A Guide to Moving to: Iowa

(Everything you need to know - and more)

If you’re here, you’re either planning a move to Iowa or just playing the ol’ ‘What If” game. Either way, welcome. We’ve gone ahead and put together a thoroughly brief and seriously fun little mover’s guide, just for you. It’s crammed with stats, facts, a bit of history and even a nice list of activities worth your while to help make your move a real trip.

No matter where you choose to move in Iowa, you can find affordable home insurance within our trusted network. Let’s start with a very informal introduction.

Hi, Meet Iowa 

Often referred to as The Hawkeye State (a tribute to the Native American Sauk tribe's Chief Black Hawk), Iowa became the 29th state back in 1846. And today, 3,160,553 people call the state home. But strangely enough, the state is actually home to more pigs than people. Yep, there are 22.6 million hogs here in Iowa—over seven times more than there are people. The hog industry is a big one around here, and you know what that means—bacon. So much bacon. 

But before the bacon can be yours, we want to talk about a few things. Like what’s so great about Iowa that around 14,842 people moved here in 2017 alone, and why you’re planning on doing the same thing. Is it the job scene? Let’s find out.

Job Market

Besides pig whisperer and hog caller, there are plenty of other job opportunities just waiting for you in Iowa. In fact, our pen pals said some of the fastest-growing jobs here include: operations analyst, information security analyst, physical therapist, web developer, occupational therapist and nurse practitioner. 

But if you’re really looking to roll around in the dough, the highest-paying jobs in the state include: surgeon, psychiatrist, dentist, CEO, nurse anesthetist and podiatrist. If you've got a knack for all things medical or business, looks like Iowa’s your place.

Not only does Iowa have a lot of great job opportunities, but also getting them doesn’t seem to be a problem either. The state’s current unemployment rate is 2.9%, which is well below the national average of 4.1%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And the minimum wage is currently the same as the federal minimum of $7.25/hour, according to minimum-wage.org. 

Now, though the minimum wage in Iowa is lower than other states, the very good news is that the cost of living is way affordable in this state, as you’ll see in a bit. So let’s talk about the next thing on your list, housing.

Housing

Now that you’ve got the job scene all figured out, it’s time to talk about where you and your hogs are going to lay your heads at night. 

For starters, Iowa’s median home value is $138,600 currently, which is up 3.8% from last year. And homes currently on the market are listed with a median price of $180,000, and selling for an average of $169,900. But if you’d rather rent a home than totally commit, you can expect to pay around $1,100/month. 

But if apartment living is more your style, one-bedroom apartments in Iowa City, home of the University of Iowa, going for a good $1,113/month on average. In both Des Moines, the capital, and Ames, the home of Iowa State University, you’ll pay between $791/month and $821/month. And then on the much lower side, you can expect to pay between $571/month and $695/month in Cedar Rapids, Dubuque and Davenport.

So, as you can see, housing in Iowa is pretty affordable (at least from what our research indicates). And, even better, on average, most homes in the Hawkeye State were built between 2000 and 2010. So they’re not only relatively inexpensive, but also pretty new—which means less fixer-upping.

Beyond the already fairly recent home construction, there’s even more popping up around a few key areas, too. Zillow shows a bit of new construction on the eastern side, around Davenport. Iowa City and Waterloo have their fair share of new construction being added too, but most of the new digs seem to be happening in the central part of the state, around Des Moines.

So now that you’ve got the home scene all figured out, who are you going to invite to the housewarming party? Let’s meet your neighbors.

Local Culture

When it comes to feeling at home in your new state, you’re going to need to make some new friends, and we can help. Let’s talk about the locals a bit now to see if we can’t help you zero in on some common ground and maybe come away with a few local-flavored icebreakers in the process. 

While researching, we found a bunch of different locals chiming in about how Iowans are extremely friendly and almost obligated to wave or say "Hello" as they pass you on the street. Most people even said they had no problem meeting new friends when they first moved, and the non-native residents said that they’re new friends were warm, open and receptive to their arrival from Day One.

Other words used to describe Iowans were "educated," "liberal," "thoughtful" and "progressive." Many agreed that the people of Iowa are very "middle of the road" and easy to get along with, as well as being real "salt of the earth" types. There is, apparently, a "homogenous reputation" to the state, but transplants from other states stated that they easily spotted the diversity, upon moving there.

