My Indonesian Home Makeover Part 1: Choosing the Right Home

Home. It’s more than just a house. It’s a place to live and thrive, raise a family, share meals, and be with friends. In our recent global travels, we’ve been without a place to call home for more than 12 months. We’ve stayed in other people’s homes and hotels, but we haven’t had a space of our own in quite awhile. Now that we had moved back to Indonesia with our 4 month old baby, I was beyond ready to find a home, unpack our suitcases and finally nest.

We knew from past experience that finding the right house to rent would be no easy task. Previously, we had rented a fully furnished 2 bedroom/2 bathroom house for 2 years. This time, we wanted something a little bigger [now that we were a family of 3] and unfurnished, because it’s both cheaper and more customizable. To make things even more challenging, we were moving to a new town on our island. No longer would we be living in the modern, Westernized, big, touristy cities of the south. We were more to north side of the island. It’s a little off the beaten path, but worth the effort.

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Finding a home in Indonesia can be done through realtors and online listings, but usually those homes are exclusive villas or very large houses. Often those listings are marked up because an agent is involved as well. Although we had a budget to get a nice home, we didn’t want to be surrounded only by other foreigners. Part of why we love Indonesia is because we love the people of Indonesia. We wanted to live in an Indonesian neighborhood with Indonesian neighbors. We wanted to be near a couple families that we were already friends with. We wanted a one-story house, because we soon we’d have a crawling and walking toddler. We wanted to rent for 3 years. We wanted at least 3 rooms and 2 bathrooms for us, our baby and guests. We wanted a little yard for our little girl to explore. We wanted windows in the rooms, because common architecture around here doesn’t involve many windows!

We had this list on our hearts, and it began to feel impossible. Would we ever find the perfect home for us for this season? Finally, we had a lead. A house was available for sale in our friend’s neighborhood. But we didn’t want to buy. And as foreigners, it is near impossible for us to buy a home in our name here. But we called the owners anyway to see if they’d be willing to rent. They said no. And then they called back the next day and said yes…but for 5 years. We met face to face and discussed renting for 3 years. They agreed and we began negotiating the price. The interesting thing about longer term rentals on our island, and maybe other parts of Indonesia, is that you pay the whole amount up front. Month to month rental prices can increase drastically because of the tourist seasons. Renters get a better rate if they’ve paid for multiple years. So as we discussed a price per year, we knew we would have to pay it for all three years when we signed the lease.

This house couldn’t be more perfect us. It had a tiny little yard out front with a beautiful bougainvillea tree by the gate. It was 5 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms with large kitchen and living areas. We could walk to our friend’s homes. We could walk to the beach. We were in the middle of a local neighborhood, without another foreigner on the block. Every single bedroom had windows! And it was available in two weeks.

So we said yes. We signed the contract. We brought loads of cash [because our new landlords preferred 3 years of rent in cash, not in their bank account apparently]. And we moved in.

Now begins the journey and process of making this house a home. Because we chose to live local, it definitely has some interesting issues for this American mom! Follow along this blog series for my renovating, decorating, and homemaking journey as I attempt to create a cozy & comfortable home for our family in my new culture and language. What could go wrong?!

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