Quick Tips for Building on Bali

I’m in the process of building a villa and the experience has been a nightmare every step of the way, from buying the land to planning the villa and breaking ground. It doesn’t need to be, but there is a lack of information out there on clear standards and prices, and everyone wants to communicate via DM instead being open about their process, relationships, prices, and costs. So, I’m opening the conversation now.

Here is everything I’ve learned until now in the villa build process. If you’ve built a villa in Bali, I’d love for you to share to

  1. Villa build estimates – plan on 10mil/m2 minimum. The often quoted “4.5mil to 6mil per m2” just includes the structure and does not included electrical or plumbing, which run 20% to 40% of total costs, and generally includes a build to “local standards”, not to the international building code standard for earthquakes and structural integrity
  2. Land prices in the canggu area are currently more expensive than in California due to speculation on the part of Bules and Indonesians investing in land instead of banks. Keep that in mind when you’re paying “Markey prices”
  3. Expect to pay additional fees including the IMB, village “donation”, banjar fees, and potentially the taxes for the land. Add ALL of that in
  4. DO NOT purchase or build on green zone land. No matter what anyone tells you
  5. Have a trusted notary in the same regency do a legal check (2mil) to see who owns the land, any bank Leins against it, zoning (green, yellow-agricultural, yellow residential, or yellow commercial), and check that the land has the “building aspect” and zoning for the entire land – or you won’t be able to build.
  6. If you are building on ricefield, don’t “wait for the land to dry”, plan on excavating all of the rice paddy soil from the foundation. Also, plan on using a bore pile foundation that reaches solid rock (think 4 to 6 meters deep) and paying for all of it.
  7. Do not start building without a soil test – to see how deep the mud is and how heavy of a house the ground can support
  8. Do your plans before building and REQUIRE that the architect consult a certified engineer to do structural calculations and MEP planning, to avoid plumbing disasters or electrical fires
  9. The roof will be the first to fail. A common practice is putting “screed” on the roof top, which ALWAYS cracks in 3 years causing the leaks everyone has in their villas. The common fix is to paint over it (roof and walls) trapping in the water to create the mold that everyone has in their villas – solution – demand a western standard approach for flat roofs with formed concrete, proper waterproofing, and no screed
  10. Do not buy any land until you’ve had a structural engineer visit the site, an architect, and had the lawyer research the site
  11. Write a clause in the land sales that money will be withheld until the IMB is approved and the land is fully approved for building by the government.
  12. Whatever you are being told for price estimates, add 30% to 50%
  13. Incorporate a waterproofing system in the foundation to avoid “rising damp” or you will never get rid of your mold issues
  14. For wood houses, the timeline before termites start into treated ricefield houses is 2 years. If you plan accordingly you can delay that
  15. If you use a “luxury villa construction company” this will increase your house cost by 25%
  16. Each time your contractor brings in a specialist (electrical, plumbing, etc) plan on this additional cost going up 10% to 20%, anf the possibility that they are using general workers,, not true electricians or plumbers…but you’re still paying..
  17. A 2 bedroom house will not cost your less than 2billion idr with a 25 year lease right now if built correctly. That is only for houses built to the international building code, proper roof, proper electrical, and quality finish.
  18. If you look at land prices alone and use a 75 year lease as the comparison for buying land in Bali, it’s comparable to US prices. A 6mil/are/year lease at 75 years is the equivalent of $1.25mil per acre. That sounds a lot like California prices to me. And Canggu is running more of 15mil to 20mil per/are/year, putting Canggu land at the equivalent of $3.75 million per acre, if purchased outright. The are/yr pricing construct obscures that.
  19. Beware when reviewing developer and contractor’s sites because they’ll likely be all roses and no negative. Additionally, expect that even developers’ blogs and Instagram accounts make all projects seem perfect and profitable and will not list pitfalls and mistakes. The websites will list all projects as successes – regardless of the outcome or a building’s condition after years of rainy season. Only trust what you have seen and observed – ideally projects of theirs at all phases of constructure – foundation prep, foundation, structure, walls and architecture, and finally finish.

So, apples to apples, Bali land is overpriced on the global market and most don’t realize it, so do your homework before jumping in.