The 10 Most Expensive Places To Live In Iowa For 2021


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 2021. This is our seventh time ranking the most expensive places to live in Iowa.

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 2021.

So where is the most expensive place to live in Iowa? That would be Iowa City.
the 2015-2019 American Community Survey for the 80 places in Iowa with more than 5,000 people.

Here are the 10 most expensive places to live in Iowa for 2021:

  1. Iowa City
  2. Ames
  3. Coralville
  4. Hiawatha
  5. Spirit Lake
  6. Cedar Falls
  7. Grinnell
  8. West Des Moines
  9. Winterset
  10. Fairfield

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 2021

1. Iowa CityIowa City, IA

Overall SnackAbility

8
/10

Population: 74,950
Rank Last Year: 1 (No Change)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 4.4x (most expensive)
Income To Rent Ratio: 50.7x (most expensive)
More on Iowa City: Real Estate | Data | Photos

The median income in Iowa City comes in at $49,075 and the median home value is $215,100 for 2021.

2. AmesAmes, IA

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility

8
/10

Population: 66,023
Rank Last Year: 2 (No Change)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 4.3x (2nd most expensive)
Income To Rent Ratio: 51.7x (2nd most expensive)
More on Ames: Real Estate | Data | Photos

The median income in Ames comes in at $48,105 and the median home value is $205,900 for 2021.

3. CoralvilleCoralville, IA

Overall SnackAbility

8.5
/10

Population: 21,103
Rank Last Year: 4 (Up 1)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 3.8x (3rd most expensive)
Income To Rent Ratio: 67.3x (28th most expensive)
More on Coralville: Real Estate | Data | Photos

The median income in Coralville comes in at $60,321 and the median home value is $227,700 for 2021.

4. HiawathaHiawatha, IA

Overall SnackAbility

7
/10

Population: 7,333
Rank Last Year: 3 (Down 1)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 3.0x (9th most expensive)
Income To Rent Ratio: 62.3x (13th most expensive)
More on Hiawatha: Real Estate | Data | Photos

The median income in Hiawatha comes in at $48,191 and the median home value is $143,500 for 2021.

5. Spirit LakeSpirit Lake, IA

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility

8.5
/10

Population: 5,069
Rank Last Year: 8 (Up 3)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 2.9x (11th most expensive)
Income To Rent Ratio: 64.0x (20th most expensive)
More on Spirit Lake: Real Estate | Data | Photos

The median income in Spirit Lake comes in at $54,293 and the median home value is $156,300 for 2021.

6. Cedar FallsCedar Falls, IA

Overall SnackAbility

8
/10

Population: 40,983
Rank Last Year: 6 (Up 1)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 3.1x (6th most expensive)
Income To Rent Ratio: 70.2x (33rd most expensive)
More on Cedar Falls: Real Estate | Data | Photos

The median income in Cedar Falls comes in at $61,420 and the median home value is $189,100 for 2021.

7. GrinnellGrinnell, IA

Overall SnackAbility

6
/10

Population: 9,031
Rank Last Year: 5 (Down 2)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 2.9x (10th most expensive)
Income To Rent Ratio: 63.3x (17th most expensive)
More on Grinnell: Real Estate | Data | Photos

The median income in Grinnell comes in at $46,750 and the median home value is $137,500 for 2021.

8. West Des MoinesWest Des Moines, IA

Overall SnackAbility

7.5
/10

Population: 65,606
Rank Last Year: 8 (No Change)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 2.9x (13th most expensive)
Income To Rent Ratio: 75.1x (45th most expensive)
More on West Des Moines: Real Estate | Data | Photos

The median income in West Des Moines comes in at $76,368 and the median home value is $218,500 for 2021.

9. WintersetWinterset, IA

Overall SnackAbility

8
/10

Population: 5,260
Rank Last Year: 10 (Up 1)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 3.0x (8th most expensive)
Income To Rent Ratio: 71.4x (36th most expensive)
More on Winterset: Real Estate | Data | Photos

The median income in Winterset comes in at $52,835 and the median home value is $158,300 for 2021.

10. FairfieldFairfield, IA

Overall SnackAbility

6
/10

Population: 10,290
Rank Last Year: 10 (No Change)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 2.8x (15th most expensive)
Income To Rent Ratio: 60.1x (7th most expensive)
More on Fairfield: Real Estate | Data | Photos

The median income in Fairfield comes in at $40,920 and the median home value is $114,200 for 2021.

