Some of the items included in this list are relatively easy for you to look into yourself. When it comes to matters concerning the community, it might be useful to take along a Balinese friend who understands local dynamics. Some of the better legal companies offer this service, should you need it. When it comes to checking out the structural integrity and general state of the property, you will need the assistance of a building professional. You'll need to consult with a legal advisor and a notary experienced in real estate matters when it's time to draw up the agreement.
NELbali Property urges you to take very little at face value, and where you are in the slightest doubt, seek professional advice. Remember, if a deal sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. Deal with trusted professionals who have long standing reputations and don't be shy to ask for off-island references.
Experience shows that every type of villa (which commonly range in size from two to six bedrooms) has its own markets. Smaller villas are easier to rent in town. The further away holidaymakers go away from urban attractions the bigger the villa they tend to prefer.
Clearly define in your own mind who your target market is. Don’t lose sight of the fact that the villa rental market in Bali is the most sophisticated – and demanding – in all of Asia. If your plot of land is substantial, you may consider building two (or more) smaller houses on the property. Each should be completely self-contained and offer separate garden, pool and entrance way. This will give you greater rental flexibility. The other alternative for larger properties, especially those that are further from town, is to build a 'destination' villa. This is a villa with such a high-level of facilities and service – and with a food and beverage service to rival a 5-star hotel – that guests don’t feel the need to routinely leave the property for daily activities or to dine out. Large properties are also ideal as venues for functions – such as weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, theme parties, or corporate offsites – and, depending on what you are trying to achieve with your market positioning, this should be considered in your architectural mandate.
If you’re buying with renting in mind, being within a reasonable driving distance of dining out, shopping, entertainment and recreational activities is essential. You should also satisfy yourself the access road leading to your villa is adequate. Many lanes are too narrow for cars to park along them as well as letting other cars pass.
Check that your quiet little street is actually quiet 24 hours a day. Some secondary streets and lanes turn into a flood of traffic at the morning and evening rush hours. Ascertain that the lane that joins your villa with the main road is actually a public thoroughfare. Some of these lanes are privately owned, so do not necessarily assume that you may use it for access. If your property is in close proximity to a temple, be aware that on ceremony days, your street, or streets leading to it, may be blocked entirely by temple activities such as processions or by visitors to the temple parking wherever they feel like.
Municipal supply of water is by no means universal, in fact it is usually only available in metropolitan areas, however some rural areas do have access to mains water. Where no municipal or mains water is provided, properties rely on wells or bores for their water supply. Sometimes during the dry season the water table may drop and render wells and bores dry. In addition, while many villas have water towers the piping is of such a narrow gauge that water pressure in the bathroom is not up to the average westerner’s expectations. This means that a smaller pump, secondary to the pump which raises the water from the bore to the water tower has to be fitted to maintain adequate water pressure.
Another point to consider is that these pumps rely on electricity and that Bali is subject to occasional all-day power outages while line maintenance is carried out, as well as relatively frequent temporary outages. Until the electricity returns, without a generator, you may find yourself out of water as well. This is not acceptable in a rental situation, nor particularly welcomed in a residential one. We advise you to get the assistance of a building surveyor to ascertain the condition of any well or pumps on the property you have your eye on.
LAND USE RESTRICTIONS
If you purchase land with the object of building, you need to make sure that you can get an IMB – a building permit. Some people have bought land which has been gazetted as Green Belt or zoned agricultural and have been unable to build. Licensing and zoning are both considerations for existing properties and unbuilt land. If you acquire a residential property and wish to do commercial rentals at some point in the future, you’d best check if that’s allowed. In addition, you need to be aware that you may not be able to build if your proposed building is taller than a nearby temple. It is essential that you have your legal counsel check your property for restrictions of this nature.
Every Balinese village or community is made up of one or more banjars. This is a type of community council which protects the traditions of the area and carries out community work and social welfare services. A banjar’s decisions are largely autonomous, so it is important that any new landowner or resident has harmonious relations with the banjar right from the start. Common courtesy goes a long way to getting along with the banjar, and the vast majority are easy going.
