Aussie dollar paves the way for luxury villa boom in idyllic Bali

The Australian, 19 August 2017
If you have to ask the price you probably can’t afford one, but there is a small percentage of the more than one million Australians holidaying in Bali ¬annually who end up investing in the island.

For a song — compared to Australian real estate prices — you can pick up a luxury beachfront Bali villa replete with swimming pools and cheap labour via a leasehold or a long-term rental contract. Think rock-star lifestyle with 24-hour butlers, chefs, chauffeurs and gardeners.

“If 10 people come through our door looking for property, four of them would be Australian,” says Bali-based agent Matthew Georgeson, director of Elite Havens/Knight Frank.“You can buy very well,” Georgeson says.

About $1.5 million will buy a 400sq m-500sq m villa on about 1000sq m of land in Batubelig (next to trendy Seminyak) as well as on the fringes of other strategic areas, but under Indonesian law, foreigners cannot own property outright, instead they rent long term or buy in partnership with a local.

Former Sydneysider Milanie Simic, based near Canggu since December, says there are many pros and cons to living in Bali.

Among the pros are the cheap costs of some medical services as well as beauty and wellness treatments, staff and tradesmen.

“With establishing and running a business, the cost of manufacturing, materials and staff are much cheaper than in Australia. And the day-to-day stress levels are also predominantly low,” Simic says.But there are drawbacks to living in Bali, such as the traffic due to motorists disobeying road rules and the almost non-existent traffic law enforcement.

There’s also a lack of Western supermarket options and the cost of imported cheese is extortionately high. “Electricity and internet costs are high, while the continuous downpours during the wet season make it impossible for outdoor activities,” she says.

Ray White chairman Brian White, who operates five offices in Bali, says Australians love Bali and all the Ray White offices are performing exceptionally well.

“Villas are in big demand, (but) invariably the number of people buying for permanent living is much less than those seeking holiday homes,” White says.

“Having said that some Australians have quite extended holidays here, spending two to three months in Bali a year.”

Nevertheless, urban designer and author Rodney Jensen says Bali suits the retiree market because long-term visas are available for the over 65s.

“It is much harder to get a visa if you are not in the retirement category,” Jensen says.“And if you are, you’re not allowed to earn money. Even if you have an Airbnb they could deport you.”

Australian entrepreneur Tony Smith, who divides his time between Bali and Queensland’s Gold Coast, says Airbnb has ¬deeply affected the island’s rental market.

Smith says rent on one villa had risen from $S9000 a year to $S72,000 ($66,730) a year, due to Airbnb. But he warns that Australians wanting to rent out their Balinese homes must obtain a pondok wisata licence so the government can charge rent.

Despite the bureaucracy, Australians still make up a significant proportion of buyers, but Indonesians make up most of the market,” says agent Georgeson, adding there’s rising interest from Europeans and Singaporeans in Bali’s real estate market.

“Western Australians definitely make up the biggest numbers of (Australian) buyers, as well as a lot of people from Melbourne,” he says.

“And there are always a few deals around as traditionally people hold an investment property for seven to eight years and then they want to sell it.”

Apartment development has long been on the back burner in Bali but Georgeson says it will be the next big thing. “I know apartment projects are coming through the works now in Sanur, Canggu and Seminyak ... all the areas the tourists like to visit,” he says.

Across from Sanur, on the idyllic island of Nusa Lembongan, ¬Georgeson says tourist numbers have gone through the roof, which means developers are more interested in building luxury villas on the Bali outpost.

But on the island of Bali, the Canggu area is probably the hottest market at present.

“I am also seeing a resurgence of interest in Sanur because of its quiet, clean, beach. The Seminyak market remains strong; it has more hustle and bustle, while Pet¬itenget is where all the smart set are going, popularity is definitely creeping north,” ¬Georgeson says.

On the other side of the island, the drier Bukit Peninsula, ¬Georgeson says there are several world-class properties but the Indonesian government has new rules imposing clifftop house setbacks. “The residential lifestyle with big views on the Bukit is happening,” he says, noting there are cheaper options on the Bukit with panoramic views and about 20 good restaurants to choose from.

FROM POOLS TO LUSH GARDENS, IT’S ALL HERE

Set on a riverfront overlooking southwest Bali’s rice terraces Villa Hansa features seven bedrooms, tropical gardens and two swimming pools on 4000sq m. The sprawling villa is on the market for $US2.2 million ($2.8m).

At the top end of the market at Seseh-Cemagi is a five-bedroom, five-ensuite villa developed on 5000sq m of lush tropical gardens fronting Cemagi Beach. It has price expectations of $US7.5m. The property was renovated in 2015 and features a 20m infinity edge pool.

In busy Seminyak, Villa Aliya is on the market for $US2m.The four-bedroom villa with a 16m swimming pool has four air-conditioned bedrooms as well as two separate dining areas and a large living room.

Set on a dead-end road, the villa is surrounded by extensive tropical landscaping.All three villas are on the market through Matthew Georgeson, of Elite Havens.