Best Affordable Places to Live in South Dakota in 2024

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    (Last Updated – 12/2023)

    You may know South Dakota as the home of some of the nation’s most famous tourist attractions, including Mount Rushmore and Badlands National Park. But it’s also worth checking out if you’re looking for a comfortable and welcoming place to settle down. There’s no shortage of charming small towns and suburbs in South Dakota — or you can enjoy city life, without big-city prices, crowds, or crazy commute times.

    In case you were wondering (and of course you were!) South Dakota is among the most affordable states in the U.S., according to the MERIC Index, which ranks the cost of living by state. (Currently, it comes in at 16th.) The unemployment rate is a low 2%. And housing costs are below the national average.

    Best Places to Live in South Dakota

    Searching for that special place where you can live your best life? Whether you’re looking for your first home, your family home, or the perfect home in which to retire — you may find South Dakota has just what you’re looking for. Here’s our roundup of some of the best places in South Dakota to live.

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    Best Affordable Places to Live in South Dakota

    One of the big advantages of living in the “Mount Rushmore State” is that almost anywhere you choose to live, the cost can be affordable. These five South Dakota cities are all highly rated for their quality of life, but the cost of living there doesn’t have to blow up your budget.

    1. Sioux Falls

    Sioux Falls, South Dakota

    Photo credit: iStock/Jacob Boomsma

    Sioux Falls is the largest city in South Dakota, so you can expect to find plenty of dining, shopping, and entertainment options downtown and in the surrounding area. There are lots of outdoor activities as well, right in the city, including the Great Plains Zoo and Falls Park, which overlooks the scenic waterfalls of the Big Sioux River. Don’t let the size of the city scare you off — median home values are lower than for the U.S. overall, and the cost of living here is one of the lowest in the U.S., period.

    Population: 202,078

    Median Household Income: $66,761

    Cost of Living: 85% of U.S. average

    Median Rent Price: $1,211

    Home Price-to-Income Ratio: 2.8

    Average Property Tax: 1.4%

    Housing Affordability: The median home value in Sioux Falls is up a bit from last year, but the city’s home price-to-income ratio remains well within the healthy range. Rent prices are down, but the rental market is warming.

    2. Vermillion

    Vermillion, South Dakota

    Photo credit: iStock/kavram

    Vermillion is located near the banks of the Missouri River and has a historic downtown district with specialty shops, galleries, dining and more. It’s also home to the University of South Dakota — so it’s a vibrant city with lots of activities, festivals and live music performances. And there’s plenty of history to explore, as well.

    Population: 11,915

    Median Household Income: $47,920

    Cost of Living: 80% of U.S. average

    Median Rent Price: $950

    Home Price-to-Income Ratio: 4.8

    Average Property Tax: 1.48%

    Housing Affordability: The median home value in Vermillion is well below the median for the state, and rent prices are also manageable.

    3. Rapid City

    Rapid City, South Dakota

    Photo credit: iStock/EunikaSopotnicka

    Want to live in a city but feel like your vacation is just steps away? Rapid City is known as the gateway to Mount Rushmore, and it’s close to all the great touristy stuff that draws visitors to the state. But it also can be an affordable and fun place to live and work. The downtown area offers plenty of galleries and public art for residents to enjoy, and the city celebrates the area’s Native American history and culture every year with the popular Black Hills PowWow.

    Population: 78,824

    Median Household Income: $58,072

    Cost of Living: 93% of U.S. average

    Median Rent Price: $1,325

    Home Price-to-Income Ratio: 2.1

    Average Property Tax: 1.35%

    Housing Affordability: The median home value in Rapid City is up a bit year over year but is still close to the median for the state, and the city’s home price-to-income ratio is a healthy 2.1. Rent costs are down and the rental market is cooling.

