By Livian Lin
Up until 2013, luxury property prices in Bali enjoyed 22% growth against the Asia Pacific average of 13.5%. Recently, however, the holiday hotspot in Indonesia has strained relations with its most frequent guest, Australia. Has this, along with the ongoing economic slowdown in Europe, affected its overall appeal?
Traditionally, those who buy property in Bali do so for a variety of reasons: investment, vacation home, long stay, rent out or a mix of the above.
FERTILE INVESTMENT GROUND
Pierre Porte, the principal of Pierre Porte and Partners, has been a permanent resident in Bali for over 20 years and a real estate developer for the last four years. He points out that despite the economic slowdown, property prices in Bali are still growing and it remains a good investment option.
However, he does see change in the fact that there is increasing demand for properties in areas beyond the customary hotspots of Kuta and Seminyak. Demand for property in Ubud and northern Bali is on the rise due to lower prices and the serenity this locale offers, away from the hustle and bustle of the tourist hotspots.
Porte has also seen an increase in the number of buyers from Asia, particularly from China. Most Chinese buyers are buying to invest, while Europeans are more likely to seek long stay and vacation homes.
The key to good returns on investment (ROI) is the same for all. As land prices increase, quality and vision become more crucial.
“You want to ensure the property acquires full value in future and that can only happen if the quality and planning of the development is done well now,” said Porte, adding that sustainability is a driving force of his vision.
“You would like the property and the environment it resides in to last”, he said.
And legality is another part of sustainability. Foreigners are not able to purchase freehold land or property, only leasehold. They also do not have Right of Ownership. What is available to foreign investors is Right to Use and Right to Build.
Porte believes it is impossible to purchase freehold or have Right of Ownership and to head the other way should anyone tell you otherwise. Pierre stresses that many problems arise from foreigners using locals to bypass the system. It is important that you have proper access to legal services, notary services and translation services, all of which his company provides.
“You want to ensure you can pass on the property to your children, and that you can do on leasehold. Whilst under lease, you have the right to the property and the management of it. You may also want to rent it out, as many do,” he explained.
Renewal of lease is not a problem provided you go to a trusted source in the first place and if documentations are done correctly.
RENT OUT AND REAP
Matt Lopez travels around the world while he helps to rent out his client’ properties in Bali. Managed by himself and a local partner, it has been a viable arrangement and one that he sees is growing despite any doubts about the economic slowdown.
Recent events have strained ties with Bali’s and its top tourists group, Australians, but year to year tourist arrivals to Bali have been positive with 14.75% growth from 2013. Add to this the “visa free” policy that has been extended to more countries, including Australia, China, Japan, South Korea and Russia – the top five countries that deliver tourists on an annual basis – and tourism in Bali looks to have a bright and dynamic future.
But is Bali changing? In 2015, the number of Chinese tourists surpassed that of Australian tourists. The question is, to cater to this new influx, would demand for hotel rooms eventually surpass the current hospitality space provided by the holiday villas that now pepper Bali’s landscape?
Condotels, apartments that are managed by hotel brands, are slowly growing in popularity, whilst the challenge for villas and their owners is to have permits to rent and a consolidated group to better represent them.
Unbeknown to many, villa owners require a license to rent out, which proves difficult for foreigners to obtain. Laws have been lax and complaints very rare, but villa owners stand to benefit from a cohesive effort. And this is what Lopez and his wife have been trying to achieve.
“We want to create a community for house buyers. It is important who you know, what you know and who you trust; only experience and local knowledge can provide you that. It is also comforting to have a community to go to,” said Matt.
A PLACE TO STAY
Visiting Bali on holiday and calling it home are two very different things. Matt chose Bali simply because life took him there, and here he met a business partner and formed a plan for his future. Porte came to work 20 years ago and found that he could not leave a place where life is simple and the people are friendly.
Rika Chapman and her family have been residing in Bali on-and-off for the last eight years. Her husband is from Britain, while she is from Central Java. They both love Bali, and although work takes them elsewhere often, the couple and their three children have always counted Bali as their primary home.
Home for them had originally been two properties, until one was recently sold off, leaving them with a single house located in Sanur, which is a quiet part of the island and an ideal address for families.
Like Porte and Lopez, Chapman has witnessed the sprouting of malls, large resorts and restaurants all around Bali and believes that current infrastructure such as roads are now under pressure to be upgraded because of the rapid growth of development. Roads and utilities are expected to be enhanced in time, but already there are international schools sprouting in Bali, even a highly publicised “green school”.
Bali is a tourist haven, and a dream home for many, but staying in Bali poses some serious challenges for the time being. However, it can be argued that all places pose a measure of challenges when you are looking to relocate for long term purposes.
Chapman and Lopez are trying to nurture a community of foreigners. Lopez has encountered so many who have come Bali seeking refuge from life, believing it has a spiritual power. It does, but that alone is often not enough to see you through.
Porte believes it is crucial to embrace Bali’s culture, immerse in it and if you don’t love it, it is not for you. Bali is steep in legends and mythology, these images and beliefs cast a broad shadow across the island.
“You don’t chose Bali, Bali choses you”, it’s a Hindu mythical belief and one that Pierre finds to be true.