The 10 Most Expensive Places To Live In Iowa For 2023


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

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Editor’s Note: We updated this article for 2023. This is our tenth 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 2023.

So where is the most expensive place to live in Iowa? That would be Iowa City.
the 2017-2021 American Community Survey for the 79 places in Iowa with more than 5,000 people.

Here are the 10 most expensive places to live in Iowa for 2023:

  1. Iowa City
  2. Ames
  3. Coralville
  4. Cedar Falls
  5. West Des Moines
  6. Spirit Lake
  7. Johnston
  8. Grinnell
  9. Spencer
  10. Pleasant Hill

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 Osceola (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 2023

1. Iowa City

Iowa City, IA

Overall SnackAbility

8
/10

Population: 74,240
Rank Last Year: 1 (No Change)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 4.4x (most expensive)
Income To Rent Ratio: 50.4x (most expensive)
More on Iowa City: Real Estate | Data | Photos

The median income in Iowa City comes in at $51,925 and the median home value is $230,700 for 2023.

2. Ames

Ames, IA

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility

8
/10

Population: 65,522
Rank Last Year: 2 (No Change)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 4.1x (2nd most expensive)
Income To Rent Ratio: 55.9x (6th most expensive)
More on Ames: Real Estate | Data | Photos

The median income in Ames comes in at $54,339 and the median home value is $222,900 for 2023.

3. Coralville

Coralville, IA

Overall SnackAbility

8.5
/10

Population: 22,226
Rank Last Year: 5 (Up 2)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 3.6x (4th most expensive)
Income To Rent Ratio: 71.5x (32nd most expensive)
More on Coralville: Real Estate | Data | Photos

The median income in Coralville comes in at $67,474 and the median home value is $241,200 for 2023.

4. Cedar Falls

Cedar Falls, IA

Overall SnackAbility

7
/10

Population: 40,500
Rank Last Year: 6 (Up 2)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 3.2x (7th most expensive)
Income To Rent Ratio: 67.4x (24th most expensive)
More on Cedar Falls: Real Estate | Data | Photos

The median income in Cedar Falls comes in at $66,838 and the median home value is $211,000 for 2023.

5. West Des Moines

West Des Moines, IA

Overall SnackAbility

9
/10

Population: 67,640
Rank Last Year: 3 (Down 2)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 3.1x (9th most expensive)
Income To Rent Ratio: 72.1x (35th most expensive)
More on West Des Moines: Real Estate | Data | Photos

The median income in West Des Moines comes in at $76,564 and the median home value is $239,200 for 2023.

6. Spirit Lake

Spirit Lake, IA

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility

8
/10

Population: 5,301
Rank Last Year: 4 (Down 2)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 3.0x (14th most expensive)
Income To Rent Ratio: 62.9x (14th most expensive)
More on Spirit Lake: Real Estate | Data | Photos

The median income in Spirit Lake comes in at $56,490 and the median home value is $169,600 for 2023.

7. Johnston

Johnston, IA

Overall SnackAbility

9.5
/10

Population: 23,418
Rank Last Year: 13 (Up 6)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 3.1x (10th most expensive)
Income To Rent Ratio: 80.3x (54th most expensive)
More on Johnston: Real Estate | Data | Photos

The median income in Johnston comes in at $93,363 and the median home value is $289,600 for 2023.

8. Grinnell

Grinnell, IA

Overall SnackAbility

7
/10

Population: 9,481
Rank Last Year: 8 (No Change)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 3.1x (11th most expensive)
Income To Rent Ratio: 65.6x (20th most expensive)
More on Grinnell: Real Estate | Data | Photos

The median income in Grinnell comes in at $49,045 and the median home value is $151,000 for 2023.

9. Spencer

Spencer, IA

Overall SnackAbility

8
/10

Population: 11,292
Rank Last Year: 11 (Up 2)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 3.1x (12th most expensive)
Income To Rent Ratio: 63.9x (17th most expensive)
More on Spencer: Real Estate | Data | Photos

The median income in Spencer comes in at $45,313 and the median home value is $139,100 for 2023.

10. Pleasant Hill

Pleasant Hill, IA

Overall SnackAbility

7
/10

Population: 10,203
Rank Last Year: 9 (No Change)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 3.0x (13th most expensive)
Income To Rent Ratio: 74.4x (42nd most expensive)
More on Pleasant Hill: Real Estate | Data | Photos

The median income in Pleasant Hill comes in at $76,371 and the median home value is $230,200 for 2023.

Methodology: How We Determined The Most Expensive Places To Live In The Hawkeye State For 2023

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 2017-2021 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 79 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.

