After Bali’s February 4 reopening of borders to international visitors, hopes are high for a turnaround in the beleaguered property market on Indonesia’s most popular tourist island. If so, this could be the end of a downturn more prolonged than even that in the aftermath of the terrorist bombings of the early 2000s. The bombings, like Covid-19 now, devastated Bali’s tourism and stalled development, but agents say the property market recovered quickly then, with relatively little impact on prices. 4 Korean celebrity couples’ luxury honeymoons, from Bali to Hawaii The pandemic’s blow was harsher: compared to 6.3 million international arrivals in 2019, numbers fell to just 1.07 million in 2020, and a meagre 51 arrivals for all of 2021, data from Bali Central Statistics Agency shows. Dominique Gallmann, co-founder of Exotiq Property, a Bali-based real estate agency in business since 2002, has weathered downturns before. This one is different, he says. “After the bombings, the market basically shut down for a period of 10-12 months – and then it started ticking again, almost as if nothing had happened,” he said. “This time it’s lasting much longer. Nothing like this has ever happened before.” Fancy a luxury chalet home? Why ski property prices are on the rise With no official tracking data to go by, Gallmann says it is “very hard to read a trend”, but notaries and other property agents he talks to concur that “the market has definitely been soft”. “Some villa owners have had to sell very much below their expectations,” he adds. In March 2020, Nathan Ryan, founder of Bali Realty, saw the once-lucrative rental side of his business crash to zero overnight. Desperate vendors, unable to use or rent out their properties, let them go for as little as half the original asking price. Overseas owners were the hardest hit. “Bali has two very distinct markets,” Ryan explains. “Only Indonesian citizens can purchase freehold (property), so that has stayed relatively strong, with no price falls observed. “However, with leasehold property, primarily held by Western investors, we’ve seen falls of 20 to 30 per cent, and closed a couple of deals last year at a 50 per cent price reduction.” In one extreme case, an overseas owner is said to have sold his beachfront apartment in Legian for US$155,000, after paying US$450,000 for it nine years earlier. Another client, who had held two villas in Seminyak for eight years, sold the five-bedroom villa for US$205,000 (original purchase price US$450,000) and the three-bedroom villa for US$210,000 (original purchase price US$380,000). Inside John Legend and Chrissy Teigen’s New York penthouses But despite the pain for vendors, there have been plenty of buyers. “In terms of property sales, the last year has been one of our strongest in five years,” Ryan says. “There are lots of smart, bargain-hunting investors who think now is the time to buy, and obviously it is.” A “huge amount” of this interest is coming from overseas, including keen buyers from Hong Kong, who are committing to contracts based solely on video inspection. Different areas of Bali have performed differently, Ryan continued. “For example, in Canggu, 25 minutes from Seminyak, it feels like normal tourist times. Digital nomads are everywhere, prices are stable and demand is huge,” he said. “On the other hand, Legian, Kuta and even Seminyak have been really affected, and that’s where the better buys are coming up.” Move over, Selling Sunset: meet Netflix’s Selling Tampa star Sharelle Rosado Ryan thinks, though, that the pipeline of forced sales may have run dry, with anyone who needed to sell having done so by now. Nevertheless, a “rush of late inquiry” wouldn’t surprise. “It’s great to see direct flights returning – everyone is feeling hopeful and positive,” he said. “We expect to see price growth going forward from now.” Gallmann agrees. “We expect very much the same,” he says. “Foreigners are waiting to get on a plane to Bali and the more visitors come, more and more people will be choosing Bali as their first or second residence.” How property developer Victoria Allan balances work, wellness and family Among Exotiq’s current listings, a modern, one-bedroom flat in a gated estate in Berawa, Canggu, within walking distance of restaurants, shops and co-working spaces, is offered on a 36-year lease for US$159,000. A luxury loft in central Canggu on a 24-year lease is priced at US$175,000, and a large office building on a nine-year lease for US$112,000. Post-pandemic remote working trends might also work in Bali’s favour. Noting that there are already “digital nomads everywhere”, Gallmann continued: “As professionals in Asia, they’ll realise they can work from here quite easily. I think that will make Bali so much more attractive, and my prediction is that there will be a shortage of good, affordable product.” For now, though, Michael Hikma, principal, Ray White Kuta, says cut-price properties may still be found. For example, a leasehold villa at the lower end of the market, in say Jimbaran or Nusa Dua, might cost as little as US$200,000, or US$300,000 for the equivalent in Seminyak. No matter how far a property has been discounted, some will still haggle, because it’s a buyer’s market, Hikma adds. He, too, anticipates prices will rise once the pandemic is over, but believes private villas won’t be the only property segment on buyers’ shopping lists. Cafes, restaurants and guest houses also appeal to foreign investors, and like residential properties, these can also be bought on a leasehold basis. Why are Asian property investors repurposing old buildings during Covid-19? Buying Guide What you can buy for offers above US$600,000: A 24-year leasehold on a five-bedroom beachside villa in Seminyak, set in a tropical garden with pool, across the road from the five-star Legian hotel. A rental licence is in place, with potential to increase returns by expanding into a boutique hotel. According to Nathan Ryan, the villa was listed for sale at US$1.2 million in 2020. The owner wants to move back to the US and “wants out of the property fast”. What you can buy for US$450,000: A 29-year leasehold on a three-bedroom villa with lush gardens and private pool, one of six in an architect-designed complex within walking distance of Seminyak beach. The Singapore-based owners, who bought the villa in 2015 for US$495,000, are selling because of the pandemic and looking for a quick sale. Want more stories like this? Follow STYLE on Facebook , Instagram , YouTube and Twitter .