Aerial image of dusk Iowa landscape.

Best Places To Live In Iowa 2022: A Guide To The 10 Best Cities And Towns

Holly Shuffett7-Minute Read
March 21, 2022

Whether you want to visit the coveted Field of Dreams or you long to be among the first to cast your presidential ballot, there are a few more things to consider before buying a house in the Hawkeye state. Namely, figuring out the very best places to live in Iowa and what they have to offer you.

If you’re considering relocating to the Midwest, read on to explore the best Iowan cities and find one which suits you and your plans for the future. 

What Should I Consider When Moving To Iowa?

Before you move, it’s always important to do your research, but this is especially true when you’re looking to settle down in an entirely new state.

You’re probably familiar with Iowa’s affinity for sprawling cornfields, but what else does it have to offer? Here are a few pros and cons to consider before moving to Iowa:  

Pros

  • Affordability: As of January 2022, the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development found that the national median sales price for new houses in the United States sits at $423,300. In contrast, the Iowa Association of REALTORS® found that as of January 2022, Iowa’s median sales price sits at just $185,000, making Iowa a real contender for those seeking an affordable place to live. 
  • Education: In 2019, Iowa boasted the second-highest graduation rate in the nation at just shy of 92%. Iowa also ranked 11th in the nation for higher education by U.S. News and in 2021 ranked within the top 20 for K-12. 
  • Arts: Home to numerous renowned art centers and museums – not to mention the award-winning Iowa Arts Festival – this state has proved to be an unexpected haven for creatives. 
  • Food: For all our foodies out there, you’re sure to find an abundance of delicious Iowan eateries that are sure to hit the spot. You can also tap into your own culinary skills with farm-fresh ingredients from local farmers markets. Iowa’s hot beef sandwiches and sweet corn are just a couple of the locals’ favorite signature dishes!

Cons

  • Weather: The Midwest is known for its cold winters, hot summers, and everything in between. If you’re used to a more steadfast climate, it’s important to be prepared for weather conditions that can change at the drop of a hat. You should also keep the possibility of snow, ice, and rain in mind, and how it can affect your commute and home maintenance. 
  • Political media: We’ve all probably experienced the barrage of political advertising that comes with each election season, but if you’re moving to Iowa this is practically guaranteed. Due to the Iowa Caucuses, residents are flooded with political rallies, pundits, advertisements, and national media outlets all campaigning for votes and following candidates. 
  • Limited entertainment options: We’ve all heard the joke that there isn’t much to do in the Midwest – but for rural areas of Iowa this can be especially true. Not to mention, Iowa doesn’t have any professional sports teams to cheer on (though, they do have four major college teams and several minor league teams you can support). 

If you think that the Hawkeye state could be your new home, it’s time to look at Iowa’s very best cities to live in. 

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1. Ames

Fountain Of The Four Seasons in Ames, Iowa.

Population: 67,029

Median home value: $251,566

Median monthly rent: $829

Median household income: $67,026

Home to both Iowa State University and bustling metro amenities, Ames is a great place for those looking to grow in their education and career. In 2015, Bloomberg Business even named Ames one of the top 15 “Cities That Have Done the Best Since the Recession” and top 25 “Best Places for STEM Grads.”

Ames is a great choice for budding business owners, college students, and the environmentally-conscious with their abundant green space and city-wide emphasis on sustainability.

View current listings in Ames

2. Cedar Rapids

Colorful statue heads displayed outside building in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Population: 134,621

Median home value: $162,491

Median monthly rent: $767

Median household income: $75,289

Situated on both banks of the Cedar River sits the central hub for arts and culture in eastern Iowa. Here are just a few of the diverse art and culture collectives that can give you an especially enriching experience in Cedar Rapids:

  • Cedar Rapids Museum of Art
  • National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library
  • Paramount Theatre 
  • Orchestra Iowa 
  • Theatre Cedar Rapids 
  • African American Museum of Iowa 
  • The Ceramics Center
  • New Bohemian Innovation Collaborative
  • Cedar Rapids Visual Arts Commission 

For more information check out homes for sale in Cedar Rapids and the area’s market report

3. Iowa City

Iowa capital building in Iowa City.

Population: 73,432

Median home value: $267,500

Median monthly rent: $967

Median household income: $70,123

The original capital of the state and home to the University of Iowa, Iowa City offers rich history and exceptional higher education.

This northeastern city is split into four main neighborhoods: Downtown, North Liberty, South Amana and Coralville suburbs – all connected by lush parks and scenic trails perfect for hiking and sight-seeing. The city also has numerous dog parks, farmers markets and plenty of community events that are sure to get you settled into life as a true Iowan.

View current listings in Iowa City

4. Davenport

Bird's eye view of Davenport, Iowa.

Population: 100,606

Median home value: $131,700

Median monthly rent: $771

Median household income: $68,559

Located on the idyllic banks of the Mississippi River, Davenport plays host to numerous annual music festivals perfect for jazz and blues enthusiasts. Between the Mississippi Valley Blues Fest, the Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Festival, and the Mississippi Valley Fair in the summers, and year-round access to recreational trails and shopping districts, Davenport residents are sure to have their hands full of places to see and things to do.

