Build Diary 7 – Bad news strikes!

Our journey through the swamp of bureaucracy continues and as we come to the nitty-gritty of building our home, we get some really bad news.


More red tape


So, after what seems like an eternity, I thought we had everything we needed to submit the application. Unfortunately, it wasn’t actually everything (ah wah!) because we were informed we need to obtain an environment licence as we want to re-zone our land. Of course, getting that licence is a whole separate process, so we’ve been collecting the documents and paying the fees for it.

Coincidently, we had booked a trip to Thailand during school holidays, so we enjoyed ourselves exploring Bangkok (personal fav – this amazing bookstore) and the islands of Koh Samui and Koh Tao. It was a lovely surprise to receive a message from our consultant Lily informing us the main part of the application is ready to be submitted. Of course, this being Bali, I can’t shake the feeling that more will be required.

Bangkok tuk tuk

It’s not a trip to Bangkok without the obligatory tuk tuk photo

After successfully passing our land inspection, our environment licence application is going through a few final revisions and once finalised, we’ll finally be able to submit our building permit. It’s been a long process but I think there is some light at the end of the tunnel.

Interestingly, our neighbours who also bought land from the same landowner have already begun building even though they have neither the signatures required, nor a building permit. Their construction is nearly finished so they will need to do all the applications retrospectively.

This is common in Bali. It goes to show that it is possible to simply start building if you want, but it’s not a risk we want to run.


Changing our plans


While we’ve been wading through the bureaucracy, my wonderful architect Silvia has been coming over regularly so we can finalise the building plans. Drinking a glass or two of wine as we go through the plans is a lovely and stress-free way to brainstorm and troubleshoot any potential issues. We made one significant change recently when we turned 2 buildings into 3!

Originally, I planned to have 2 buildings. The first building, which you enter from the parking area, consisted of work offices and a photographic studio (and a few other bits and pieces). However, I’ve decided to put a long entrance way between them (from the front door towards the courtyard that leads onto the living room) so they have become 2 separate buildings.

These two, plus the residence, add up to 3 buildings. I may have gone a little overboard, but you only live once!

Bali villa office and studio
Bali villa downstairs residence living
Bali residence upstairs bedrooms edited

Buildings 1 and 2 – offices and studio                 Building 3 – downstairs living/dining etc             Building 3 – upstairs bedrooms

I’ve also been focussing on refining the villa design with my architect Silvia. We already have the basic structure and layout, now I’m starting to focus on the different finishings. This is proving to be harder than the actual building design because I have so many amazing design inspirations. I’m spending a lot of time exploring some of my go-to sites like The Design Files.

One of my favourites, the late Anthony Bourdain said “Food had power. It could inspire, astonish, shock, excite, delight and impress. It had the power to please me . . . and others”. I feel the same way about design. I want a home that is beautiful, functional, and inspires me!

Really bad news


Since the general layout is ready, we needed to get some quotes on how much it will cost to build. When building in Australia,  buying the land would be more expensive than the construction part.  Here in Bali, our build cost will be greater than the cost of our 25 year land lease.

We knew that it can often take a few weeks for builders to complete a detailed quote.  So we asked our architect to send the plans to 4 different building companies she had used before while we went to Thailand.

Some quotes came in.… and it was more than a little terrifying as 3 of the quotes were approximately triple what we had budgeted for i.e. totally out of our price range. The quotes were very detailed but were way beyond our budget. That’s very bad news for us.

It has been a nervous wait as we continually check our email hoping to see the final quote.  It was from the same company that our architect had recently completed a number of projects with. Her experience of working with them was smooth and both she and the clients were very happy with the results.

We waited for the final quote and hoped it wouldn’t be more bad news.  But the quote came in at double our budget. Oh no! While double is not as bad as triple, we still don’t have enough money. 4 quotes received and all of them far too expensive. Stress!

So, we have land, a building permit in the works, but not enough money to build our home.




  1. Cheryl November 17, 2019

    Do you mind me asking how much pre square foot you have been quoted. We are in the same situation as you are and a bali resident and real estate has quoted us a certain price. I’d hate to see our dreams shattered too as we aren’t resident in bali yet

    1. baliinteriors November 18, 2019

      Hi Cheryl, thanks for your message. It certainly feel like a plunge into the unknown to build in Bali! Obviously, there are a lot of different factors that will determine the price. However, when we were asking around, we were often told to budget for 300-500USD per metre for the build. Don’t forget to add costs like your IMB, your consultant (who ushers through the IMB application) ands the building tax. Good luck!

      1. Cheryl November 18, 2019

        That’s the price we’ve been told and that 500 is high end. So you’ve been quoted 2 and 3 times this ? And never any mention of building tax.

        1. baliinteriors November 18, 2019

          We were quoted numbers that would make your hair stand on end! Doesn’t mean that you need to accept that number (just like when the taxi driver quotes you a number 2/3 times the real price). Make sure you get all the inclusions/exclusions in writing. Building tax is a real thing – there are 2 versions 10% and 4%. You only pay one, depending on whether you are building yourself (4%) or using a contractor (10%). It’s the % of the build cost. Speak with you contractor about it – they are masters of lowering the official build cost number.


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