Build Diary 51 – Bali House Hunting on a Budget!

Bali Interiors Build Diary House hunting on a budget

Life update from Sheila


It’s been an exciting couple of months at Bali Interiors HQ. We’re cooking up some new ventures (more on that to come soon!), which mean we need to move out of our home asap. So there are some big changes on the horizon!


It’s been a whirlwind ride so far, with only one downside……we need a new place to live. It was time to enter the waters of the Bali real estate market. I guess we are returning back to our roots as our Build Diary started a few years ago as we documented our experiences looking for land and building in Bali.


So I’ve been doing some serious house hunting recently, and wow, things have changed a lot since we last were looking. We’ve lived in this home for 3 years, and before that, we were in our last place for 5 years. 


It’s way back in 2016 that I last explored the real estate market for my own home in Bali. Things have definitely changed. Back then, we paid AUD 15k per year for our previous home: a modern spacious 3 bedroom fully furnished villa with a big pool and garden in the then very-quiet-but-still-up-and-coming spot of Padang Linjong, Canggu. Nowadays, in the same area, that same money will probably get a small 1 bedroom with an overgrown patch of grass and a shared pool (if we’re lucky!)


So, I put on my thinking cap to get the most bang for our buck.

What we wanted


I had a list of priorities (in no particular order):


  • Staying in our suburb of Babakan. Just one suburb inland of Canggu, it still feels like a world away. It has less of the hustle and bustle of Canggu, but is still close to the amenities. There’s still a friendly local vibe here. We know all our neighbours and when we take our 2 dogs on their twice-daily walks, we are usually joined by a few of the local dogs.


  • If we can’t stay in Babakan, we still want to be close to the Umalas to Canggu strip. That’s where we work and where our kids go to school. 


  • On a quiet street or near a park. Close to some nature, or a park or soccer field would be ideal.


  • On a decent size piece of land, ideally with a garden or outdoor space (a pool would be great but is almost impossible at our price point).


  • A fixer-upper but no major Mechanical Electrical Plumbing problems (so so many places here have so so many major problems!) 


  • 3 bedrooms. Though they probably do love each other, my 2 kids may kill each other if they have to share a room for an extended period.


  • And probably the most challenging requirement was that the owner would allow us a longish lease (10-25 years) AND that we could pay annually. Generally, most owners want all the money upfront. We don’t have the spare funds to buy many years in advance. However,  we also don’t want to take a place for a year or 2, invest money into it, and then find the rent has doubled or tripled!. So a long lease, with a set price paid annually, was the goal.

Our Budget


And for all of this, we had the annual budget of a maximum of AUD 10k per year. Yep, you read that correctly. 10k. Real estate has boomed in Bali since I was last looking. I knew it was definitely going to be tough to get a place that ticked enough boxes at that price point! However, I’d rather get a basic place with good bones, and spend money on renovating it to meet our style and needs. I love making a house into a home. 

Bali Interiors Build Diary House hunting on a budget

Looking Online 


Way way back, when we were looking for a Bali home 8 years ago, we looked online at (English language) villa rental agency websites to find our first home. 5 years later, to find our piece of land, which we then built on, we went low tech and rode around on a scooter in the area we liked and chatted with local people about what was available. 


This time we knew that our budget was too low to find what we wanted on villa rental websites. We realised very quickly that we needed to look for a local house, rather than a villa. I knew we’d have to do some renovations but that’s part of the fun of creating a home. We used Facebook marketplace and searched and searched and searched through local real estate listings. 


When we found some houses online that looked OK(ish!), we would go and see them. They were generally pretty bad (see reasons below) but seeing them put us in contact with agents (and I use that term very loosely) who seemed to specialise in that particular area and would send us lots of other available places that hadn’t been listed. Then we’d go and see those places, hoping to find that needle-in-the-haystack house. 


