city.

The median income in Pewaukee comes in at $59,203 and the median home value is $197,900 for 2020.

Shorewood, WI

Overall SnackAbility

7.5
/10

Population: 13,344
Rank Last Year: 4 (Down 4)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 4.6x (2nd most expensive)
Income To Rent Ratio: 74.7x (85th most expensive)
More on Shorewood: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Shorewood is a village in Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, United States. The population was 13,162 at the 2010 census. Howell Raines of The New York Times said in 1979 that "his maple-studded town on Lake Michigan dotes on its reputation as Milwaukee's most liberal suburb."

The median income in Shorewood comes in at $72,903 and the median home value is $334,700 for 2020.

Platteville, WI

Overall SnackAbility

8
/10

Population: 12,301
Rank Last Year: 8 (Down 1)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 3.5x (9th most expensive)
Income To Rent Ratio: 53.6x (6th most expensive)
More on Platteville: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Platteville is the largest city in Grant County in southwestern Wisconsin. The population was 11,224 at the 2010 census, growing 12% since the 2000 Census. Much of this growth is likely due to the enrollment increase of the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. It is the principal city of the Platteville Micropolitan Statistical area which has an estimated population of 49,681.

The median income in Platteville comes in at $43,495 and the median home value is $154,300 for 2020.

Overall SnackAbility

9
/10

Population: 7,390
Rank Last Year: 12 (Up 2)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 4.4x (5th most expensive)
Income To Rent Ratio: 75.2x (87th most expensive)
More on Delafield: Real Estate | Data

Delafield is a city in Waukesha County, Wisconsin, along the Bark River, and a suburb of Milwaukee. The population was 7,085 at the 2010 census.

The median income in Delafield comes in at $86,014 and the median home value is $375,900 for 2020.

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

Map Of The Cheapest Places To Live In Wisconsin
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 Wisconsin 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 141 places in Wisconsin that have more than 5,000 people.

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

Taking A Chunk Out Of Your Paycheck In Wisconsin For 2020

Well there you have it, the places in Wisconsin that have the highest cost of living, with Madison ranking as the most expensive city in the Badger State.

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

  1. Merrill
  2. Waupaca
  3. Richland Center

For more Wisconsin reading, check out:

Detailed List Of The Most Expensive Cities In Wisconsin

Rank City ExpensiveScore Population Home/Income Ratio Income/Rent Ratio
1 Madison 19.0 252,086 3.7x 58.9x
2 Lake Geneva 23.67 7,815 3.6x 53.5x
3 Whitewater 24.67 14,766 4.8x 47.9x
4 Hudson 25.5 13,650 3.3x 62.5x
5 Fitchburg 26.33 28,722 4.4x 69.8x
6 Middleton 27.33 19,235 4.4x 70.5x
7 Pewaukee 28.67 8,207 3.3x 60.5x
8 Shorewood 30.67 13,344 4.6x 74.7x
9 Platteville 31.0 12,301 3.5x 53.6x
10 Delafield 31.33 7,390 4.4x 75.2x
11 Sun Prairie 36.0 32,757 3.2x 67.3x
12 Bellevue 36.67 15,515 3.3x 63.4x
13 St. Francis 36.67 9,509 3.5x 58.6x
14 West Salem 38.0 5,013 3.2x 62.3x
15 Menomonie 38.33 16,312 3.5x 56.2x
16 Baraboo 38.33 12,093 3.4x 58.2x
17 Onalaska 39.67 18,546 3.3x 66.2x
18 Monona 40.0 8,068 3.8x 76.4x
19 New Berlin 40.0 39,774 3.1x 69.6x
20 Waukesha 42.33 72,382 3.2x 68.3x
21 Hales Corners 44.0 7,666 3.0x 66.4x
22 Brookfield 45.67 38,151 2.9x 69.7x
23 Stoughton 45.67 13,080 3.1x 69.4x
24 Greenfield 46.0 37,083 3.0x 60.5x
25 Mequon 46.33 23,984 3.4x 86.0x
26 Oak Creek 46.33 35,843 3.0x 69.5x
27 Hartford 46.67 14,761 3.2x 68.9x
28 Hartland 47.0 9,260 3.4x 80.3x
29 Muskego 47.67 24,868 3.1x 76.8x
30 La Crosse 48.0 51,866 3.1x 55.6x
31 Mount Horeb 48.67 7,421 3.4x 78.8x
32 Pewaukee 49.33 14,299 3.0x 75.0x
33 Glendale 50.33 13,015 2.9x 68.1x
34 South Milwaukee 51.17 21,089 3.0x 64.2x
35 Delavan 51.33 8,338 3.0x 57.8x
36 West Bend 51.67 31,649 3.0x 65.0x
37 Watertown 52.33 23,677 3.0x 58.8x
38 Germa 52.33 19,997 3.1x 77.1x
39 River Falls 52.33 15,467 3.1x 70.0x
40 Verona 52.83 12,743 3.2x 81.9x
41 Cedarburg 53.67 11,501 3.5x 101.3x
42 Burlington 54.33 10,758 3.0x 65.9x
43 Whitefish Bay 54.67 14,039 3.2x 93.6x
44 Sussex 55.33 10,791 3.2x 86.7x
45 Oconomowoc 55.33 16,579 3.2x 84.0x
46 Fort Atkinson 58.33 12,429 2.9x 64.7x
47 Franklin 58.5 36,185 3.0x 77.4x
48 Grafton 58.67 11,627 3.1x 77.9x
49 Wauwatosa 58.67 47,882 2.9x 74.5x
50 Elm Grove 59.0 6,172 3.1x 121.4x
51 Menomonee Falls 59.33 36,784 3.0x 79.4x
52 Jackson 60.0 7,020 2.8x 68.9x
53 Milwaukee 60.33 596,886 2.9x 47.5x
54 Howard 60.33 19,396 3.2x 79.3x
55 Lake Mills 60.67 5,850 2.8x 67.5x
56 Eau Claire 61.67 68,086 2.9x 62.5x
57 Waunakee 62.0 13,522 3.1x 107.9x
58 West Allis 62.5 60,250 2.9x 61.1x
59 Greendale 62.67 14,245 2.9x 75.3x
60 Cudahy 63.0 18,349 2.9x 65.6x
61 Elkhorn 63.33 9,907 3.0x 71.5x
62 Stevens Point 63.33 26,402 3.0x 63.8x
63 Cottage Grove 65.33 6,904 2.9x 82.6x
64 Oregon 66.33 10,215 3.1x 95.1x
65 Rice Lake 66.67 8,324 3.0x 63.7x
66 Kenosha 67.33 99,810 2.7x 61.0x
67 Port Washington 67.67 11,695 2.9x 75.5x
68 Hobart 67.67 8,606 3.1x 93.2x
69 Chippewa Falls 68.67 14,017 2.8x 58.3x
70 Richfield 68.83 11,623 2.9x 89.9x
71 Altoona 69.33 7,499 2.8x 69.5x
72 Portage 70.5 10,361 2.8x 60.9x
73 Plover 71.33 12,686 2.9x 73.1x
74 Brown Deer 72.33 12,039 2.5x 64.7x
75 New Richmond 72.67 8,890 2.8x 70.2x
76 Mukwonago 72.67 7,833 3.0x 90.1x
77 Twin Lakes 74.33 6,070 2.8x 76.4x
78 Fox Point 74.33 6,688 2.8x 94.4x
79 Monroe 75.0 10,636 2.8x 63.6x
80 Lake Hallie 75.33 6,633 2.5x 68.2x
81 Mcfarland 76.33 8,492 2.8x 89.8x
82 Reedsburg 77.0 9,484 2.7x 63.7x
83 Pleasant Prairie 78.67 20,722 2.7x 77.3x
84 Kimberly 79.0 6,744 2.8x 71.3x
85 Wausau 79.33 38,801 2.7x 63.1x
86 Ashland 79.33 7,963 2.7x 60.3x
87 Beaver Dam 79.67 16,366 2.6x 61.2x
88 Tomah 79.83 9,349 2.5x 58.2x
89 Superior 80.0 26,346 2.7x 60.9x
90 Deforest 81.0 9,936 2.7x 83.6x
91 Racine 81.0 77,576 2.5x 51.9x
92 Green Bay 81.33 104,818 2.7x 68.2x
93 Slinger 81.67 5,330 2.9x 94.4x
94 Mount Pleasant 84.33 26,738 2.7x 81.4x
95 Sturgeon Bay 86.0 8,907 2.7x 69.9x
96 Suamico 86.0 12,470 2.6x 87.4x
97 Columbus 86.0 5,022 2.6x 71.0x
98 Ashwaubenon 86.83 17,181 2.7x 77.6x
99 Evansville 87.0 5,260 2.7x 80.5x
100 Janesville 87.67 64,128 2.5x 66.9x

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.