In fact, the towns in Iowa range from Amish counties to big cities. You'll meet all types throughout the state, too, from farmers to C-suite bigwigs. Iowans who have moved from other states describe the locals, and the vibe from the state in general, as "Iowa friendly" (similar to their "Minnesota nice" neighbors to the north).

That friendliness, however, stops when it comes to the annual Hawkeye vs. Cyclone game. It's the state's biggest sporting event, and pits two of the state’s biggest schools against each other—the University of Iowa and Iowa State University. Since Iowa doesn't have a professional sports scene, they rely heavily on their college teams for thrills, with the Hawkeyes having the much-larger fan base. 

Parties, BBQs and a day of rest afterward are key on the biggest Saturday of the year. So when trying to make friends, do a little research beforehand to see which team colors your neighbors bleed—it’s not hard, there’s usually a least one bumper sticker per car that’ll give you the answer.

Iowa Trivia

Besides pigs, if there’s another thing Iowa is full of, it’s interesting facts. That’s why we’ve put together this batch of trivia tidbits we thought you should know about your new state.

First, there’s a lot of corn. In fact, Iowa produces more corn than any other state in the country. But beyond the cornfields, you'll also find tons of beautiful, and very diverse, scenery including rolling hills, prairies, rivers/lakes and woods. Iowa is also big on its wind farms, and is the second-leading state for wind energy production. 

It's also quite wet in Iowa. The state is home to a group of glacial bodies of water known as the Iowa Great Lakes. The lakes in the main triad are West Okoboji Lake, East Okoboji Lake and Big Spirit Lake. They are said to be a "well-kept secret outside of the Midwest." Fans of water sports, fishing and even just floating are drawn to this state for these beautiful and scenic natural getaways. And when it freezes, the fun continues with ice fishing, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing and a lot more.

And when it comes to food, Iowans are definitely into it—all of it. In addition to the dozens of farmers' markets that locals rave about, Iowans also have a love of frying just about everything, including Oreos, Twinkies and...butter. 

Iowans love their butter so much, they actually carve homages to other things they love into butter, and showcase the statues at their annual state fair. In addition to the well-known cow, you'll also see statues of famous figures like Harry Potter, Marilyn Monroe, Abraham Lincoln, Yoda and even Spock from Star Trek

And speaking of butter, Iowans have a collective food soft spot for what’s called a "scotcheroo," which is a bar-like concoction made up of peanut butter, Rice Krispies cereal and chocolate. It’s an absolute must at holiday gatherings, inner-office bake-offs and church fundraisers. And on the healthier side, you'll find a huge group of locals who like to hunt for, and eat, wild Morel mushrooms. 

They look similar to honeycombs (or shriveled brains, depending on the lighting), but residents swear that they're tasty. In fact, locals are so dedicated to finding these natural treasures that there are actually dozens of websites with pointers on locations where you' an find them. It’s a nice little money-making side hustle too, those puppies are expensive.

And when it comes to finding something extraordinary in a place you may not expect it, the state is also home to the Iowa's Writers' Workshop, the country's first-ever creative writing degree program. This workshop is actually the birthing ground of 17 Pulitzer Prize winners. Pretty impressive, eh?

We mentioned earlier that it’s easier than people think to spot diversity in The Hawkeye State. This is shown by some of the famous people who were born here, from actors to television personalities, football players, mixed Martial artists and more. To name a few: Ashton Kutcher, John Wayne, Elijah Wood, Trev Alberts, Fran Allison and Royce Alger are born-and-bred Iowans. 

Yep, there is no shortage of surprises when it comes to Iowa, and it doesn’t stop here. Let’s talk about some of the local attractions we think are definitely worth your time.

Can't-Miss Iowa Fun + Activities

No matter if you're into butter carvings or lazy days on the lake, Iowa’s got it, and then some. So let’s get your to-do list started right.