    4. Winner

    Winner, South Dakota

    Photo credit: iStock/Jacob Boomsma

    Whether you’re into arts and culture or want to play in the great outdoors, you can find something to suit in Winner. This small city has its own community theater, pool, library, baseball and softball fields, city park with a hiking trail, and more. Parents will appreciate Winner’s well-regarded schools.

    Population: 2,890

    Median Household Income: $40,509

    Cost of Living: 91.9 of U.S. average

    Median Rent Price: $875

    Home Price-to-Income Ratio: 4.8

    Average Property Tax: 1.09%

    Housing Affordability: The median home value and median rent price are very reasonable in Winner. Both are well below the median for the state. Finding a home to rent may be a challenge, however; the rental market in Winner is extremely tight.

    5. Pierre

    Pierre, South Dakota

    Photo credit: iStock/powerofforever

    Pierre (pronounced peer) is the capital of South Dakota, but it’s far from a bustling big city. (It’s the second-least populous capital in the U.S.) Homes in Pierre come in a wide variety of sizes, styles, and prices — and many offer a scenic view of the Missouri River, where outdoorsy types can fish, camp, and boat.

    Population: 13,969

    Median Household Income: $73,787

    Cost of Living: 98.9% of U.S. average

    Median Rent Price: $1,000

    Home Price-to-Income Ratio: 3.7

    Average Property Tax: 1.2%

    Housing Affordability: The median home value in Pierre is down a bit in the past year, and the price-to-income ratio is within the healthy range. The rental market is tight, but if you can find something, prices are cooling.

    Best Places to Live in South Dakota for Families

    Families looking for good schools and easy access to shopping, dining, and activities for the kids may find these five South Dakota cities are a good fit.

    1. Brookings

    Brookings, South Dakota

    Photo credit: Flickr/Jimmy Emerson, DVM , Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic

    Brookings is home to South Dakota State University, the largest university in the state, and it’s South Dakota’s fourth-most-populous city. Still, the city is known for its sense of community and small-town charm. Families will find the good schools appealing, and there’s plenty there for both grownups and kids to do. The Brookings County Outdoor Adventure Center has an Olympic-sized archery range and hosts the county’s 4H program.

    Population: 23,993

    Median Household Income: $54,676

    Cost of Living: 82% of U.S. average

    Median Rent Price: $925

    Home Price-to-Income Ratio: 5.2

    Average Property Tax: 1.3%

    Housing Affordability: The median home value and median rent price in Brookings are up from a year ago, but both are still lower than the state median. If you’re wondering how much house you can afford, check out a home affordability calculator — and get some tips for your homebuying journey.

    2. Watertown

    Watertown, South Dakota

    Photo credit: iStock/Jacob Boomsma

    If you like the idea of living close to two popular lakes and two state parks, you’ll want to check out Watertown. The town offers plenty of activities throughout the year, including fishing and ice fishing, a cinema, bowling, a family aquatic center, and the Bramble Park Zoo. And the cost of living in Watertown is well below the national average.

    Population: 23,019

    Median Household Income: $56,520

    Cost of Living: 86% of U.S. average

    Median Rent Price: $775

    Home Price-to-Income Ratio: 4.8

    Average Property Tax: 1.12%

    Housing Affordability: The median home value in Watertown has remained pretty steady (and affordable) for the past year. The median rental price is down year over year, but the market is limited.

    3. Harrisburg

    Harrisburg is one of the fastest-growing cities in South Dakota, and the city’s school system continues to expand to meet the community’s needs. The city also boasts a wide range of amenities for families, including parks and recreation facilities. Harrisburg residents can also enjoy the big-city amenities in Sioux City, which is just a short drive north.

    Population: 8,451

    Median Household Income: $81,952

    Cost of Living: 85% of U.S. average

    Median Rent Price: $1,135

    Home Price-to-Income Ratio: 4.1

    Average Property Tax: 1.48%

    Housing Affordability: Though it’s significantly lower than the median home value in the U.S., the median home value in Harrisburg is a bit higher than in some other parts of the state. Rents are down and the rental market is cooling.

