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Cheapest place to live in South Africa

Finding the cheapest place to live in South Africa could lead to better work-life balance

South Africa was always seen as one of the cheapest countries to live in the world, but over the last couple of years, things have changed considerably. South Africans must deal with higher costs of living compared to their salaries as expenses like tax, fuel prices, electricity tariffs, and food costs, in general, have all gone up.

Most of us are looking at reducing our cost of living so that we have more expendable cash. South Africans across the country are looking for areas where expenses like rent and property purchase prices are lower.


Where is the cheapest place to live in South Africa?

Adzuna recently compared rental and property purchase prices along with salary data of over 140,000 job ads within the country to try and pinpoint the cheapest place to live in South Africa. The team also gathered data from Numbeo’s cost of living indexes. For the second consecutive year, Johannesburg was crowned the most economical place to live across all ranking factors.

When it comes to getting the best bank for your buck, Kimberley offered renters and buyers great opportunities, but as far as employment prospects were concerned, your chances of landing the job of your dreams here are very slim.

Johannesburg is home to an abundance of jobs and affordable accommodation
Johannesburg is the city with the most jobs in South Africa

Rustenburg came in as one of the best destinations in the country for the workforce that are hunting down the highest salaries. Sadly, with just one job on offer for every 1728 inhabitants, moving to Rustenburg might see you earning more, but that’s only IF you manage to land a job.

As far as value for money is concerned, the usual culprits like Cape Town and Sandton are robbing individuals of their pay with an average of 35% of salaries being spent on rent here. Destinations like Cape Town, Stellenbosch and Sandton might be highly sought after, but they simply cannot offer real value for money and definitely do not fall into the category of cheapest place to live in South Africa.

Cheapest place to live in South Africa based on Adzuna’s ranking factors

RankCityPeople per vacancyAverage house priceAnnual salaryAverage annual rentAnnual salary spent on rent (%)
1Johannesburg55R3 266 523R439 367R55 00020%
2Centurion195R3 202 949R403 125R195 00017%
3Pretoria213R2 337 212R367 284R213 00017%
4Durban416R2 917 967R384 834R416 00016%
5Stellenbosch42R5 336 502R305 270R93 00030%
6Cape Town33R7 131 594R410 781R33 00032%
7Sandton178R5 051 285R365 988R178 00037%
8Nelspruit292R3 902 160R359 103R292 00015%
9East London457R2 390 847R369 616R457 00016%
10Richards Bay470R1 952 617R432 096R470 00012%
11Polokwane593R2 519 675R481 800R593 00012%
12Bloemfontein725R2 219 515R415 717R725 00010%
13Port Elizabeth824R2 787 419R362 283R824 00012%
14Kimberley1372R2 979 883R313 573R1 372 0008%
15Rustenburg1728R1 960 853R478 289R1 728 00011%

Johannesburg, just like when analysed in a 2019 study by Adzuna, came in as the cheapest place to live in South Africa. The reasons why it took the crown include the availability of job offers, high average salaries and house price affordability. The average renter in Jozi only spends around 20% of his or her salary on rent. This might seem like a lot compared to destinations like Kimberley, but Kimberley doesn’t offer the same kind of salaries or abundance of jobs found in Johannesburg.

The best value for those looking to rent property in SA, however, won’t be found in Johannesburg. The 8% of salaries spent on rent in Kimberley also doesn’t offer value for money since the region’s average salaries are impacted by high-ranking positions, which isn’t spread out across the job market. When Adzuna analysed its findings, it was found that Nelspruit and Centurion offer great value for money. Both these cities offer acceptable job-to-inhabitant ratios and demand less than 18% of annual salaries towards rent.

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When looking at other seemingly low rental figures across the country, it’s essential to keep in mind that more affordable accommodation isn’t the only thing you need to consider when trying to pinpoint the cheapest place to live. You also need to consider how easy (or difficult) it will be for you to land a job and bring home a decent annual salary. In Polokwane, for example, the average salary trend is affected by the mining and technical industries in the area, which are known to pay higher than average salaries.


Best value for money in South Africa for renters

According to the findings from Adzuna’s most recent research, the cities where renters might get the best value for money include Nelspruit, Centurion, Durban, Polokwane, East London, Pretoria and Richards Bay.

CityPeople per vacancyGeneral house priceAverage annual salaryAnnual rentSalary spent on rent (%)
Nelspruit292R3 902 160R359 103,00R57 000,0015%
Centurion195R3 202 949R403 125,00R69 000,0017%
Durban416R2 917 967R384 834,00R60 000,0016%
Polokwane593R2 519 675R481 800,00R56 000,0012%
East London457R2 390 847R369 616,00R60 000,0016%

Nelspruit seems like the cheapest place to live in South Africa since renters here spend an average of 15% of their salaries on rent. The city also offers acceptable job opportunities with one job on offer for every 292 locals. Centurion also offers great value for money, but with a lower average annual salary and higher rental prices, it just missed out on taking the first spot in Adzuna’s rankings.