How We Determined The Most Expensive Places To Live In The Hawkeye State For 2021

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 2015-2019 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 80 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 2021

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. Webster City
  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 74,950 4.4x 50.7x
2 Ames 6.67 66,023 4.3x 51.7x
3 Coralville 12.67 21,103 3.8x 67.3x
4 Hiawatha 18.5 7,333 3.0x 62.3x
5 Spirit Lake 20.0 5,069 2.9x 64.0x
6 Cedar Falls 20.0 40,983 3.1x 70.2x
7 Grinnell 21.67 9,031 2.9x 63.3x
8 West Des Moines 23.33 65,606 2.9x 75.1x
9 Winterset 24.0 5,260 3.0x 71.4x
10 Fairfield 25.17 10,290 2.8x 60.1x
11 Johnston 26.33 21,406 2.8x 84.6x
12 Eldridge 26.67 6,529 3.5x 97.8x
13 Carroll 27.5 9,904 3.1x 75.1x
14 North Liberty 27.67 18,829 2.6x 75.6x
15 Grimes 28.67 12,839 2.8x 81.8x
16 Dubuque 29.5 58,196 2.6x 68.6x
17 Des Moines 29.67 215,636 2.5x 62.6x
18 Spencer 30.0 11,052 2.8x 68.0x
19 Vinton 30.0 5,103 2.9x 73.2x
20 Bettendorf 31.0 35,919 2.7x 89.9x
21 Davenport 31.33 102,169 2.6x 66.2x
22 Atlantic 32.0 6,669 2.8x 66.8x
23 Sioux Center 32.33 7,534 2.8x 91.2x
24 Waterloo 32.33 67,912 2.5x 61.9x
25 Ankeny 33.0 61,938 2.5x 80.6x
26 Pella 33.0 10,231 2.7x 80.2x
27 Decorah 33.33 7,701 3.0x 98.3x
28 Waukee 33.33 20,785 2.5x 83.7x
29 Indianola 33.67 15,802 2.7x 77.6x
30 Pleasant Hill 33.67 9,871 2.6x 78.7x
31 Urbandale 34.67 43,441 2.6x 97.2x
32 Altoona 37.0 18,458 2.5x 83.3x
33 Algona 38.0 5,447 2.6x 73.3x
34 Clive 38.0 17,167 2.5x 106.5x
35 Waverly 38.0 10,094 2.7x 90.8x
36 Asbury 38.67 5,557 2.5x 131.7x
37 Independence 38.67 6,056 2.5x 72.5x
38 Council Bluffs 39.0 62,355 2.2x 63.1x
39 Clear Lake 40.33 7,597 2.7x 92.8x
40 Newton 40.83 15,164 2.4x 65.9x
41 Muscatine 42.0 23,774 2.1x 61.5x
42 Anamosa 42.0 5,476 2.5x 69.6x
43 Cedar Rapids 42.33 132,301 2.4x 76.3x
44 Storm Lake 42.67 10,558 2.4x 72.8x
45 Washington 43.0 7,313 2.2x 66.0x
46 Fort Dodge 43.67 24,278 2.3x 62.7x
47 Mason City 44.67 27,200 2.3x 69.7x
48 Norwalk 44.67 10,978 2.4x 100.0x
49 Clinton 44.67 25,416 2.3x 64.2x
50 Perry 46.33 7,599 2.0x 58.1x
51 Glenwood 46.5 5,326 2.4x 89.1x
52 Sioux City 47.67 82,531 2.1x 70.8x
53 Burlington 47.67 24,974 2.0x 59.5x
54 Le Mars 48.0 9,941 2.4x 100.3x
55 Mount Pleasant 48.67 8,581 2.3x 74.3x
56 Marion 49.33 39,328 2.3x 99.5x
57 Bondurant 49.33 6,191 2.2x 114.1x
58 Centerville 49.67 5,458 2.0x 56.3x
59 Nevada 49.67 6,754 2.4x 90.7x
60 Orange City 50.0 6,127 2.4x 107.3x
61 Osceola 50.33 5,103 1.9x 64.0x
62 Iowa Falls 51.0 5,122 1.9x 61.2x
63 Sheldon 51.0 5,128 2.5x 95.2x
64 Fort Madison 52.67 10,513 1.9x 60.2x
65 Ottumwa 53.33 24,545 1.8x 57.4x
66 Oskaloosa 54.33 11,511 2.0x 72.6x
67 Knoxville 54.33 7,192 2.0x 71.2x
68 Oelwein 55.0 5,979 2.0x 64.4x
69 Keokuk 55.33 10,324 1.8x 61.4x
70 Estherville 55.67 5,796 1.8x 63.8x
71 Charles City 56.33 7,396 2.3x 77.5x
72 Creston 57.33 7,784 2.1x 72.8x
73 Red Oak 58.0 5,362 1.9x 67.1x
74 Maquoketa 59.0 6,010 2.0x 74.3x
75 Boone 59.0 12,487 1.9x 78.5x
76 Manchester 60.0 5,019 2.1x 89.9x
77 Marshalltown 62.67 27,053 1.8x 76.0x
78 Clarinda 64.0 5,388 1.9x 76.4x
79 Webster City 64.67 7,732 1.7x 79.2x
80 Denison 68.0 8,337 1.7x 81.7x

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.