Build Diary – Marco and Erika
Where are you from and what do you do?
We’re from Ecuador and Germany. We had been living in Germany. We do lots of things including photography, content creation, graphic design, social media, and even reservation control for an indoor mini golf place in Germany – it’s pretty niche!
When did you first come to Bali?
The first time we came to Bali in 2018 and we fell in love with the island and we always wanted to come back since then so we took the chance in 2020. We arrived in Feb 2020, just before things went crazy. There was not much talk about Corona then. We were on Nusa Penida when things went really downhill.
Why did you decide to stay in Bali?
We had just done a visa run to Kuala Lumpur and we suddenly realised we had to decide where to stay because Corona was about to hit. Germany was not an option for us and we thought about Ecuador. But the day we wanted to book the flights, the government announced that foreigners were not allowed to stay there. We had plans to travel to other countries but all the borders were suddenly closed.
So we said, let’s stay in Bali and hopefully it’ll turn out well. Because at that time nobody knew what was going to happen. Then we set up our own company and got a KITAS so we can stay.
What do you love about Bali?
We love the culture, the friendly people and the beautiful nature: from stunning beaches to lush green waterfall places. It’s also a great place to network with like-minded people. Here we can enjoy Bali life and have time for our own projects. When we lived in Germany and Australia, we were working 6 or 7 days a week.
What made you want to build here? What are the advantages of building here?
We realised that after travelling for 3 years, it was time to have a base. And it’s very affordable to build here.
We looked at different areas. We thought Berawa would be too expensive. But we had a really good connection with the land owner. And, truthfully, we love Berawa, it’s a really cool place that has everything we need.
Did you do much research before you decided to build? How did you research?
So much research! We spoke with lots of people. We’re not super rich! This is our life savings, so we need to be careful!
How did you choose this piece of land?
It took us around about 8 months to find the right land. We were really picky! We went to real estate agents and drove down little streets looking for land. And people always came out and said “hey are you looking for land? My brother has land”. And they take you to him. We also looked on facebook groups. We saw many potential pieces of land but when we found this one we felt inside that it is the right land for us and our project.
Are you using an architect/contractor or managing it yourself? How did you find them?
To be honest, at the beginning, we were really lost. We didn’t know what to do. And then we met a couple. We just overheard them talking one day in a café about their experience because they were already building here. So we just started talking with them. And they were super helpful. In fact, one was a designer. They had already built 2 times and are doing a big project now.
We’d been looking for land for 8 months but to have feedback from this couple really opened our eyes. We were lucky that we hadn’t chosen other land before we met them. We were so close to signing a contract for a different piece of land but luckily we didn’t sign yet.
Then they introduced us to their builder , and we saw his quality of work. We got a package price from him to build for us. We didn’t need an architect because that couple were designers so they helped us to design and put our ideas on paper. And our builder could do all the other stuff, like pipes and sewerage etc. So creating the plans was a combination.
The best part is that our friends have used this builder and they are using him again now to build something even bigger. So we trust him and we are confident he is doing to do a good job with us!
How did you navigate the bureaucracy of building here? Getting an IMB / permission from the local government organisations etc?
That couple helped us so much. They have a consultant who helped us do the IMB building permit and follow all the rules. She is a person you can really trust. She has worked with that builder many times and makes sure the plans fit the requirements.
Actually, she investigated the other land we had looked at previously. It turned out that it wasn’t owned by a person, it was owned by the temple so it would be much more complicated to get the land and build. It was bummer because we really liked that land, but we’re so glad because we could have been in the wrong place. We ended up with a much better piece of land.
How long has your build been going and when do you expect to finish? Did you plan it to take this long?
We started on 25 March, so a couple of months ago. We hope to finish in October. Maybe it will take 6 months in total. It’s a small piece of land, just 2are. The thing is, we don’t want to rush it. In fact, we told the builder to take all the time he needs.
Have there been any surprises along the way?
It was hard at first to understand that we couldn’t just buy the land outright. As we’re not Indonesian, we can’t. Instead, we would rent for 30 years and then return the land, with our building on top, to the land owner. Coming from Germany, where you always buy the land freehold, it was a very different way of thinking.
The build process has been going well so far. Until now it’s gone really fast. The change until now has been amazing!
Have you made any changes to the design?
Oh yes, definitely! The builder was great because we had thought of some ideas that we thought were really cool, but after speaking with the builder and our friend who is a designer, we realised that it’s not practical for the land size or it was simply too expensive for us! He broke down the costs and we decided to keep the most important features for us, but also remove some other things that increased the price. He really helped us to improve our design and make sure it fits our budget. We always told our builder that design is nice, but it’s equally important that it’s practical.
How often do you visit your build?
We try to go everyday! While we are building, we are living in a guesthouse now that is 20 metres away from the build site because we want to be as close as possible. We can easily check the progress. We haven’t reached the point in the build when we need to be there every day because we have to make significant decisions, but we think it’ll be important to be so close.
What will you do for furniture after you finish?
We’ve budgeted some money for all that stuff and the good thing is that we will do a lot of stuff in concrete, like bed frames. So our builder can do them for us. We know how expensive using wood can be but we going to use it as well to make it more charming.
What advice would you give to anyone thinking about building here?
We really like to help people who want to build because we know what it feels like at first. It can be really scary. We want to share our tips and help other people to have a good experience. We were lucky to meet people who helped us, so we want to do the same.
*Do lots of research! Find people who have done what you want to do! Ask them lots of questions. Most people are very kind and willing to share their tips. We also spoke with people who had bad experiences so we knew what to avoid. For examples, don’t pay everything up front. Pay in stages. Always pay in stages.
*Make sure you check the access to the land. What is the road like? Is it wide enough? Can a truck use it? Do you have the right to use that road?
*Think about the rainy season. How will your land and building cope? What happens when it rains every day for 3 months?
*Be sceptical with many real estate agents. The ones we spoke to just told us things they thought we wanted to hear. For example, we could start building on a still-being-used rice field, rather than let it dry out.
*If you see land you like, but you don’t know who owns it, try to go there really early, like 6am, because the owner or his family will probably be there working.
*Sometimes the land is cheap, but it’s too far away, so remember it has to match your lifestyle.
*Make sure you check the legal papers. Use a recommended notaris.
*Finally, if you post on facebook, be prepared to be overwhelmed with random strangers offering their building/ real estate services. You’ll get 100s of messages. It’s better to use people that have been recommended to you by friends.
Marco and Erika are documenting their build experience at Casa Nomada Bali
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