When I first moved to Indonesia, more years ago now than I care to remember, finding a pad to live in proved to be an arduous task on more than one occasion.
As a young, fresh-faced, shaver snapper, I was on a limited budget and there were few resources at my disposal to consult. Indeed, I didn’t even browse the web for the first time until a couple of years later, which rather gives the game away vis-a-vis my superannuated old fart-dom circa 2021.
Securing a house was often a word-of-mouth process between friends and work colleagues. Another technique that yielded mixed results was simply trawling the streets by motor scooter keeping an eye out for those ubiquitous “untuk sewa” (for rent) signs. It was ultimately through the former method that I ended up securing my first-ever Batavian pied-a-terre – it was more like a pomme de terre, in fact. A tiny, two-bedroom flat in a government housing project in the not so highly desirable district of Tanah Abang, an area in which the rats demand money with menaces and the dangdut music rattles the fillings in your teeth.
In the intervening years, there have been humble flats and shared houses, one of which even had a swimming pool – living the dream, folks. This brings us right up to the present day and a recent text message from my landlady apologetically informing me that she has sold my flatlet and indeed the entire building that it occupies to a buyer who is set to demolish the place in two months.
Now I love my little pad, but seeing as I’ve already started to have nightmares in which I’m reading Facebook on the toilet when a wrecking ball comes plunging through the wall, it is clearly time to find a new place.
Thankfully, the interwebz have made this process much, much easier in recent years and there are simply squillions of websites and mobile apps that you can use in order to find a suitable pad to relocate your wine cellar and etchings collection too.
The following list represents only a partial sampling of the available online resources that you should find useful in your quest for a roof over your head.
Many of these listed sites feature drop-down menus through which one can select rent or buy, rental duration, price range, and locations in varying degrees of specificity. Most will also have their own messaging systems and the WhatsApp details of the relevant landlords or ladies.
Social media can also generate some useful leads. One Facebook group I tried had the catchy name “Rent House Apartment for Expats in Jakarta (Official)” and seemed reasonably civil and not full of bitcoin promoting trolls and people using colourfully offensive sobriquets. When you go and see a place though, just apply a little common sense and check off a few items on your mental accommodation checklist. You should probably start with the following:
- How is the commute? Is the traffic between your putative pad and the office, school, or shops infernal? Are there any public transport options available?
- What charges do you have to pay in your neighbourhood or house for rubbish
or security services every month?
- What’s an average monthly electricity bill and what’s the property’s electrical capacity?
- Does the area flood at all?
- Is the water supply sourced from a free Artesian well – and alas contributing to Jakarta sinking into the surrounding marshland – or is it a paid metered supply, which is less likely?
- Is the local mosque in close proximity and likely to wake you up at 4am every morning?
- How far is the nearest minimart/supermarket, and can you buy a cheeky ale/bottle of vino there?
- How long will it take you to get to the airport and to reach local toll roads
in order to drive out of town?
- How are the neighbours? Are you the only non-Indonesian within a 10-mile radius?
- Does the landlord or landlady seem personable and amenable to fixing the inevitable breakages or leaks? Many are lovely people, many are not.
- Is the place furnished, unfurnished or partially furnished?
- If it’s a house that you’re looking at, is it located in a secure housing complex or “cluster” with security or is it on its own on a normal urban street?
- How hot is it inside and how much will you thus rely on power-sapping ACs?
In terms of the house itself, you may be renting, but if it’s decent you may find yourself renting longer term. Look out for all of the usual little niggles and any tell-tale brown patches on the ceiling that suggest leaks.
Of course, perhaps the most shocking part of renting a house or flat for any non-foreign citizens to get their heads around in Indonesia is the fact that you will usually have to stump up a year’s rent upfront. While it may be possible in some cases to negotiate a six-month deal, this part of the process means that doing your homework is especially important, as you won’t be able to move out the following month if your house leaks like a barge and is under three feet of water during heavy rains.
If you’re looking for a shorter rental period, then Airbnb may prove useful. In terms of actual prices, a little negotiation is often possible as it is with so many areas of life in Indonesia. Try to get at least 10 percent shaved off the price if you can. You may find using an agent more convenient but it’ll come at a price. Finally, once your landlord or lady has been paid, then they will likely be much more reluctant to change anything. Good luck out there, house hunters. It’s an urban jungle and make no mistake.