- Bali is full of half-finished dream houses.
- A local architect broke down three steps people should take if they want to build a dream home on the island.
- He also gave us a budget breakdown including price of land, materials, and construction.
Bali has acquired a mystical reputation due to its volcanic sand beaches and Hindu culture, but there’s another less-known feature to the island’s landscape: the half-finished villas and abandoned mansions that dot the Indonesian island. They’re evidence of failed experiments, often those of idealistic foreigners looking to build an island vacation home. So what went wrong?
Till Marzloff is a German-born architect and the founder of Marzloff Architecture and Design in Bali.
Since 2012, Marzloff has been designing tropical, modernist homes in the German Bauhaus style. Marzloff’s architecture and design firm works with Indonesians and expats through the islands of Java and Bali. He has designed twenty residential buildings and six retail properties with several more currently in progress.
In a recent sit-down conversation with Insider, he offered his tips on designing a dream home in paradise so future builders can avoid the same fate of many before them.
The nitty-gritty: Who’s allowed to build homes in Bali?
Many countries make it easy to buy and own property as a foreigner, but Indonesia is not one of them. According to the National Law of Land, foreigners cannot obtain full ownership of land in Indonesia without becoming a citizen of the country first.
There are several other options to help one acquire land. Permanent residents are allowed to own land for up to 80 years and sell it as needed under a right to use certificate (“Hak Pakai” in Indonesian). Non-residents can turn to the leasehold route (Hak Sewa Untuk Bangunan) or the right to lease and build. Lease periods last 30 years, often with an option to extend multiple times.
A more complex route is establishing a foreign-owned business in Indonesia (PMA) which requires a minimum investment of 10 billion IDR (roughly $688,000).
Step one: Find the right land
“One of the most common mistakes people make in Bali is buying the wrong land,” Marzloff said. “Many people don’t do their due diligence, resulting in buying land that’s actually illegal to build on.”
Some sellers, Marzloff said, will take advantage of unsuspecting buyers and sell them “green land,” which is protected by the Indonesian government. Some sellers fail to mention the protected status of the land until a house is almost finished, only to then extort the homeowner to finish the house on illegal land.
The best way to avoid this situation is to hire a reputable notary on the island who completes a due diligence process on the land title before you buy it, Marzloff said. “Another big warning sign is the price. If the price of land in Bali seems too good to be true, it probably is,” the architect added.
Land prices vary throughout the island, he said. They can range from around $6,000 per 100 square meters in remote areas to upwards of $70,000 per 100 square meters in desirable areas like Canggu, Seminyak, and Sanur.
Step two: Find the right architect
After finding a good piece of legal land for a fair price, it’s time to research Bali’s architects to see which one aligns with your personal style and philosophy, Marlzoff said.
“A home is a representation of the harmony between the architect and the owner,” said Marzloff. “Sometimes that harmony works and other times, it does not. That’s why it’s important to find an architect that matches your own dreams and ambitions.”
Social media is a good place to start, he said. Architects like Marzloff post photos of their designs on social media so you can begin to get a feel for their style. Once you find a style you like, set up an appointment with them to see their work physically and meet the team.
Designing a house can be a long process, so it’s important to establish a connection with your architect, Marzloff said. Plus, a high-quality architect often comes with good connections, he said: Whether it’s in-house services or helping clients connect with independent experts, the best architects are one-stop shops when it comes to creating your dream home.
Step three: Know your budget upfront
The No. 1 reason for the half-finished villas all over Bali is improper budget planning from the homeowner, Marlzoff said. While building a home in Indonesia may be more affordable than in other countries, there are still many expenses to track. Knowing these expenses and budgeting for unpredictable problems in the building process will help you limit surprises and more importantly, get you a finished house in the end.
Below, Marlzoff broke down a cost estimate using an example of a 200-square-meter house on a 400-square-meter piece of land in Bali. Note that all prices are estimates and in USD.
Sample budget for building a home in Bali
Land: Anywhere from $24,000 to $280,000 depending on location
Architect (structural engineering and MEP engineer): $14,000 – $20,000
Building (for the house alone): ~ $140,000
Pool and garden: ~ $20,000
Permits (water supply and electricity): ~ $7,000
Interior design (furniture, electrical devices, lamps, textiles, etc): ~ $35,000
Total budget: ~ $240,000 – $500,000