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How much should you spend on rent a month?

05 Sep 2017

Everyone looking for an apartment to rent has a wish list, but most prospective tenants will have to settle for the best compromise between that list and their budget.

The great thing about renting, says Harris, is that when you get promoted, or your new business starts to grow, it is relatively easy to celebrate your success by moving to more upmarket accommodation

“It’s all very well to live in an upmarket building with great security in a sought-after location, and have all the space and views you wanted, but if the rent is so high that you have to live on two-minute noodles and scrimp and scrape to pay your other bills, that is hardly an idyllic lifestyle,” says Greg Harris, CEO of Chas Everitt Property Rentals.

“So our advice is that those about to go apartment hunting should first work out a realistic budget and commit to it, so they view and compare only those units they can comfortably afford and don’t get distracted by those that are beyond their means. If they are honest about what they can afford, it will also be much easier for rental agencies to assist them to find the right apartments.” 

Harris says it is generally accepted, that rent should equal no more than 30% of a tenant’s take-home pay – that is, their salary after tax and other deductions – so that they can also cover all their other monthly expenses such as transport, food, electricity and water, car and other debt repayments, school fees and cellphone costs without financial stress, and hopefully even be able to save something for emergencies or retirement.

“So according to the BankservAfrica Disposable Salaries Index (BDSI), which shows that the average disposable salary in July was R14 154 (compared to R13 894 in June), the average earner planning to rent an apartment should be budgeting no more than around R4 250 per month,” says Harris.

In fact, says Harris, South African tenants seem to be pretty good at sticking to the limit, as the PayProp statistics also show that male tenants currently spend an average of 23.8% of their net income on rent, while female tenants spend an average of 27.7%, owing to the fact that their salaries are generally lower.

And indeed, he says, the latest PayProp Rental Index (Q2 2017) shows that although the national average rental currently being paid is just over R7 000, more than 35% of all tenants across the country actually do rent for less than R5 000 a month, with the next biggest percentage (31.75%) renting for between R5 000 and R7 500 a month.

“One must also remember that in KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng and the Western Cape, the three most economically active provinces, the average salaries tend to be higher, enabling tenants to pay higher rents without necessarily breaching the 30% of disposable income ‘limit’,” says Harris.

“The average rentals in these regions are R7 194 a month, R7 482 a month and R8 231 a month respectively.”

In fact, says Harris, South African tenants seem to be pretty good at sticking to the limit, as the PayProp statistics also show that male tenants currently spend an average of 23.8% of their net income on rent, while female tenants spend an average of 27.7%, owing to the fact that their salaries are generally lower.

“Nevertheless, it never hurts for tenants, and especially those new to the rental market, to draw up a list of all their monthly expenses and see what rent they can afford – or if the rent they are currently paying is taking up too much of their disposable income and they should perhaps consider a move to a more affordable apartment,” says Harris.

He says another important point for young tenants just starting out to remember is that they probably won't live in the same place for ever. “If you’re just getting started with your career, and moving into your first apartment, you will need to account for some additional expenditures such as utilities, probably furniture, and several deposits, so it may be a good idea to rent for even less than 30% of your take home pay.”

“The great thing about renting, says Harris, is that when you get promoted, or your new business starts to grow, it is relatively easy to celebrate your success by moving to more upmarket accommodation.

“But in the meanwhile, you may well find that no matter what’s on your wish list, the perfect apartment is the most affordable one (as long it is also secure) – because it enables you to live comfortably - and to sleep at night instead of lying awake and worrying about how to make ends meet,” says Harris.

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