The 10 Cheapest Places To Live In Iowa For 2022


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

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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 2022.

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 piqued your interest? If you want to know where the most affordable places in Iowa are located, keep reading.

The 10 Most Affordable Places To Live In Iowa

  1. Estherville
  2. Osceola
  3. Red Oak
  4. Maquoketa
  5. Clarinda
  6. Marshalltown
  7. Webster City
  8. Denison
  9. Boone
  10. Keokuk

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 Estherville 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 2022

Estherville is a city in Emmet County, Iowa, United States. The population was 6,360 in the 2010 census, a decline from 6,656 in the 2000 census. It is the county seat of Emmet County. Estherville is home to the main campus of Iowa Lakes Community College.

Overall SnackAbility

6
/10

Population: 5,729
Rank Last Year: 11 (Up 10)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 1.6x (2nd most affordable)
Income To Rent Ratio: 82.4x (36th cheapest)
More On Estherville: Real Estate | Crime Rate | Cost Of Living

Estherville, IA

If you’re looking for a place where you don’t have to hand over whole paycheck just to get the mortgage paid, Osceola is the place for you. With a median home price of $90,600 and a median income of $50,696, Osceola has the eighth best home price to income ratio in Iowa. Only a slightly less favorable market for renters keeps Osceola from a higher spot on this list. But hey, if you’re feeling lucky about living in the second cheapest place in Iowa, head to the local Lakeside Casino and your luck might just continue.

Osceola is about 45 minutes south of Des Moines.

Overall SnackAbility

5
/10

Population: 5,160
Rank Last Year: 20 (Up 18)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 1.8x (8th most affordable)
Income To Rent Ratio: 87.1x (8th cheapest)
More On Osceola: Real Estate | Crime Rate | Cost Of Living

Osceola, IA

It probably doesn’t mean much these days to be the hometown of Johnny Carson. But from the 1960s to the 1990s, the host of the Tonight Show was one of the most recognizable people in America. That’s a pretty big claim to fame for Red Oak, Iowa, a town of just 5,323 residents.

These days, Red Oak has other things going for it besides a famous native son. It ranks as the number 3 most affordable spot in Iowa.

Thanks in large part to cheap housing, the cost of living in Red Oak comes in at about 80% the norm for the U.S. The median home value in town is the fourth most affordable in the state, with a figure of $77,400. Rent costs are similarly under control, with a median value of $647 per month.

In terms of other economic indicators, the median income in town sits at $50,524, while the unemployment rate runs a at a level of 4.39%.

Located in an agricultural region, Red Oak offers a rural lifestyle. For big city excitement, your best bet would be Omaha, Nebraska, located about an hour to the northwest.

Overall SnackAbility

5
/10

Population: 5,323
Rank Last Year: 8 (Up 5)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 1.5x (most affordable)
Income To Rent Ratio: 78.1x (47th cheapest)
More On Red Oak: Real Estate | Crime Rate | Cost Of Living

Red Oak, IA

Ranking as the fourth most affordable place to live in Iowa is Maquoketa, a city 45 minutes north of Davenport. Maquoketa is home to Maquoketa Caves State Park, so you can go on outdoor adventure any time without spending a dime. The median rent in Maquoketa is quite low at $569, but what really lands Maquoketa on this list is the affordability of homes. Maquoketa has the tenth cheapest homes on the market in Iowa, with a median price of $91,100.

Overall SnackAbility

5
/10

Population: 5,990
Rank Last Year: 6 (Up 2)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 1.9x (13th most affordable)
Income To Rent Ratio: 84.6x (80th cheapest)
More On Maquoketa: Real Estate | Crime Rate | Cost Of Living

Maquoketa, IA

Source: Public domain

Clarinda’s motto is “Honor the Past…Imagine the Future” and boy do they hold true to that. Liberal arts lovers will rejoice that there is not only an amazing art museum in Clarinda, but also a history museum. And you don’t need to scrimp and save to enjoy all this high culture. Clarinda residents pay the 15th lowest proportion of their income on homes. The median home price in Clarinda is $93,000 and the median income is $48,309.

Clarinda is located in southwestern Iowa.

Overall SnackAbility

6
/10

Population: 5,371
Rank Last Year: 3 (Down 2)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 1.9x (15th most affordable)
Income To Rent Ratio: 78.9x (68th cheapest)
More On Clarinda: Real Estate | Crime Rate | Cost Of Living

Clarinda, IA

Located in the central part of the state between Des Moines and Cedar Rapids, Marshalltown ranks as the sixth cheapest place in Iowa. At a population of 26,957, Marshalltown is the biggest city to make this list, so you know you’ll never lack for things to do here. Marshalltown has the fourth best home price to income ratio in the state, so you won’t have to fork over half your paycheck just to live in a nice place.