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Johannesburg, one of South Africa’s best all-round destinations to live in, didn’t make it into the countdown to the top 5 as far as value for money is concerned. Pretoria’s lower annual salaries and higher accommodation costs also caused it to drop out of the race this year.


Jesse Green, country manager for Adzuna South Africa, mentions that the changes in 2020 results compared to those found in late 2019 were in line with economic developments underway in South Africa. “Johannesburg is an all-round winner again this year, and it scored points where it matters most, including jobs on offer and housing prices. Johannesburg is the country’s economic hub, so the results correlate with our expectations. Cities like Polokwane and Nelspruit might be budget-friendly for renters, but the higher salary offerings in major cities like Joburg means that they are equally as affordable.”


Cheapest place in SA to purchase property

FNB predicts a growth rate of 3.7% for house prices in 2020, which is less than ideal news for prospective home buyers since the average salary in South Africa doesn’t exactly match up to these expectations.

To help locals find the cheapest place to live in South Africa, Adzuna also looked at average salaries compared to the average cost of properties throughout the country.

CityHouse Price 2019Salary 2019House Price 2020Salary 2020House Price Change YOYSalary Change YOY
PretoriaR2 556 558R336 120R2 337 212R367 284-8%9%
DurbanR3 102 022R372 107R2 917 967R384 834-5%3%
NelspruitR2 937 132R255 231R3 902 160R359 10332%40%
CenturionR2 904 839R399 187R3 202 949R403 12510%1%
Cape TownR5 755 317R395 101R7 131 594R410 78123%4%
SandtonR3 860 163R325 848R5 051 285R365 98830%12%
BloemfonteinR1 750 000R383 011R2 219 515R415 71726%8%
Richards BayR1 416 662R421 805R1 952 617R432 09637%2%
JohannesburgR2 270 915R434 626R3 266 523R439 36743%1%
PolokwaneR1 750 000R504 977R2 519 675R481 80043%-4%

Adzuna compared the average property prices from Property24 with salary data across 15 of the country’s major towns and cities. This comparison helped reveal where property prices were growing faster than wages. According to the findings, Pretoria seems to be the cheapest place to live in South Africa if you’re looking to invest in property. Pretoria and Durban were the only two metros where property prices decreased year-on-year and salaries increased in line with the decrease in property prices.

South Africa's cheapest place to live

Not far behind Durban is Nelspruit. Even though property prices increased shockingly (32% YOY), salaries in Nelspruit also increased by around 40% across the board, dimming the effects of property price trends.

A 10% house price growth sees Centurion in fourth place. This was the only city outside of the top 3 where property price growth was at or below 10% year-on-year.


Most expensive cities to buy property in South Africa

On the flip side of the scales, Cape Town and Sandton are the most expensive cities to buy property in. Real estate prices here shot up by as much as 23% and 30% respectively. All properties analysed in the study fall under the upper and upper-middle class range.

Adzuna observed shocking price increases for real estate in Johannesburg and Polokwane, with both regions now demanding an average of 43% more when compared to 2019 stats. Polokwane real estate prices have shot through the roof, and to add more drama to the deal, salaries have decreased by roughly 4% across the board.


Cheapest provinces in SA to live

While it’s true that rental and purchase prices for houses vary drastically from one city to another, Adzuna also compared prices on a provincial level. As seen in the table below, the North West and Mpumalanga currently offer great opportunities to renters and buyers alike. With high average salaries and very acceptable purchase and rental prices, both provinces qualify equally as the cheapest place to live in South Africa.

The flip side of the scale is where Cape Town stands, and where it has resided for quite some time. The Western Cape province is the most expensive province in South Africa for renters and buyers.

ProvinceAnnual RentProperty Purchase PriceAverage Salary
North WestR64 000R2 047 379R522 914
MpumalangaR72 000R2 160 000R529 611
Free StateR66 000R2 277 117R433 224
Northern CapeR91 000R2 033 663R468 128
GautengR96 000R2 597 408R433 908
KwaZulu NatalR96 000R2 878 127R347 738
Eastern CapeR63 000R2 327 186R316 835
LimpopoR65 000R3 312 575R506 369
Western CapeR110 000R7 153 512R410 712

Final word

Adzuna’s analysis indicates that cities like Nelspruit and Centurion tend to provide the best value for renters with annual rental costs at or below 17% of annual earnings. At the extreme end of the scale, those living and working in cities like Sandton and Cape Town still fork out the biggest chunk of their earnings towards rent each month. Individuals that call Sandton home spend an average of 37% of their salaries on rent each year. Capetonians are hot on their heels, dishing out up to 32% of their annual wages on rent.

*Adzuna data was compared to average property prices and rental prices provided by Property24 and Numbeo. Population data was gathered from Statistics South Africa. *