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 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.
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!