Overall SnackAbility

5
/10

Population: 26,957
Rank Last Year: 4 (Down 2)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 1.7x (4th most affordable)
Income To Rent Ratio: 76.2x (62nd cheapest)
More On Marshalltown: Real Estate | Cost Of Living

Marshalltown, IA

Webster City comes in as the seventh least expensive city in Iowa for 2022. Webster City scored an 8/10 on our overall Snackability scale, with an 8/10+ in most categories, so you know it’s an all-around great place to call home. Especially if you’re into fishing or kayaking, what with the illustrious Boone River running along the city’s east side. Webster City is quite affordable for renters, but with a median home price of $92,600 and a median income of $54,531, the city stands out more for being the third easiest place to pay off the mortgage in Iowa.

Another fun fact: Webster City’s unemployment rate is under 3%, so you should not have a problem locking down a job here.

Overall SnackAbility

6
/10

Population: 7,699
Rank Last Year: 2 (Down 5)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 1.7x (3rd most affordable)
Income To Rent Ratio: 70.6x (32nd cheapest)
More On Webster City: Real Estate | Crime Rate | Cost Of Living

Webster City, IA

Coming in as the absolute cheapest place to live in Iowa for 2022 is Denison. Denison might not have the cheapest homes on the market or lowest rent in the state, a combination of factors work together to make it the least expensive place in Iowa overall. Denison has the best-paid populace on this list, with a median income of $53,808, which, taken with Denison’s median home price of $99,500, means that the city’s residents pay the tenth least proportion of their income on homes in Iowa. And don’t worry that cheap = boring; Denison has plenty going on to keep you occupied on a budget.

Denison is located in West Central Iowa.

Overall SnackAbility

6
/10

Population: 8,319
Rank Last Year: 1 (Down 7)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 1.8x (10th most affordable)
Income To Rent Ratio: 77.2x (74th cheapest)
More On Denison: Real Estate | Crime Rate | Cost Of Living

Denison, IA

Boone, Iowa, was built in the 19th century on the back of mining and trains. The community still commemorates its old railroad connection with the annual Pufferbilly Days festival. The town also has a presidential connection: Dwight D. Eisenhower’s wife, Mamie, was born in Boone.

Not bad for a community of 12,470 people. But those historical connections are only part of the area’s appeal. It also stands as the number 9 most reasonable place in Iowa to put down roots.

Home prices and rents in the region are affordable, if not aggressively cheap. The median home prices comes in at $114,600 and the median rent sits at $752 per month. At the same time, Boone’s economy is stronger than a lot of other places in Iowa. The median income sits at $60,854, which is relatively high for the state.

Overall, the cost of living in Boone is about 90% of the national average, thanks largely to its affordable housing. On top of this low-cost appeal, Boone can boast a crime rate that is about 40% below the national standard. The unemployment rate hovers at 1.34%.

Overall SnackAbility

6
/10

Population: 12,470
Rank Last Year: 7 (Down 2)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 1.9x (12th most affordable)
Income To Rent Ratio: 80.9x (10th cheapest)
More On Boone: Real Estate | Crime Rate | Cost Of Living

Boone, IA

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.

Overall SnackAbility

4
/10

Population: 10,225
Rank Last Year: 12 (Up 2)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 1.7x (5th most affordable)
Income To Rent Ratio: 62.6x (72nd cheapest)
More On Keokuk: Real Estate | Crime Rate | Cost Of Living

Keokuk, IA

Cheapest Places To Live In Iowa FAQs

What county in Iowa has the lowest cost of living?

The county in Iowa with the lowest cost of living is Decatur County. The average living wage in Decatur County is $84,148 according to MIT data. Decatur County has the lowest cost of living because it has relatively less expensive childcare and housing costs compared to Iowa as a whole. Childcare costs $11,870 a year in Decatur County for two children compared to the Iowa average of $15,077. Housing costs, defined as a blend of the average rent and average mortgage payment, are $8,580 per year in Decatur County compared to $9,843 on average in Iowa.

What is the cost of living in Iowa?

The cost of living in Iowa is 0.6% lower than the US average. According to MIT, the required living wage for a family of four with two working parents in Iowa is $89,241 vs the national average for a family of four with two working parents of $89,744. The median income of a Iowa household is $61,836.

What is the cheapest housing market in Iowa?

The cheapest housing market in Iowa is Centerville. The average home value in Centerville is $73,000, the lowest in the state. The average home value in Iowa is $153,900, almost 2.1 times higher than Centerville.

Methodology: How We Determined The Most Affordable Places To Live In The Hawkeye State For 2022

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 2016-2020 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 80 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 Estherville. You can download the data here.

Summary: 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 2022.