    4. Brandon

    Brandon, South Dakota

    Photo credit: iStock/Jacob Boomsma

    If you’re looking for your forever home, you may want to include Brandon on your house-hunting list. Families find the good schools appealing, and the city offers eight parks, a public golf course, and a public pool. Brandon also has a manageable commute for parents who want to work (or play) in Sioux Falls. And the cost of living in Brandon is just 80% of the U.S. average.

    Population: 37,972

    Median Household Income: $63,805

    Cost of Living: 80% of U.S. average

    Median Rent Price: $999

    Home Price-to-Income Ratio: 5.7

    Average Property Tax: 1.4%

    Housing Affordability: The median home value in Brandon is well above the median for the state, so you may want to go through the mortgage preapproval process before starting your house hunt. That way you’ll have a better idea of what you can afford. If you decide to rent, the median rent price is down year over year, and the rental market is cooling.

    5. Tea

    Tea is another Sioux Falls suburb that’s popular with families. Home values and the overall cost of living are higher in Tea than in other locations on our list, but both are lower than the national average. And parents will want to check out Tea’s schools and the facilities at Tea Park, which include a pool, basketball courts, a fishing pond, and bike path.

    Population: 6,918

    Median Household Income: $91,544

    Cost of Living: 96% of U.S. average

    Median Rent Price: $1,243

    Home Price-to-Income Ratio: 3.9

    Average Property Tax: 1.48%

    Housing Affordability: The median home value and median rent price in Tea are higher than most of the other cities in this guide. The median rent in Tea is down a bit and the market is cooling.

    Recommended: Mortgage Prequalification vs Preapproval

    Best Places to Live in South Dakota for Young Adults

    Hoping to find a city with a thriving job market, low cost of living, and fun things to do in your free time? Here are five locations that may offer the lifestyle you’re looking for.

    1. Madison

    Madison, South Dakota

    Photo credit: iStock/BOB WESTON

    Madison is one of those cities that could be described as “just right,” especially for young adults. It’s not too big or too small, the cost of living is low, and homes aren’t too expensive. There’s a vibrant downtown with shops, restaurants, museums, and more. And you don’t have to go far to get away from it all and enjoy hiking, fishing, camping, and more. It’s also the home of Dakota State University, so you’ll get that fun college-town vibe.

    Population: 6,097

    Median Household Income: $58,564

    Cost of Living: 80% of U.S. average

    Median Rent Price: $100

    Home Price-to-Income Ratio: 4

    Average Property Tax: 1.21%

    Housing Affordability: The rental market in Madison is tight, but homes are mostly affordable, and first-time homebuyers may find their sweet spot here.

    2. Aberdeen

    Aberdeen, South Dakota

    Photo credit: Flickr/Jody Halsted , Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic

    Whether you plan to rent or buy, if affordability is a house-hunting priority, you may want to start with Aberdeen. You may even find a nice fixer-upper to invest in. And there’s no shortage of things to do in Aberdeen, from mini golf and movies to skating and a community garden. Aberdeen is another college town (it’s home to Northern State University), so there’s almost always a game or event going on. And the city is known for its fun nightlife.

    Population: 28,210

    Median Household Income: $58,439

    Cost of Living: 80% of U.S. average

    Median Rent Price: $780

    Home Price-to-Income Ratio: 1.7

    Average Property Tax: 1.34%

    Housing Affordability: he median home value in Aberdeen is well below the median for the state and U.S. — and the home price-to-income ratio is a healthy 1.7. Rent costs are also low, although the rental market is warming.

    3. North Sioux City

    North Sioux City is another small South Dakota city that has lots to offer. It’s just a short commute to downtown Sioux City, Iowa, but North Sioux City also has its own thriving local business community. When you’re ready to play, there’s nearby McCook Lake for fishing and boating. And there are several restaurants, bars, and casinos on the stretch of road known as “The Strip.”