Many western owners who are on the island for extended periods of time become popular and well-liked members of the banjar, especially those that take part in community activities and ceremonies or extend a bit of financial support for such. However, a very few banjars, or officials within a banjar, have a reputation for being difficult. It may be useful for you to enlist the aid of a knowledgeable person to find out if there are any particular peculiarities you should know about before you move into a banjar’s district.
Because of the substantial upgrading in electricity reticulation that’s occurring in the densely populated south, power outages for maintenance or upgrading purposes are commonplace. Accidental outages occur too, like in many countries, especially those caused by lightning strikes on transmission lines or substations. These seldom last very long. Voltage dropouts and surges can occur too. These can seriously damage sensitive electronic equipment such as computers.
Many people get around these problems by installing large voltage regulators and surge protectors at the point where the power enters the premises. Others protect individual electrical appliances with smaller versions of the same equipment. Installed capacity of wattage differs from house to house too. Indonesia subsidises its poorer citizens by providing them with electricity at a lower tariff per kilowatt / hour. To take advantage of this lower rate, houses must have the minimum installed capacity.
The minimum installed capacity is inadequate for the needs of a western occupier as it simply is not sufficient to run the range of electrical appliances and air conditioners guests expect. Thus the installed capacity has to be increased which results in the villa owner paying more per kilowatt / hour, irrespective of actual usage.
Luxury villas which have a number of air conditioners, refrigerators, water pumps, pool pumps and filtration systems and the normal range of household electrical appliances need the highest installed capacity. Large gardens with lots of background lighting can also be a factor. Monthly power bills can be substantial. For most villas, the two highest monthly costs are staffing and electricity.
You need to enlist the aid of a building surveyor to satisfy yourself that the electrical systems in the home you are looking at will meet your expectations.
Improvements in communications infrastructure in recent years means that there are few impediments for people wishing to live here, yet conduct business internationally. Cellular phone providers have almost total island-wide coverage. Internet coverage on the island is improving rapidly. The national telephone company offers a relatively high speed internet service; a 3G connection via the cell phone network is available; satellite connections are provided by a number of companies.
True broadband using fibre optic cables has recently become available, but is still limited to some locations. When purchasing or building a new villa, one should carefully check – cell phone coverage, availability of fixed lines phones and wireless broadband access, because all will be relevant to owners and their guests.
Much of the soil in Bali is incredibly fertile and plants and shrubs grow quickly and easily. If your area does not have particularly good soil, it can be purchased by the truck load at very little cost. The Balinese love beautiful flowers and plants and garden centres can be found on the fringes of most cities and large towns. One thing to remember – small plants are cheap, larger ones are expensive. A number of competent and creative landscaping companies are available to plan and maintain your garden.
If your dream villa has a lot of wood in its construction, you need to check for insect infestation. Termites are widespread and can cause a large amount of damage over time, as well as making dust throughout the house. Rats may have colonised your ceiling spaces. Generally these are paddy rats rather than the disease-ridden ship rat found in the cities.
To ascertain the amount of damage termites have done, if any, you need to get professional input from a building surveyor. Extermination companies can deal with all kinds of household pests, but may not offer a completely unbiased account of your potential problems. It’s better if this task is left to your building surveyor.
Assessing building materials requires professional advice. A professional and competent building surveyor can assess the building's structural integrity; and the ancillary areas like the electrical systems and equipment, plumbing, drainage, pest infestation, etc. Older homes require searching structural surveys. It isn't possible to list every probable fault that could be present in an older home. That is why it is critical to hire a reputable and knowledgable building surveyor. They will know what to look for.
We can share a few warnings on the alang-alang roofs and terrazzo concrete work; both of which are commonly found in Balinese homes of all ages. Many people are attracted to alang-alang roofs. They are attractive and evocative of the old Bali. However, there are significant drawbacks. Despite alang-alang's original quality and the skill of those who install it, alang-alang has a limited life span. It must be replaced once every eight years or so. It is also amade from highly-flammable dried grass making it a significant fire risk. Fire-retardants are available but they must be applied regularly to be effective. Alang-alang also provides a wonderful home to unwanted guests like birds, rats, lizards, and insects.