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

  1. Iowa City
  2. Ames
  3. West Des Moines

For more Iowa reading, check out:

The Most Affordable Places To Live In Iowa

Rank City CheapScore Population Home/Income Ratio Income/Rent Ratio
1 Estherville 10.67 5,729 1.6x 82.4x
2 Osceola 11.0 5,160 1.8x 87.1x
3 Red Oak 12.0 5,323 1.5x 78.1x
4 Maquoketa 14.0 5,990 1.9x 84.6x
5 Clarinda 18.83 5,371 1.9x 78.9x
6 Marshalltown 19.33 26,957 1.7x 76.2x
7 Webster City 20.67 7,699 1.7x 70.6x
8 Denison 21.67 8,319 1.8x 77.2x
9 Boone 21.67 12,470 1.9x 80.9x
10 Keokuk 23.33 10,225 1.7x 62.6x
11 Knoxville 24.33 7,154 1.9x 74.5x
12 Oskaloosa 24.5 11,727 1.9x 70.1x
13 Manchester 26.67 5,011 2.3x 79.8x
14 Perry 27.67 7,660 1.8x 59.2x
15 Fort Madison 28.0 10,407 1.8x 59.5x
16 Ottumwa 28.67 24,505 1.8x 55.4x
17 Mason City 29.17 27,064 2.1x 72.9x
18 Independence 29.33 6,085 2.2x 78.8x
19 Clinton 29.67 25,290 2.2x 70.7x
20 Creston 30.33 7,754 2.3x 74.4x
21 Sioux City 32.0 82,535 2.1x 72.5x
22 Mount Pleasant 32.17 8,574 2.4x 77.5x
23 Marion 32.33 39,910 2.4x 100.1x
24 Sheldon 32.33 5,178 2.6x 102.1x
25 Nevada 33.0 6,737 2.5x 85.8x
26 Glenwood 33.67 5,325 2.5x 92.4x
27 Fort Dodge 34.0 24,168 2.2x 66.4x
28 Le Mars 34.0 10,012 2.4x 89.2x
29 Charles City 34.33 7,351 2.5x 70.4x
30 Muscatine 34.5 23,661 2.1x 64.2x
31 Centerville 34.67 5,433 2.2x 51.3x
32 Bondurant 35.33 6,567 2.3x 97.8x
33 Burlington 35.33 24,858 2.0x 56.5x
34 Oelwein 35.33 5,896 2.3x 59.8x
35 Iowa Falls 36.0 5,067 2.1x 55.5x
36 Orange City 36.0 6,158 2.6x 105.5x
37 Cedar Rapids 37.0 133,125 2.4x 76.8x
38 Washington 38.0 7,318 2.2x 63.7x
39 Grimes 38.33 13,746 2.5x 94.6x
40 Norwalk 39.33 11,467 2.5x 84.0x
41 Council Bluffs 41.0 62,376 2.3x 62.1x
42 Asbury 41.33 5,931 2.5x 102.2x
43 Urbandale 41.67 43,879 2.5x 101.7x
44 Atlantic 42.33 6,600 2.7x 76.8x
45 Waverly 43.0 10,172 2.7x 83.9x
46 Clear Lake 43.33 7,594 2.9x 96.4x
47 Clive 44.0 17,246 2.7x 116.2x
48 Sioux Center 45.0 7,592 2.9x 109.6x
49 Altoona 45.0 18,917 2.5x 77.4x
50 Pella 45.0 10,279 2.8x 96.3x
51 Waterloo 45.0 67,671 2.5x 60.5x
52 Newton 45.83 15,160 2.5x 64.8x
53 Carroll 46.0 9,823 3.0x 81.6x
54 Indianola 46.33 15,921 2.7x 77.5x
55 Davenport 46.67 102,199 2.5x 67.6x
56 Bettendorf 48.33 36,214 2.7x 91.5x
57 Fairfield 48.67 10,327 2.6x 56.3x
58 Winterset 49.0 5,309 2.7x 76.3x
59 Waukee 49.33 22,598 2.6x 83.3x
60 Des Moines 50.67 215,408 2.6x 62.3x
61 Ankeny 51.33 64,744 2.7x 80.8x
62 Decorah 51.33 7,615 3.4x 85.8x
63 Eldridge 52.0 6,678 3.3x 112.6x
64 Dubuque 52.67 58,052 2.7x 68.1x
65 Algona 54.67 5,415 2.8x 62.1x
66 Storm Lake 55.0 10,508 3.0x 69.0x
67 Hiawatha 55.33 7,395 2.9x 69.0x
68 Johnston 56.33 22,077 2.9x 82.0x
69 North Liberty 57.0 19,159 2.7x 73.7x
70 Spencer 57.0 11,038 3.0x 65.3x
71 Pleasant Hill 57.67 9,959 2.9x 71.8x
72 Anamosa 57.67 5,484 2.9x 57.6x
73 Grinnell 58.0 9,069 3.0x 68.6x
74 Vinton 61.33 5,075 3.0x 53.3x
75 Cedar Falls 63.33 40,750 3.2x 68.7x
76 Coralville 64.0 21,630 3.5x 75.0x
77 Spirit Lake 64.33 5,130 3.1x 61.3x
78 West Des Moines 64.67 66,724 3.1x 70.1x
79 Ames 73.33 66,361 4.2x 53.8x
80 Iowa City 76.33 75,849 4.7x 49.3x

How Is The Area In ?

Editor’s Note: We updated this article for 2022. This is our ninth time ranking the cheapest places to live in Iowa.

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.