View current listings in Davenport

5. Urbandale

Field with houses along the horizon line in Urbandale, Iowa.

Population: 45,729

Median home value: $300,770

Median monthly rent: $935

Median household income: $111,703

If you’re not totally sold on city life, the residential city of Urbandale may be more your speed. This historic suburb of Des Moines is home to the Flynn Mansion, one of Urbandale’s first residences which is still available for viewing in The Living History Farms open-air museum.

Although this property dates back to the 19th century, Urbandale has seen plenty of expansion in recent years as more and more businesses continue to move in.

If you think you may be interested in moving to this rapidly growing area, check out local homes for sale and Urbandale’s housing market report for the latest info. 

6. Le Claire

Close up view of people celebrating by clinking their wine glasses together at a restaurant.

Population: 3,977

Median home value: $224,800

Median monthly rent: $858

Median household income: $123,837

Considered a suburb and part of the Quad Cities Metropolitan Area, Le Claire is most famously known as the site of the reality television series “American Pickers,” as well as the birthplace of William Frederick Cody, aka Buffalo Bill Cody.

From its many attractions, like the coveted LeClaire Levee riverboat – which offers stunning views of the Mississippi River – to a charming assortment of boutiques and restaurants fit for shopping and dining, Le Claire has it all.

View current listings in Le Claire

7. Mount Vernon

Close up view of someone's hand drawing a chalk image onto the ground.

Population: 4,460

Median home value: $250,000

Median monthly rent: $757

Median household income: $100,149

Originally known as Pinhook back when it was just a rest stop on Military Road, Mount Vernon is now known for Chalk the Walk, its annual sidewalk chalking festival which takes place each May. This community project – which gathers over 200 skilled artists every year – epitomizes the sense of community and appreciation for art that’s at the heart of Mount Vernon.

View current listings in Mount Vernon

8. Clive

Looking down the Greenbelt Trail with lines of leafless trees on both sides.

Population: 17,908

Median home value: $343,500

Median monthly rent: $984

Median household income: $130,374

Serving as the axis of the western Des Moines suburbs, Clive is the perfect community for tree-huggers or those who want to relax and appreciate the world’s natural beauty. Best known for its Greenbelt Park and scenic trail system, Clive is the perfect setting for hiking, cycling, fishing and picnicking.

View current listings in Clive

9. Des Moines

Arch and well lit building in Des Moines, Iowa.

Population: 208,966

Median home value: $181,559

Median monthly rent: $855

Median household income: $69,074

As the largest city and capital of Iowa, Des Moines serves as the state’s juggernaut of financial services and insurance businesses. If you’re looking for big city Iowa living, this just might be the place for you. Des Moines even made our 2021 list of the best cities for young people.

Like any metropolitan area, Des Moines has a limited and competitive real estate market, so keep this in mind as you embark on your search for homes for sale in Des Moines.

For more information on what to expect when looking for a new home in Des Moines, take a look at our housing market report

10. Ankeny

Concrete bike trail with alternating angled geometric archways.

Population: 73,676

Median home value: $291,240

Median monthly rent: $1,073

Median household income: $105,133

The fastest-growing city in Iowa, Ankeny was recognized in 2008 as one of the top 10 towns for families by Family Circle and in 2009, it was ranked No. 62 in Money Magazine’s top 100 places to live list.

Be sure to look into Ankeny’s housing market trends for more information or if you’re interested in Ankeny’s homes for sale

The Bottom Line

Though Iowa may not be the first place on many home buyers’ minds when looking for a new home, it’s certainly a great option. With underrated but extensive historical landmarks, cultural and artistic venues and beautiful views of the Mississippi River, Iowa could be the perfect place for you to settle down.

Iowa brings affordable housing, highly regarded educational systems, and both small town and big city feels to the table. So, if you’re in the market for a new home, stick to your research, understand what you envision for your future, and consider these factors when deciding where to live to see if Iowa is the right fit for you. 

 

Statistic Sources

Statistics for each city were pulled from several reliable sources. These are accurate as of March 2022.

Cities sourced from World Population Review

  • Ames population, monthly rent, and household income
  • Cedar Rapids population, monthly rent, and household income
  • Iowa City population, monthly rent, and household income
  • All Davenport demographics
  • Urbandale population, monthly rent, and household income
  • All Le Claire demographics
  • Mount Vernon population, monthly rent, and household income
  • Clive population, monthly rent, and household income
  • Des Moines population, monthly rent, and household income
  • Ankeny population, monthly rent, and household income

Cities sourced from Rocket Homes

Take the first step toward buying a house.

Get approved to see what you qualify for.

NMLS #3030

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Holly Shuffett

Holly Shuffett is a staff writer who writes with a focus on homeownership and personal finance. She has a B.A. in public relations from Oakland University and enjoys creative writing and reading in her free time.