Terrazzo is a legacy building system that was extremely popular a few years ago because it was cheap and attractive. Terrazzo is a type of concrete mixed with colouring and coloured aggregate, then buffed by hand to a polished finish. Ironically, while its one of the cheapest materials in Bali to build with, in Europe it’s insanely expensive because of the extensive man hours needed to work the materials. Over time, Terrazzo has revealed many drawbacks and is unsuitable to build with. It is incredibly slippery when wet so isn't great for pool surfaces or bathrooms. It is also easily stained so isn't ideal for counters.
The same issue exists with the local sand stone known as Palimanan. White Palimanan stone is a beautiful crisp finish, but being porus its not suitable for floors or counters as it absorbs dirt and other substances like red wine. The only way to attempt to clean it is with harsh chemicals. Many architects are fascinated with its look and cost efficiency, and will insist sealants can protect against stains, but after seasons of tropical weathering and normal use, the Palimanan stone does not last.
When you decide to live and invest in property or land in Bali, you expect a beach. Before you make your purchase of the ocean front property, be sure to visit throughout the range of tides so you get a clear picture of what the beach is like. For example, some beaches are great for surfing but have unpredictable and dangrous currents to all but the most experienced swimmer. Others may have a high tide making the beach impassable. While others beaches have high tides adn waves during new and full moons, sweeping your garden and prized shrubs out to sea.
It is also important to note the sea air and the effects it has on a home. It is laden with salt and is extremely damaging to timber, paintwork, fixtures, fittings and appliances of all kinds. Marine-grade paints, finishes, fittings and appliances should be used when possible; otherwise maintenance will be constant and expensive. It is recommended to higher a building surveyor to check the property's level of maring-proofing before purchasing a new or existing beachfront villa.
NATURAL ORIENTATION AND VIEWS
In many western countries, it is desirable to have a home facing homes the direction that catches the most sun throughout the day. In Bali, this is less desirable because of the heat build-up in the house. Catching the sunset or sunrise is another common demand when choosing a villa. Whether the view faces east or west will impact your view; but many forget that the site elevation will also impact whether or not you catch that perfect sunset. A villa built on a hill, cliff-top, or beachfront has a number of advantages. For example, a higher elevation will catch prevailing winds keeping it cool and well-aired; and it will provide views that will be difficult to build-out.
Development in Bali has been so rapid that villas which enjoyed unimpeded rice field views when they were bought only a few years ago, are now surrounded by neighbours. If you are buying land with the intention of building, you might consider buying a larger plot than is necessary for just the size of your planned house. This means that should your district experience a building boom, the size of your plot will provide you with a buffer from your neighbours. For those who value the view, there is an option available to get a legal agreement with the owner(s) of the rice fields to 'rent the view'. This means the adjacent landowners agree not to sell or develop their land for an agreed amount of compensation.
When purchasing a house or a block of land, it is important to find out who owns the land adjoining your property and what their plans are. Unfortunately, it’s not always possible to get a reliable answer from a Balinese landowner. He may have no intention to sell or develop his land at the time you ask him; however, the right offer could easily change their mind. If the land is owned by an expatriate, or a non-resident Indonesian, that’s a good indication that development of the property is probable at some stage.
A good legal adviser experienced in the sale and purchase of property should be able to help you with many of these matters.
Be aware that it is time consuming and costly to make changes to an existing pool. Infact, changes to the shape of the pool are almost impossible. When considering a villa with an existing pool you want to first check for leaks. Cracks are hard to patch and repair requires re-pouring. Many pools have been equipped with inadequate pumps for the size of the pool and they wear out quickly. Replacements are expensive. So be sure to have n experienced person check the pumps and filtration system.
CONSTRUCTION AND BUILDING LICENSES
Whether you have built yourself, or bought an existing home, you need to make sure the relevant construction taxes (PPn) have been paid. Paying the taxes are supposed to be the responsibility of the building contractor or developer. However, it is a widely abused system. Bureaucracy works particularly slow in Bali. By the time you are notified the tax has not been paid, it might be difficult to find the construction company. In cases like this, you, as owner, have the legal responsibility to pay.
If you are intending to rent your property, you will need a Pondok Wisata license. If you are buying an existing place that is already operating as a rental villa, you must check that a license exists. Some people have been 'flying under the radar' but the tax authorities have become more sophisticated and thorough in tracking down unlicensed properties.