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Cost of Living in South Africa in 2021: Is Your Salary Really Enough?


When ranked amongst African countries, South Africa is always appearing at the top of cost-of-living surveys. However when compared to other emerging markets around the world, South Africa is amongst the most affordable destinations. But how expensive is it really to live in  the Rainbow Nation? 

If you’re a young working adult or potential expat thinking of accepting that job offer in South Africa, you must be wondering just how much is “reasonable” for someone in your age group to spend each month.

Obviously, the answer varies a lot with your lifestyle and values. Ask the guy who’s happy to live with his parents at 40 and who rarely leaves the house for anything other than work, and you’ll get a different answer than if you ask that socialite who feels you need the latest BMW and Sandton apartment to demonstrate that you have “made it” in life.

So in compiling this rundown of the cost of living in South Africa, we decided to cover a range of options (from budget to higher-end) for a middle-class lifestyle. All costs are in South African Rands.

Housing Costs in South Africa

If you are moving to South Africa from another country, or a local thinking of moving out of your parent’s home, your biggest expense by far is going to be housing, whether you are renting or buying a home.

You should budget at least R5,000 to R13000 a month if you are renting, and R1,300 to R2,000 if you own the place.

Renting in South Africa

Most expats rent a home in South Africa. If you are single and looking to rent just a room in a shared apartment with a shared bathroom, expect to pay about R6000 to R25000 each month.

Don’t like to share? It costs about R9000 to R35000 to rent a studio apartment or two-bedroomed unit.

Buying a home in South Africa

Wouldn’t it be lovely if the price tag on your new home was all you had to pay? In reality, there are several hidden and not-so-hidden costs associated with buying property. Here are some of the major expenses, to help you prepare.

1. Bond registration and transfer costs

These are probably the biggest costs associated with buying a property that home buyers must be aware of and budget for. They are also unavoidable. You can work out the fees on properties you’re considering by using ooba’s bond and transfer calculator.

But to give you an idea, with a R1 200 000 bond, for a freehold property, with the seller not VAT registered, and the purchase being conducted by a natural person (ie you’re not buying the property as a trust or company), the bond registration cost estimate would be R31 618 (incl. VAT) and the transfer cost estimate would be R31 580 (incl. VAT). Note, these costs are an estimate, and include the bank initiation fee, which other calculators may not include. You should also take into account deeds office fees of approximately R1220, and other fees that may be charged by attorneys at their discretion.

“Banks may not necessarily grant 100% finance which will require the buyer to pay a deposit, and currently only in select instances will some of the banks incorporate the costs of transfer, so make sure that you have the funds available for this vital part of the home-buying process,” says Rall.

2. Moving costs

You’ve bought the place; now you’re going to have to move in. Depending on where you’ve been living, and how much furniture you already own, you might have to hire a moving company to get you into your new home. It is advisable to obtain a couple of quotes to compare the costs and determine the insurance cover provided for your possessions whilst in transit.

The costs can be anywhere between R5 000 and R15 000 in the same city, but most companies offer a discount if you move in the week and in the middle of the month, when demand is lower. You can also investigate mini movers or bakkie-for-hire options, which would be cheaper, but perhaps a bit more work for you.

3. General repairs and maintenance

While some homes are in perfect condition on the day of transfer, chances are you’ll have to do some cleaning, repainting and general repairs to make yours feel more like home. Some of these will be essential, others will relate to your own personal taste or budget.

“You should definitely set aside some cash for unforeseen expenses,” says Rall. “Try to gain access to the property ahead of moving in, so that you can write up a realistic budget for what you will need to spend.”

You should also set aside a few hundred rand for all the basic household maintenance items you will need, like detergents, brooms, cloths and polish. It is helpful to have a few spare light bulbs ready in case you need to replace old ones as well. Don’t forget that houses need ongoing maintenance, so always keep some cash ready for unexpected expenses.