    Population: 3,026

    Median Household Income: $65,287

    Cost of Living: 83% of U.S. average

    Median Rent Price: $1,137

    Home Price-to-Income Ratio: 6

    Average Property Tax: 1.25%

    Housing Affordability: North Sioux City is one of the pricier locations in South Dakota, but some neighborhoods are less expensive than others, so you may be able to find a bargain. The median rent price is up over the past year and the rental market is hot.

    4. Mitchell

    Mitchell, South Dakota

    Photo credit: iStock/Jacob Boomsma

    If you’re seeking a city with a sense of community, cool architecture, and a busy downtown district, Mitchell may be for you. The 100-year-old Corn Palace is a colorful and storied entertainment venue and architectural feat. Right next door, you’ll find the city’s historic Main Street, with more than 100 shops, places to eat, and more. And nearby Lake Mitchell provides residents with a variety of outdoor recreational opportunities.

    Population: 15,659

    Median Household Income: $48,164

    Cost of Living: 81% of U.S. average

    Median Rent Price: $875

    Home Price-to-Income Ratio: 4.9

    Average Property Tax: 1.31%

    Housing Affordability: The median home value in Mitchell was up year over year but is still quite reasonable. The rental market is tight, and the median rent price can fluctuate quite a bit from month to month.

    5. Huron

    Huron, South Dakota

    Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons/
    Ammodramus
    , Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal

    Huron is another welcoming city in the heart of South Dakota, with plenty of outdoor activities and an eclectic mix of bars and restaurants to enjoy after a long day at work or play. Hunting and fishing are popular sports in Huron, but you can also golf, bowl, play hockey, or go for a swim at the city’s aquatic center.

    Population: 14,462

    Median Household Income: $51,206

    Cost of Living: 77% of U.S. average

    Median Rent Price: $700

    Home Price-to-Income Ratio: 3.4

    Average Property Tax: 1.35%

    Housing Affordability: The rental market in Huron is tight, but home prices are extremely affordable, and the home price-to-income ratio is in the healthy range.

    Recommended: SoFi Home Loan Help Center

    Best Places to Live in South Dakota for Retirees

    These five South Dakota cities have a lot to offer, whether you’re hoping to ramp things up in retirement or slow things down.

    1. Hot Springs

    Hot Springs, South Dakota

    Photo credit: iStock/Bo Shen

    Hot Springs is known for its natural beauty and the therapeutic benefits of its natural mineral springs. Its popularity with veterans (it’s actually nicknamed “Veterans Town”) dates back to World War I, when a national hospital was established for the treatment of veterans, followed by a VA health-care facility and a state veterans home. The city is also a popular tourist spot, known for its vibrant art scene and its proximity to many of the state’s historic landmarks.

    Population: 3,590

    Median Household Income: $44,167

    Cost of Living: 100.6% of U.S. average

    Median Rent Price: $950

    Home Price-to-Income Ratio: 6.7

    Average Property Tax: 1.34%

    Housing Affordability: Although the home price-to-income ratio for Hot Springs is outside the healthy range, the median home value there is much lower than in some nearby locations. The rental market in Hot Springs is tight.

    2. Yankton

    Yankton, South Dakota

    Photo credit: iStock/Wirestock

    Yankton, also known as the “River City,” is located along one of the last natural-flowing stretches of the Missouri River. This makes it a big draw for outdoor lovers — but there’s also a historic downtown, museums, a live theater, and more. And the cost of living in Yankton is among the lowest in the state.

    Population: 15,534

    Median Household Income: $59,190

    Cost of Living: 76% of U.S. average

    Median Rent Price: $525

    Home Price-to-Income Ratio: 4.2

    Average Property Tax: 1.23%

    Housing Affordability: Though the home price-to-income ratio in Yankton is a bit above the healthy range, the median home value is down from a year ago. There are few rentals available in the city, but rental costs are low.

