Why Bali?

Bali is an ever emerging market for property and real estate, since the day people like Walter Spies, Vicky Baum and Colin McPhee bought or rented a piece of real estate in this island.

Bali’s nature, exoticism (even to me, Hinduism still offers an unfathomable aura of mystery) and culture, have magnetized tourists and expats alike, and always will. In recent years, with more opportunities open up, the thinning of boundaries between nations and abundant “work from home” opportunities, Bali has seen more expats flooding in than ever.

The Problems

The demand for residential place increase as a result. Rules are made to accommodate this spurt of growth, while others broken. Wealthy Indonesians from Jakarta and other big cities like Surabaya and Bandung responded to the increase of visitors each year. New hotels are sprouting, literally overnight, like mushrooms in Bali. And there are more to come. Alliance were formed, overseas money flows in, lawsuits filed and I don’t know what else.

This is quite a challenge for Bali, which naturally is a small island with even smaller part of desirable area, with Badung regency takes the lion’s share of it. Concerns were raised. Susi Johnston for example, has made a very popular fan page entitled How Much is Too Much just to raise awareness of this seemingly uncontrollable development of hotels and the practices of the developers (so similar to each other as if on cue) of giving a little or no regards toward the environmental issue.

To make matter worse in a point, by prohibiting tall building, the local wisdom or kearifan lokal seems to promote the acquisition of massive size of land plot. This is a setback no one expected, not even the late great Ida Bagus Mantra himself, the wisest governor Bali ever see, who first codified it in order to respect the sacredness of pura. This is a loop often utilized and exploited by irresponsible parties to reap profits.

Yes, we all want to make profit, but surely not at the expense of the island and it’s future well-being. The solution for all this is to go back to common sense. Massive sprawl of luxury hotel in every kilometer is not common sense.

However, despite the massive land takeovers conducted by hotel shareholders and developers, the sale and rent of private property e.g. villa and house–or land upon which they will be built–still dominate the property market in Bali.

“How much land do I need for my Bali home?” This question is an important matter in the long run because it’s based on modesty, common sense and it definitely shows responsibility on your part. Like anything else, buying something just because you can, only serves nothing else but inflates your ego. And this is not something Bali could survive from. Paraphrasing Gandhi: “Bali has enough for everyone’s need, but not for everyone’s greed.

Meanwhile, real estate price keeps increasing. As vary as it may– depends on the location–the price is still going one way: up. This could serve as a buffer, to slow down the rates of land conversion from agricultural to residential. However, it creates another problem. Everyone wants their fair share of that cake: a promise of quick money, instant wealth and God knows what else.

Just to follow my curiosity, I compared the price of property in Bali with those in major cities in the world.

In this case I picked New York, Upper East Side; France, Paris, Île-de-France; Italy, Milan and Australia, Sydney.

I know, I know. Others will argue that this comparison is cheeky (place randomly picked, unbalanced etc), but since it serves no other purpose than to fulfill my curiosity and not by any mean a thorough comparative study, hold your horses, everyone!

What I want to know is, how many x-amount of dough could get you an x-quality of property (in terms of size and number of bedrooms) in those cities. The summary is in the following:

LocationLand SizeBuilt SizeBedroomsPrice
Paris, France140 sqm3$3,921,399
New York, US100 sqm1$1,700,000
Milan, Italy89 sqm3€ 298.000
Sydney, Australia332 sqm3$3,200,000
Freehold villa in Bali (North Kuta)3500 sqm1000 sqm5$1,500,000
Leasehold property in Bali (North Kuta)1200 sqm600 sqm4$885,000

Once again, this is a bare-boned comparison between money and property, no other factors or aspects calculated.

To me, what I see in the table explains the drive behind the land and villa hunt conducted by foreigners and expats in Bali. No matter how expensive the land or villa is for Indonesia’s standard, it’s still waaay cheaper than the ones back home. It seems that, according to the price factor alone, the buying and selling of Bali properties are still here to stay.

Addressing The Problem

Opinions torn in two sides. Those who’ve spent decades in Bali missed the old days (go back in times or maintain status quo) , while those who came later, are trying their best to keep up (to develop it further). At this point, everywhere it turns, Bali stares at an immediate danger. It is as if impending doom awaits in every corner: economic imbalance, environmental issue, safety and traffic-related ‘disasters’ etc. However,  its a consequence one should expect from a place that rely heavily on tourism. Its the honey, money and poison all at once.

The challenge would be to harness all those demands into something constructive and beneficial to the island and to its people. This is the chance to give back to the island, to its culture, to its gods in equal manner, especially considering how this place benefits us, body and soul. There’s no other way. This counts for the locals too, Balinese in particular and Indonesians in general, as they’re part of the interconnected links that both sustain and live off Bali.

Principles based on local wisdom, common sense and mutual respect should be reinforced. The local government, who many believeis the biggest part of the problem, should keep transparency above all else in every dealings concerning these matters.

Only then we will see, the Bali we all love is assured of its future. Only then the question I use as the title of this piece will has a decent answer, the same answer people I aformentioned earlier would’ve said: “Why not?”