Build Diary 8 – Build Budget Nightmare

Choosing a builder is so important. I want someone who can bring my vision to life, on time and within our build budget. It’s that final part – the $$$$ – that is causing us a lot of headaches. What do we do if we don’t have enough money? 3 quotes have come in at triple our budget. The fourth and final quote was (merely!) double our budget. Clearly, this is a problem. Our build budget won’t stretch that far.


Why did we think we could do it cheaper?


My first thought was why was our estimate so low? Way way back, before we decided to lease land and build, we had been in contact with various builders (including builder #4) and asked them to estimate how much the build would cost. We’d also looked at simple online calculators and budget guidelines  (N.B. – be careful – this type of info dates very quickly!).

I am lucky to have a number of Bali friends who have built here. After lots of Q&A, I thought I had a good handle on how much it would cost. We designed our build budget accordingly.

Now, builders are saying it will cost at least twice as much! Was it a classic bait-and-switch trick to hook us in on a low price and then double the price? We’ve spent quite a lot of time with the 4th builder now, and have got to know him personally. Sometimes you’ve got to trust your gut instinct, and my gut says he’s honest and fair.


Check, re-check and check again


Quite simply, we don’t have the money to build our dream home here in Bali. We need to find a way to lower the price dramatically! Fortunately, the 4th quote was very detailed, so we can go through every single line item and check whether we need that particular feature at that level of quality.

Some good news is that the builder had over-estimated our requirements in a number of important areas (air cons and fans in every room, the price of tiles in some bathrooms, type of flooring in other rooms, the size of the pool and amount to spend on the garden etc), so after scrutinising those options we are able to reduce some costs there.

No doubt we’ll need to compromise if we want to get it done. There have been some robust discussions as my husband and I go through absolutely everything and try to turn some of the must-haves into not-essentials.

Our Bali land

                                                                                 Our cleared land

Other ways to afford the build


One option is to spend the money to put in the structural engineering and plumbing for the final project, but only build one building. Our plan has 3 buildings – a 2 level home, plus a single level for offices and a double height photographic studio. We can afford to build the home now (without the offices and studio), then save up to finish off the build at some point in the future.

But I am reluctant to do this, as living on a construction site in Bali is not ideal. We’ve seen all our surrounding rice fields turned into villa complexes in our current home. Living next to building sites is unpleasant enough – noisy and dusty – so living within a construction site (with the noisy construction 10 metres away, and the workers living on site) is definitely something to avoid!

Alternatively, we could go with another builder. Our quotes have all been from builders who build for expats. Builders who build for a local price/standard can definitely do it cheaper but the quality isn’t the same.  The reason why many expats complain about a leaky roof, rising damp and constant mould is because most construction is done by locals who have a very low budget. For example, many builders won’t put down a layer or 2 of plastic with the slab. This plastic is essential as it stops moisture from rising up.

Mould in my Bali villa

                          In our current home, we have some mould issues 🙁 

We’ve seen so many of our local neighbours simply build their own buildings or extensions. While it’s certainly impressive that they have the skill and confidence to do it, it’s also like a handyman building a complete house from the foundations up! It would likely be completed, but there would be issues both along the way and afterwards. We don’t want that!


What to do?


So, we’re stuck between a rock and a hard place! Do we do it cheaply (and suffer the consequences), or build only a part of the design now (and the rest later), or sell some body organs so our build budget stretches far enough? Eeeeek!




  1. Angie November 29, 2019

    Eeeek, feeling your pain! Do it once, do it right is my motto!

    1. baliinteriors November 29, 2019

      Definitely want to do it all and do it right, but need be able to pay for it. Double eeek!

  2. Annie November 30, 2019

    I would do a joglo or limasan for the heart of the house living dinning space and add extra bedrooms to the Joglo structures.
    Fondation is solid off the wet rice fields and low cost .

    Or bamboo ?

    1. baliinteriors November 30, 2019

      Hi Annie, yes, that’s certainly a cheaper way to do it. But it’s not what my heart is set on! Lot of tension between my heart and my head at the moment 🙂

  3. GUY MILLER December 2, 2019

    I’ve a builder who built a place for us over there, was cool. Kinda close to budget and pretty good. I had the same problem designed a place got the quote then had to start again. Anyway email me and I’ll send you his details.

  4. Johanna December 7, 2019

    Hi, I love following your blogg. Me and my partner are also planning to build a house. Only renovated previous one but find it to be cheaper getting more then 1 contractor. For example, have 1 company do the structure and main materials of the house. Use a second one for wood details like flooring inside / outdoor wood deck and benches. Have a third one for the pool and do the garden on your own? ( every time I buy plants and have them delivered planting is included. ( takes a bit time off course but surly saving money ) I find if you rely on 1 company only they will use that fact and charge you higher. Also buying the materials yourself is a good idea cause then you usually get a lower price and you can also make shure it is in fact the right materials, proper coating etc. Make shure that the payment plan is detailed on what needs to be finished. If it says 2:nd payment after 50% finished make shure that its stated what 50% finished is. Excited to follow the rest of your journey. 🙂

    1. baliinteriors December 7, 2019

      Hi Johanna, thank you so much for your comment. I am sure your experience renovating will greatly assist you to build – it’s such a learning experience!. We had considered the option that you suggest, and I think it would work for some people. A friend of mine used 1 main contractor, but said if he builds again, he will do it your way. But I was hesitant to do it myself, even though I agree it could be cheaper. Firstly, you need to know which particular tradepeople (plumber, electrician, tiler) you are going to use i.e. you have to know good ones! Secondly, I think it’s more time consuming to oversee the different groups of workers and manage the timing so the project is always moving ahead. Finally, I had heard of issues where some tradespeople (group A) blamed other tradespeople (group B) for problems with the work that group A did. It’s nice to have one person who is responsible for managing the entire project, and he is the guy who has to fix any problems! So, for me, it made sense to use just one company (but they will bring in specialists to do specific jobs e.g. the pool). I wish you lots of luck for your upcoming build! Please let me know how it goes!


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