    3. Milbank

    Milbank, South Dakota

    Photo credit: iStock/Jacob Boomsma

    Milbank is located in northeast South Dakota, at the south fork of Whetstone Creek. Surrounded by farmland, it’s a quiet but growing community, and retirees and their families will find plenty to do there and a mix of restaurants to enjoy. The city prides itself on being the birthplace of American Legion Baseball and is in the process of building a multi-million-dollar baseball complex.

    Population: 3,484

    Median Household Income: $60,997

    Cost of Living: 99.3% of U.S. average

    Median Rent Price: $450

    Home Price-to-Income Ratio: 3

    Average Property Tax: 0.96%

    Housing Affordability: Home prices in Milbank are down from a year ago and are extremely affordable. The rental market is tight, so finding a home to rent may be a challenge.

    4. Lead

    Lead, South Dakota

    Photo credit: iStock/Bo Shen

    Lead is located in western South Dakota, in the Black Hills near the Wyoming state line. If you’re looking for a mix of history, outdoor recreation, dining, arts, and entertainment — and your budget can afford a home that’s a bit over the state’s median value — this mountain town could be for you.

    Population: 3,013

    Median Household Income: $43,125

    Cost of Living: 100.6% of U.S. average

    Median Rent Price: $1,390

    Home Price-to-Income Ratio: 7.8

    Average Property Tax: 1.12%

    Housing Affordability: The median home value in Lead went up over the past year but was still below the U.S. median. Understanding the different types of mortgage loans available could help you keep your options open. Lead’s rental market is hot.

    5. Sturgis

    Sturgis, South Dakota

    Photo credit: iStock/gnagel

    You may know Sturgis for the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, one of the largest bike rallies in the world — but it’s also a growing yet tight-knit community that welcomes families and retirees. The city hosts several festivals throughout the year, a Hometown Marketplace that showcases local vendors, and in the summer, there’s the Music on Main Summer Event Series. Hoping to stay in shape in retirement? The Sturgis Community Center has a pool and fitness facility, and there’s also a community garden.

    Population: 7,170

    Median Household Income: $46,402

    Cost of Living: 94% of U.S. average

    Median Rent Price: $1,250

    Home Price-to-Income Ratio: 7.3

    Average Property Tax: 1.22%

    Housing Affordability: The median home value in Sturgis is a little pricey compared to some other locations in the state, but it’s lower than the U.S. average. The rental market in Sturgis is tight.

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    Best Places to Live in South Dakota Near the Water

    South Dakota is loaded with lakes and rivers, waterfalls, and springs. You may want to keep these locations in mind if a home near the water is a priority for you.

    1. Belle Fourche

    Belle Fourche, South Dakota

    Photo credit: iStock/James_Gabbert

    Belle Fourche (“beautiful fork”) is a quiet city located on the northern slopes of South Dakota’s Black Hills. It’s near the 8,000-acre Belle Fourche Reservoir, which is a popular spot for birding, biking, boating, and canoeing. And it’s close to many of the state’s most popular tourist attractions.

    Population: 5,848

    Median Household Income: $46,151

    Cost of Living: 100.6% of U.S. average

    Median Rent Price: $1,000

    Home Price-to-Income Ratio: 6.1

    Average Property Tax: 1.19%

    Housing Affordability:The median home value in Belle Fourche is down substantially from a year ago and is much lower than in many nearby communities. The tight rental market may be a challenge, however.

    2. Spearfish

    Spearfish, South Dakota

    Photo credit: iStock/dosecreative

    Spearfish Creek, the second-largest stream in the Black Hills, runs right through the center of the city of Spearfish, making it a mecca for freshwater fishing fans and tourists. But the city is also a family-friendly place to live, with a historic downtown lined with shops, coffeeshops, cafes, and wine bars. And there’s live entertainment in the summer.