Summary: Taking A Chunk Out Of Your Paycheck In Iowa For 2023

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. Osceola
  2. Maquoketa
  3. Estherville

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 6.33 74,240 4.4x 50.4x
2 Ames 9.33 65,522 4.1x 55.9x
3 Coralville 15.67 22,226 3.6x 71.5x
4 Cedar Falls 18.0 40,500 3.2x 67.4x
5 West Des Moines 18.67 67,640 3.1x 72.1x
6 Spirit Lake 20.0 5,301 3.0x 62.9x
7 Johnston 22.33 23,418 3.1x 80.3x
8 Grinnell 23.0 9,481 3.1x 65.6x
9 Spencer 24.33 11,292 3.1x 63.9x
10 Pleasant Hill 24.33 10,203 3.0x 74.4x
11 Decorah 25.67 7,767 3.7x 79.0x
12 Algona 26.67 5,407 2.7x 62.5x
13 Eldridge 27.0 6,634 3.6x 93.7x
14 Storm Lake 28.0 11,166 2.9x 67.4x
15 Anamosa 28.5 5,332 2.8x 66.1x
16 Ankeny 30.0 66,346 2.7x 80.6x
17 Dubuque 30.0 59,379 2.7x 69.8x
18 Des Moines 30.33 213,545 2.6x 63.8x
19 North Liberty 30.67 19,976 2.6x 79.8x
20 Hiawatha 31.67 7,184 2.9x 78.4x
21 Asbury 32.33 5,795 2.6x 87.9x
22 Clear Lake 33.33 7,673 3.1x 90.3x
23 Bettendorf 33.33 38,631 2.7x 91.5x
24 Winterset 33.67 5,309 2.6x 71.8x
25 Fairfield 34.0 9,653 2.5x 53.6x
26 Waukee 35.0 23,441 2.6x 90.5x
27 Altoona 35.67 19,345 2.5x 77.9x
28 Clive 35.67 18,323 2.7x 114.1x
29 Waterloo 36.33 67,695 2.5x 61.6x
30 Pella 37.0 10,414 2.7x 90.4x
31 Sioux Center 37.67 8,090 2.9x 111.8x
32 Indianola 37.67 15,544 2.7x 80.8x
33 Carroll 38.0 10,261 2.9x 80.5x
34 Davenport 38.17 101,725 2.5x 69.1x
35 Waverly 38.33 10,278 2.6x 82.3x
36 Grimes 38.67 14,842 2.6x 96.8x
37 Newton 39.33 15,688 2.5x 68.9x
38 Council Bluffs 39.67 62,617 2.3x 65.3x
39 Urbandale 40.0 45,037 2.6x 101.9x
40 Norwalk 42.0 12,592 2.6x 101.0x
41 Washington 42.0 7,314 2.3x 65.4x
42 Muscatine 42.67 23,759 2.1x 61.5x
43 Orange City 42.67 6,214 2.7x 102.7x
44 Oelwein 44.33 5,961 2.3x 54.0x
45 Cedar Rapids 45.0 136,512 2.4x 75.6x
46 Sioux City 45.67 85,081 2.2x 71.1x
47 Iowa Falls 46.33 5,154 2.1x 55.6x
48 Le Mars 47.33 10,462 2.4x 87.7x
49 Bondurant 48.67 7,163 2.2x 98.6x
50 Marion 48.67 41,023 2.4x 93.6x
51 Burlington 49.0 24,160 2.0x 56.1x
52 Atlantic 49.67 6,795 2.4x 79.2x
53 Glenwood 50.67 5,224 2.4x 95.1x
54 Nevada 50.67 7,017 2.3x 87.6x
55 Sheldon 50.67 5,475 2.5x 99.0x
56 Mason City 51.67 27,385 2.0x 71.6x
57 Creston 52.33 7,594 2.1x 72.4x
58 Denison 52.67 8,323 2.0x 63.6x
59 Mount Pleasant 53.0 8,996 2.4x 85.0x
60 Perry 53.33 7,836 1.9x 66.3x
61 Fort Madison 53.67 10,340 1.8x 55.8x
62 Centerville 54.0 5,353 1.9x 56.4x
63 Manchester 54.0 5,077 2.1x 75.3x
64 Clinton 54.33 24,651 2.1x 72.9x
65 Knoxville 54.33 7,537 2.0x 72.5x
66 Independence 55.67 6,088 2.1x 81.8x
67 Charles City 56.33 7,399 2.2x 77.5x
68 Keokuk 56.33 9,977 1.8x 61.3x
69 Ottumwa 57.67 25,379 1.6x 57.4x
70 Fort Dodge 57.67 24,826 2.0x 72.5x
71 Clarinda 59.33 5,498 2.0x 73.1x
72 Boone 60.0 12,509 1.9x 79.5x
73 Webster City 61.33 7,825 1.6x 70.2x
74 Oskaloosa 61.67 11,552 1.8x 74.5x
75 Red Oak 62.67 5,576 1.7x 70.2x
76 Marshalltown 65.0 27,570 1.6x 73.7x
77 Estherville 69.67 5,904 1.6x 78.3x
78 Maquoketa 70.33 6,123 1.8x 86.0x
79 Osceola 72.0 5,412 1.8x 101.2x

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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.