Amazingly, one of the first places we saw ticked almost every box. We liked the house and had an in principle agreement over the length of lease and annual repayment schedule, but then suddenly the owner asked for all the money up front and so we couldn’t take it. So that magical unicorn disappeared. 

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly


During our search, I visited over 50 local houses, and I saw some shockers! Some particular lowlights were:


  • The abandoned guesthouse that had hepatitis warnings on it


  • The house with the seriously sinking floor that looked like it would collapse at any moment


  • The one that promised to be a mere 10 mins to my kids schools, but was over an hour away (10 mins by helicopter perhaps?)


  • The one that didn’t have a living room 


  • The one that didn’t have a kitchen


  • The one that didn’t have a living room or a kitchen 


  • The one that had a whole different house on the same piece of land that was 2 metres away from the house for rent. Or the other one that was the bottom floor of a 2 level house and had another family living above (and we would share the same front door!)


  • The one that looked great in the photos…. except that it was surrounded by construction on 4 sides and with nearby land being sold as well, we would be living in a permanent construction zone (I know all about that nightmare


  • The one that has no road access to the house. We’d have to ride down a narrow little path for 200 metres. Also, there was no way to bring out their bigger furniture, or bring ours in. 


  • And, finally, the one where owner wouldn’t do a fixed price contract and said we would just have to trust him to not increase the rent after we renovated


The list could easily go on…..


But, in reality, the majority were just very small and basic places on a 1-2 ara (1 ara = 10m x 10m) plot that used every square metre to create a concrete box. 100% functional, but no love or charm. And, more importantly, not much potential that I could harness and turn into something I could be proud of.  


No Luck


I looked for a while and became a little depressed….and then a lot depressed,  at what was available at our budget. Eventually we realised that we were unlikely to find something that ticked enough of the boxes. Things were getting desperate and we needed to find another way to uncover the right place. 


We started looking around in hidden little local areas in order to find a little neigbourhood warung. The sorts of places where the community gathers each afternoon. We would ask around if anyone was renting out their house. We met a lot of people, made some new friends, but that magical unicorn house was nowhere to be found


A simple option was to move further away. Real estate is cheaper as you move away from the hubs but with our work life and the kids’ school in the Umalas to Canggu strip, our commute time would be multiplied. 



Eventually, we found a couple of places that ticked enough boxes to make us interested. Maybe my standards were lowering or the fear of being homeless was kicking in! But, even then, there was always that one deal-breaker – they wanted all payment upfront. 


We kept on extending our search area and eventually found a place that ticked enough boxes. It wasn’t great, but it was do-able. And I resigned myself to living in this place. So be it. I’d do what I could to turn it into a lovely home (but honestly, I had my doubts). We started the due diligence to check they actually owned the home, with a plan to sign a contract in the next week or so. 


Return of the Magical Unicorn


Then, out of the blue, the first place we had really liked, back in our home suburb of Babakan, contacted us again. They were now keen to do a deal and this time didn’t need all the money up front. We were overjoyed and slightly dubious. Was it actually as good as we had remembered? Why hadn’t it been snapped up already? Was this some sort of scam? 


We’ve had a lot of empty promises from agents and owners over the last couple of months of fruitless looking. You know that expression “when something seems too good to be true, it probably is”. That’s how we felt! Clearly, we were jaded!


We went back to meet with them. And, amazingly, the deal was now on. The family were keen to rent, and would do a long term contract with annual payments. We talked over a few conditions and came to a verbal agreement in one day.  Our magical unicorn had returned! 


We went over to the house with our handyman extraordinaire, Pak Slamet, to do an inspection. He looked over the plumbing, electrical, structure….  and gave us the thumbs up! Less than a week later we signed the contract. 


Of course, it still requires a lot of work (but a lot less than other places we’d seen), and most importantly it has potential. I know what I can turn it into. It has great bones, and with a little bit of love and a sprinkle of pixie dust, I’m excited to make this our next home. 



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