    Population: 12,914

    Median Household Income: $52,258

    Cost of Living: 87% of U.S. average

    Median Rent Price: $1,800

    Home Price-to-Income Ratio: 8

    Average Property Tax: 1.12%

    Housing Affordability: The overall cost of living in Spearfish is low, but homes can be pricey. The median home value went up over the past year, and there are few rentals available.

    3. Fort Pierre

    Fort Pierre, South Dakota

    Photo credit: Flickr/Jimmy Emerson, DVM , Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic

    Fort Pierre is a picturesque city on the bluffs of the Missouri River, so you’ll find plenty of beautiful scenery and recreational opportunities there. The city embraces its history and the French explorers who settled the region. But it’s also a modern city that prioritizes business growth and quality of life for its residents.

    Population: 2,142

    Median Household Income: $77,545

    Cost of Living: 92.3% of U.S. average

    Median Rent Price: $1,200

    Home Price-to-Income Ratio: 4

    Average Property Tax: 1.27%

    Housing Affordability: Fort Pierre is another South Dakota city with a sometimes-challenging rental market. The median home value is down year over year and far below the U.S. median home value, which may make it easier to qualify for a mortgage.

    4. Mobridge

    Mobridge, South Dakota

    Photo credit: iStock/Jacob Boomsma

    Mobridge, also known as Kȟowákataŋ Otȟúŋwahe, is another South Dakota city with a strong connection to its Native American heritage and the early days of the railroad. Art lovers will revel in the city’s public art, including the “Walleye Up” statue and murals by Native American Artist Oscar Howe. And of course, there are plenty of places to go fishing, hunting, and camping.

    Population: 3,228

    Median Household Income: $46,827

    Cost of Living: 92.9% of U.S. average

    Median Rent Price: $770

    Home Price-to-Income Ratio: 2.7

    Average Property Tax: 1.67%

    Housing Affordability: Mobridge is one of the least expensive cities to buy a home in South Dakota.

    5. Platte

    Platte, South Dakota

    Photo credit: iStock/PatrickZiegler

    Tiny Platte is a quiet city located just east of Lake Francis Case on the Missouri River, so it’s popular for its fishing and boating. But Platte also has playgrounds and parks, golfing, and a pool for its residents — and it hosts several festivals and other events throughout the year.

    Population: 1,252

    Median Household Income: $56,982

    Cost of Living: 93.3% of U.S. average

    Median Rent Price: There are no rentals currently listed in Platte.

    Home Price-to-Income Ratio: 4.6

    Average Property Tax: 1.12%

    Housing Affordability: The median home value in Platte is down from last year, and far below the median for the state and the U.S. The rental market is extremely tight.


    The Takeaway

    South Dakota is the fifth-least populated state in the U.S., but there are still plenty of cities there, and each has its own appeal. And because the overall cost of living, and the cost of housing specifically, is so affordable, South Dakota can be an attractive option for families, retirees, young adults just starting out, or just about anyone.

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    FAQ

    What is the most affordable city in South Dakota?

    There are many affordable places to live in South Dakota that are worth checking out, including Mobridge, Milbank, Huron, and Winner.

    What is the nicest area to live in South Dakota?

    There are many beautiful and welcoming places to live in South Dakota. The Rapid City area is popular for its proximity to big-city amenities as well as the state’s biggest tourist attractions and getaways where you can enjoy fishing and camping.

    Is it a good idea to move to South Dakota?

    If you don’t mind cold winters, South Dakota can be a lovely place to live. The cost of living is low and the median home value in South Dakota is well below the median value for the U.S.


    *SoFi requires Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) for conforming home loans with a loan-to-value (LTV) ratio greater than 80%. As little as 3% down payments are for qualifying first-time homebuyers only. 5% minimum applies to other borrowers. Other loan types may require different fees or insurance (e.g., VA funding fee, FHA Mortgage Insurance Premiums, etc.). Loan requirements may vary depending on your down payment amount, and minimum down payment varies by loan type.

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