With $600K, you can get a room in NYC – or a mansion in Des Moines

The Daily

Forget Beverly Hills or Manhattan. If you really want to live the high life, try … Des Moines, Iowa?

Based on the buying power of its residents, the Corn Belt capital was recently named the richest metropolitan area in the country by U.S. News and World Report. For the same annual salary that would have you living like a pauper in pricey Manhattan, in Des Moines you can enjoy a veritable life of luxury.

The study used a cost of living index that takes into account prices of such basic goods and services as housing, food and even the cost of a movie ticket. By the report’s metric, the median household income in the New York metropolitan area, $62,887 per year, is the equivalent of a “real income” of only $35,370. In Des Moines, the median salary of $56,576 stretches to $62,446 because of the city’s favorable cost of living index.

Add high-quality housing stock and a booming job market and it’s easy to understand how one might find an unlikely oasis of good living there.

Amy Michel, who transferred from Phoenix to Des Moines for her job at Wells Fargo, is among the city’s growing population. For $529,000, she bought a four-bedroom, two-bathroom, 4,000-square-foot home with a three-car garage and an indoor Jacuzzi in an upper-middle-class neighborhood.

Though she admits to being a 9-to-5 transplant who’s used to a decidedly more cosmopolitan lifestyle, Michel has quickly gotten used to the charms of Des Moines, which include a picturesque pond behind her home. “Our neighbors are our best friends here,” she said, gesturing at the house next door, “and they have a movie theater in there!”

For comparison’s sake, The Daily took a tour of a similarly-priced residence in Manhattan — a studio apartment that can be seen in its entirety when you’re four steps past the front door. Price tag? A whopping $600,000. Laura Cao of Prudential Douglas Elliman, who showed us the apartment, said that “once you get into the one-bedrooms it’s hard to find anything under $750,000.”

When The Daily called another Manhattan real estate agent to ask about apartments in the $200,000 range, the request was met with a hearty laugh. But in Des Moines? No problem.

Chris Diebel and his boyfriend Jonathan Brendemuehl happily showed off their two-bedroom, two-bathroom loft on downtown Des Moines’ main drag, with a price tag of $180,000. And the apartment is tax-free for 10 years thanks to a tax abatement intended to lure young professionals. While Michel said the trade-off between living in New York and living in Des Moines is sacrificing “going out” for a nice home and plenty of space, Diebel said he chooses to live in Iowa precisely to enjoy a more active social life.

“When I moved back here [from L.A.] it was like, ‘Thank God I can finally afford to go out!” he said. “We live really affordably so we can go out to eat and get drinks or go to shows seven nights a week. We can afford to fly out on vacation four times a year.” Lauren Burt, director of media and marketing for economic development at the Greater Des Moines Partnership, said her modest Midwestern city is appealing to people like Diebel because the cost of living is 10 percent below the national average. Diane Todd Brown, a real estate agent for Iowa Realty, said she wasn’t surprised by U.S. News and World Report’s acclaim: “A lot of people come to Des Moines and they say it’s the world’s best secret!”

Watch the accompanying video at The Daily

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~ by mortgagecompliancecorner on July 12, 2011.

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