4. Getting the utilities in

If you are buying a freehold property (not a sectional title), you will need to register for your water and electricity connection, and your telephone and internet lines if you need those. These costs vary from area to area, and the internet fee will depend on the type of connection that you want and whether the relevant lines are already installed.

Generally speaking, put aside around R1 000 to R3 000 for connecting the electricity, water and telephone – but you may be required to put down a deposit with the telephone company as well, depending on your credit profile. Investigate the different internet connection costs with your service provider.

And obviously, once those services are connected, you will have to pay for them every month.

5. Rates and levies

If you have purchased a freehold property, you will have to pay rates and taxes, which can be anywhere from a couple of hundred to a few thousand rand per month, depending on the value of your property and the area. Rates cover sewerage usage and garbage removal, while your taxes are calculated against the value of your property. The estate agent should have included these rates in the information about the property when you were house hunting, but if you need to find out, you can ask the municipality representative when you register for water and electricity. These rates will stay the same every month.

If you have bought into a sectional title, the apartment block’s body corporate will have set a levy to pay every month for the general upkeep of the buildings.

Some suburbs have additional levies that are charged for a street security guard or boom operator. While these are sometimes voluntary, if you benefit from the arrangement, it’s good to contribute.

6. Security

When buying a new home, it’s a good idea to assess the security of the other houses in the area and find out about the crime rates from the local police station, and then update your own security accordingly. And you’ll have to budget for a monthly armed response fee as well.

“Many security companies offer a package deal on installation with a contract for a certain term,” says Rall. “Be sure that you’re happy with the length of the commitment before signing a deal like this, but it can be a very cost-effective way to get a good security system in place.”

7. Insurance

Your bank will insist that you have homeowners’ insurance in place to cover any structural damage to the property. This is generally affordable with competitive options available to you. However, your possessions are not covered by this insurance, so it’s a good idea to explore the costs of an additional policy to cover you for theft.

Rall also cautions that if you have existing insurance cover, you must inform your broker of your new address as this can change the risk factors in your policy and alter your premiums.

8. Furniture and electronics

Once you have a home, you will want to fill it with beautiful things. Of course, this kind of refurbishment is a luxury, and one that can be put off until you have settled in. However, if there are any items that are vital to making your life in your new home comfortable, then get a costing on these and factor them into your budget.

Original Article: The true cost of buying a house in South Africa

Transport Costs in South Africa

As with everything else in life, your monthly transportation costs can vary wildly depending on how far you need to travel each day and what mode of transport you use. If you are lucky enough to be living close to your workplace and the business centers, you will spend less on transport than someone who lives in outskirt areas and has to commute to work daily.

Buying a Car

Buying a car in South Africa is not that expensive, particularly if you are not the type of person that wants to keep up with the Joneses. You can buy a good second hand vehicle between R50,000 and R200,000. On average petrol is R17.13 per liter and diesel is R19.32 per liter.

Commuting

If you don’t have a licence and for one reason or another you don’t want to buy a car, you have a number of commuting options. However, in the long term, commuting is generally more expensive than owning your own car. 

Nearly throughout all urban areas in South Africa you can get Uber, Bolt or InDrive. The pricing fluctuates based on demand and time. However, on average you will be looking at around R10+ Per Kilometer.

Daily Expenses

Again, this varies wildly depending on your lifestyle. But you can expect the following costs:

Groceries – Groceries are generally Cheap in South Africa due to availability of locally produced foods. If you cook at home every day, you will probably spend at least R2000 a month on groceries.

Coffee – A coffee at a local mall can cost you a little more than R15, while a coffee at a CBD mall or a chain like Starbucks can set you back R25 to R40.

Food – On one end of the scale, a meal at a suburban restaurant can cost as little as R50 to R70 (not including drinks). When it comes to dining, budget about R150 to R300 for a meal at a mid-range restaurant.

Mobile data – Budget R300 a month for a basic SIM-only plan.

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