Build Diary 9 – Can we can afford the build?

In our last post, we were facing a conundrum – how do we afford the build?  All the build quotes we had received were way above our budget. While they are from builders who build to foreigner requirements, they are very pricey. It would be much cheaper to use a local builder. It’s very tempting…..


Renovation nightmare


But we already experienced renovating a villa which had been built cheaply. We’d taken over a villa had had been halfway built before the owner ran out of money. The shoddy workmanship meant that so many things (that had just been built) had to be redone properly.

Even after we “finished”, ongoing repairs were needed. We had tradesmen in almost every week to fix electrical and plumbing issues, replaster and paint. It was a nightmare! So lesson learnt – we need to bite the bullet and spend the money to get the job done right.

Build diary 9 – Big decisions made - bedroom
Build diary 9 – Big decisions made - bathroom

Pretty pictures following the reno job. But after they were taken, we had to smash holes in the wall to redo the pipes to the bath and fix the ceiling after it almost caved in due to a problem with the water tank. The consequences of bad workmanship.

I have been in Europe for a family reunion while my husband has been doing the sums. We’ve had some intense facetime conversations as we try to find a way to afford the build! We’ve been looking for ways to cut costs by turning those  must-haves into not essentials.


Making sacrifices


I’ve always wanted to have a lush garden with lots of tropical fruit trees. On a recent road trip we took to the north of Bali we stayed in this unassuming airbnb that surprised us with an incredible garden that was jam-packed with all sorts of delightful tropical yumminess.

Sadly, our villa garden budget will be a big fat zero. I may have to head out to abandoned land in the middle of nowhere with a machete to do some harvesting!

Meanwhile, my kids have been telling me that their must-have item is a slide just like this one from their room to the pool!

Build diary 9 – Big decisions made family shot1
Build diary 9 – Big decisions made family shot2

3 generations of my family explore Europe together. 

The negotiations continue


Agus the builder had given us a very detailed Bill of Quantity (BOQ) which reveals the budget for everything. The BOQ is divided into sections like mechanical and plumbing, as well as every category of each room of the structure. It describes the budget for each feature – e.g. how much is included to spend on the tiles in the bathrooms or the doors to the bedrooms etc.

Agus, and our architect, Silvia, and have been going through each line item, discussing, negotiating and revising. After lots of discussions, Agus was able to revise his initial quote significantly. We’ve also been able to take a bit from here, and a little from there. Everything adds up – or in our case lowers the cost!


 Finally, a decision!


There have been a lot of anxious nights, and plenty of debate over what is or isn’t essential. It has been quite the emotional roller-coaster as we juggle our savings and expected income during the build. But…..we found a way to make it work! We’re going to build!

Happy days! So relieved that we found a way to make it happen! Cant wait to start building on our land!

We’ve had to cut and compromise, and may end up eating nasi goreng and bakso for every meal to afford the build, but we found a way! We can build! Such a relief to have solved this problem – it has been a very stressful few weeks.

Build diary 9 – Big decisions made bakso

Our son “Iron Guts” Phoenix has grown up in Bali. Bakso (soup) is one of his favs! Unsurprisingly, he’s got the                                  strongest stomach in the family.

Suddenly my regular exploration of some of my fav design sites like Hunting for George and Apartment Therapy seems a lot more relevant. I’ve got a home to design!


Payment schedules and build timelines


We met the builder Agus and discussed all the contract inclusions as well as the all-important payment schedule. Unlike paying for a yearly lease which usually requires a single upfront payment, the build payment is broken up into monthly stages .The next payment is made only after the previous month’s work has been completed and checked off by the architect.

We arranged 8 payments in total. We also retain the final payment until 3 months after completion to ensure everything works, and nothing leaks!

Our build timeline is 6 months. Well, that’s what the build schedule says but, hey, this is Bali so I think we all know what that means! We’ve made sure we have enough wiggle room so that even if there are some delays (e.g. the wet season is particularly rainy this year) we can still move directly from our current villa to our future home.

Build diary 9 – Big decisions made
Build diary 9 – Big decisions made - schedule 2

The timing is important because if the build drags on, we’d face the major annoyance of packing up everything when our current lease expires and needing to move into another temporary villa for a period of time before the build is complete. On the flip side, we didn’t want to have too much overlap as it would waste much-needed money to have 2 villas at the same time.

So, we made a decision, and did some serious financial juggling to find a way to afford the build. Perhaps the gods are smiling on us as we also just received the final document we need before we can submit our application for the building permit.

Build diary 9 – Big decisions made drone 1
Build diary 9 – Big decisions made drone 2

The right call


Just today, a photo of the kids and I walking home popped up in my facebook feed. Drenched but happy after a surprise late afternoon storm, we are walking home. There’s a lush green background – a typical Bali village. It suddenly occurred to me that our little village, which only had a shop or 2 that focussed on the tourist dollar a few years ago, has changed.

Build diary 9 – Big decisions made rainy walk home

Cafes, restaurants, money exchange kiosks, bike rental places, mini-marts, laundries, guesthouses, shops for rent and construction sites litter the same few hundred metres of previously empty street I had walked down sopping wet a few years ago. Take a look and count them! Development happens and I certainly don’t begrudge the locals for embracing it.

At another time they are the sort of facilities I would have looked for, but now it feels like too much. It’s the right time to start a new stage in our lives.



  1. Neill Kramer December 14, 2019

    What is your square meter price, including finishes?

    Also to be realistic whatever your final quote is add 20%. Unforeseen expenses……

  2. Vita Dewi April 8, 2020

    If it’s ok with you, may I please know the contact for this Agus guy, would you email me his contact?. I believe you have already researched a lot on who you choose and I believe your recommendation ?.. It will save us some researching time. Thanks before

    1. baliinteriors April 9, 2020

      Hi Vita, thanks for your comment. At this stage, we are very happy with how things are progressing with our builder Agus. However, I always wait till a project is completed before I recommend anyone. Unfortunately, in my line of work, I’ve seen how projects can turn sour quickly, so I definitely prefer to wait before I give out contacts! I’m confident that things will turn out fantastically well with Agus, but best to be safe!

      I’d also like to add that it’s not only the builder that matters, the architect is incredibly important. Our amazing architect, Silvia, is regularly on the site, checking and rechecking, fixing little problems before they become big ones. The relationship between the architect and builder is as important as the client/builder and client/architect relationships. I’d choose the architect first, and work from there.


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