Rising costs and high interest rates can make living alone unattainable, forcing people to move in with their parents, children, friends, or others to make ends meet.
We explore whether you can afford to live alone – and offer some sound, money-wise, and future-focused alternatives.
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Solo by choice – or necessity
Around 25% of South African households were classified as single-person households in 2022 – up from 23% in 2021, according to the General Household Survey conducted by Statistics South Africa.
The average household consists of around three people, but the figures show that people are increasingly living alone.
“There are many reasons why people live solo,” says Sandy Walsh, general manager at Property.CoZa Prestige. “They may be widowed or divorced, their children may have moved out, or they may simply prefer their own space.
“Unfortunately, circumstance may force some people out of the family home into smaller or shared accommodation, and it is not always easy for them to adjust.”
Check what you can afford
If you’re hoping to become a single homeowner, there are several factors to consider.
“Even if you pre-qualify for a bond for R1.2m, for example, it doesn’t mean you should look at a property in this price range,” warns Walsh.
“For example, if you earn R30,000 a month, your monthly bond repayments shouldn’t exceed one-third of your salary, which is around R10,000. This won’t be enough to service a bond for a R1m property, so be prepared to look for properties valued between R800,000 and R900,000.”
It’s also worth noting that there isn’t a big difference in price between one- and two-bedroom properties, because the cost is worked out per square metre, Walsh notes. However, a 0.5-room apartment is invariably affordable for someone who hasn’t accumulated much furniture, she adds.
When budgeting for solo living, list your requirements, and itemise what you can expect to pay, such as bond and transfer costs, property taxes, and ever-increasing rates and levies, Walsh recommends.
The government’s First Home Finance subsidy (previously known as FLISP) primarily serves married or cohabiting couples, but it also applies to single people with financial dependents, who do not necessarily have to live with the buyer (although the dependency must be verifiable).
Property solution specialist Meyer de Waal cautions that the government vets all applicants thoroughly. “Do your homework before applying,” he advises. “An important criterion [for the subsidy] is that you must be a first-time homeowner,” he notes.
De Waal recommends using the First Home Finance subsidy calculator to determine what you can afford.
Consider a collective purchase
Single people may want to consider pooling funds with family members, friends, or someone else they trust to purchase a home.
Your bank can help in this regard.
FNB, for example, allows you to own a home with up to eight family members or friends, and you receive up to 50% discount on bond registration costs, if you apply via the FNB app. (If you apply at a bank branch, up to 12 people can qualify to co-own.)
However, it’s wise to have a watertight contract in place and, for example, agree with your co-owners on how any future financial disputes, or disagreements about the property’s use, will be resolved.
Share, and save
Shared living spaces can save money, so consider teaming up with another solo person.
“Renting a two-bedroom apartment in Sea Point in the Western Cape will cost you R13,500 a month, but if you share with someone, you’d each pay just R6,750,” notes Ryon Phernambucq, a financial planner at Fiscal Private Client Services.
“You can split household costs using an app such as Splitwise, which allows you to track and split costs with others.”
While sharing with someone may not be ideal, you can save the money you would have spent on renting solo, and channel it into an investment that will generate funds to allow you to buy your own home later, says Phernambucq.
Tip: Use our home loan calculator to determine how much you can afford to pay monthly.