Here are just a few of the state's main attractions:

  • The Register's Annual Great Bicycle Race Across Iowa: This annual seven-day event is the "oldest, largest and longest recreational bicycle touring event in the world." Riders average more than 67 miles per day. 
  • Fishing on the Missouri River: In Sioux City, residents say there's no better way to relax than to grab a case, or cooler, of beer, a few of your closest friends, and head down to the river. A great way to get out of the house, share a tale or two, and maybe even catch a fish.
  • Adventureland: Made famous by the movie of the same name, this amusement park opened in 1974 and is located in Altoona. It features more than 100 rides, shows and attractions. The movie has most likely drawn more tourists to the attraction over the years, but we'd wager that this theme park is still far from having the longest lines in the country.
  • Field of Dreams Baseball Field: Whether you've seen the movie or not, this famous field in Dyersville is worth a visit if you move to Iowa, for its importance to the state's history. Iowans everywhere love the film, so why not go share in some state pride and have yourself a look? 
  • Blue Ribbon Bacon Festival: Of course Iowa has a festival dedicated to bacon—why wouldn’t they? And they aren't shy about the primary objective of this festival, either—it’s all about bacon and beer. But there are still plenty of formalities to cover, too, like crowning a Bacon Queen. This title is given to a woman dedicated to "spreading bacon fellowship,"according to the official website.

Pros and Cons of Living in The Hawkeye State

As you can see, we just can’t say enough good things about Iowa, so now we thought we’d let some of the real-life locals to tell us what they love, and could do without, when it comes to their home state.

Pros (from authentic Iowans):

  • The creative foodies: Probably the coolest foodie trend that we found in this land of food lovers comes from a place called Zombie Burger in Des Moines. Their masterpiece, the "Walking Ched burger," consists of a breaded and deep-fried mac and cheese bun, sandwiched around three patties, cheese and, of course, bacon. There are a couple of veggies on it too, but that’s pretty much just for color.
  • The art scene: The Iowa Arts Festival in Iowa City showcases something for all kinds of artsy types, from salsa dancing, to painting, to the culinary arts. You'll also find theater geeks and poets, among many others. 
  • Cost of living: As we’ve mentioned already, the cost of living here is a nice drop from the national average—the overall score is 89.5, where the national average is 100. Because who wouldn’t want those paychecks to stretch even further?

Cons (from authentic Iowans):

  • Unpredictable weather: Iowa is very centrally located in the US. This means that it is subject to literally all types of weather—including extremes. Locals joke about keeping all kinds of clothing in their cars, because the weather can change so much during the span of one day. Prepare yourself.
  • Things to do: In a fair number of the corners of Iowa, you may struggle to keep yourself entertained. Some say there isn't a boatload of "stuff to do" once you get past the charm of rural areas and small towns. Locals say that for 20-somethings, a fun "night on the town" involves hitting up the local movie theater, or maybe a bonfire with your close friends and classmates.
  • The seafood: When you live in a state that is literally right in the middle, you’re gonna find it tough to get the freshest of the fresh seafood, that’s just how it is. But even though scallops and halibut are in short supply, there’s still plenty of locally caught fish that fry up just as good. Oh, and bacon, too. Everything’s better with bacon.

Weird Laws

To reward you for making it this far, we wanted to share a few of the craziest, eyebrow-raising-est laws still in existence, just for kicks.

Here are a few:

  • It's illegal for mustached men to kiss women in public. Shave it off, fellas, or get a room.
  • Kisses can't last more than five minutes. Who’s doing the timing, here?
  • You can't use a dead person's handicapped parking tag or license plate. Come on, you can walk a bit further.
  • Horses can't eat fire hydrants in Marshall Town. Sorry, we don’t even get this one.
  • You can't sell drugs...without a drug tax stamp. We’re not even gonna touch this one.

Iowa, Ho!

Well, there it is. We’ve gone through some informal introductions, the job scene, the housing market, pros and cons, and even thrown in a bit of some weird stuff to help get you familiar with your new home. Now, we obviously couldn’t tackle all of your questions and concerns, but we’re hoping to at least have steered you toward the right path. Just make sure you're covered with an affordable home insurance policy.

So good luck, and may the bacon be with you.

NOTE: if you decide Iowa isn't right for you, we've covered the other states, too, to help you find the perfect spot. If pigs aren’t your thing, have you thought about Wisconsin, they’re all about the cows.

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