A millennial couple invested in a $143,000 vacation home in Bali. It's become the crux of their early retirement strategy.


  • Rory and Casey Jones built a villa in Bali for 2.287 billion Indonesian rupiah, or about $143,000.

  • They wanted to invest in a tangible asset that would earn income and double as a retirement home.

  • Prior to this, they had never traveled to Indonesia before.

For Rory Jones and his wife Casey, building a house in Bali seemed like a good idea — even though they had never been to Indonesia.

The couple, from Tasmania, Australia, dreamed of retiring early, so they spent a lot of time investing in the stock market.

“We got a little bit, I guess, down on the fact that we were putting this money away, but we had nothing to show for it apart from numbers on a bit of paper,” Jones, 37, told Business Insider.

Rory and Casey Jones

Rory and Casey Jones built a villa in Bali.Rory Jones

They wanted a tangible asset, and after some research, they settled on the idea of building investment property overseas.

“We decided it gave us the ability to earn a good income, but also, a place that we could potentially retire to, in a country that was less expensive than Australia,” Jones, a photographer and videographer, said.

The couple had considered Thailand, the Philippines, and even Portugal, but ultimately chose Bali because their research showed that it had the highest return on investment. Moreover, it was also relatively easy for foreigners to build a home there.

According to ILA Global Consulting, it is possible for short-term rentals in Bali to yield a 15% annual return on investment, while other markets offer 5% to 10%.

The front of the villa.

The front of the villa.Rory Jones

Although the couple had never been to the island before, they had spent a lot of time in Southeast Asia.

“So we knew that we liked the climate. We knew that we would probably like the culture and the food too,” Jones said.

First time in Bali

In 2022, the couple hopped on a plane to Bali for the first time.

The primary living space.

The primary living space.Rory Jones

They were there for about three weeks, exploring the island and speaking to different legal professionals and builders for more insights on how they could get started with their project.

“We spent a good chunk of time in different areas to make sure that we liked the area and that we had a good understanding of what that area gave to the tourists,” Jones said.

The dining area.

The dining area.Rory Jones

Since traffic in Bali can be difficult to navigate, it was important that the area they chose had good infrastructure and was easy to get to, he said.

“Other than that, we were looking for a place that we could see ourselves retiring to as well,” Jones said.

While looking for a peaceful but up-and-coming neighborhood that travelers would be drawn to, they eventually found a piece of land in the Bingin area near Uluwatu, a region in the southwestern tip of Bali.

The kitchen.

The kitchen.Rory Jones

“The best success that we had was actually just posting in the local Facebook groups to say that we were looking for land, and then people would reach out to us and let us know what they had available,” Jones said. “With the land that we ended up getting, it was a local guy that showed us the land. He didn’t own the land, but he knew the owners.”

The bar area.

The bar area.Rory Jones

Since foreigners aren’t allowed to own land in Bali, the piece of land they have is on a 30-year lease, with the option to renew for another 30 years. They paid 720 million Indonesian rupiah, or about $44,700, for it.

A modern tropical villa

The two-story villa, which sits on a 3,300-square-foot plot, has two bedrooms and two bathrooms. The entire build, including furniture and permits, cost 2.287 billion Indonesian rupiah, or about $143,000.

Jones says he chose to build a house from scratch because it was cheaper than buying one.

According to the property website Propertia Bali, a new two-bedroom villa near Bingin can cost between 3.525 to 5.575 billion Indonesian rupiah, depending on the size, the complexity of the build, and the lease left on the land.

One of the bedrooms in the house.

One of the bedrooms in the house.Rory Jones

“If there was anything wrong with the building that was already existing, we wouldn’t be able to tell,” he added. “But by building ourselves, we could dictate the standards that went into that building.”

Safety standards aside, it also meant that they could design the building the way they wanted it. Jones describes it as a mix between modern industrial and boho, with a touch of Balinese influence.

A cozy corner of the villa.

A cozy corner of the villa.Rory Jones

The building looks modern on the outside, thanks to the black steel window frames, a mezzanine-style design, and vaulted ceilings. In contrast, the interiors are cozy with lots of wood accents and furniture.

“We knew that the building itself was quite modern, so we wanted to bring a lot of the tropics and a lot of Bali into it with the interior design,” Jones said.

A close-up of the decor in the villa.

A close-up of the decor in the villa.Rory Jones

Everything in the villa was crafted locally, he added.

The only major issue the couple encountered during the build was a particularly bad rainy season that delayed their project by a few weeks.

“Towards the end of the build, they were running quite late with everything, and it’s fine that they were running late, but they didn’t tell us that they were running late,” Jones said. “There were some communication issues rather than issues with construction, which caused a bit of friction toward the end.”

An outdoor dining area

An outdoor dining area.Rory Jones

Retiring in Bali

The villa can be rented on Airbnb for a minimum of two nights. At press time, it has a 4.58-star rating based on 26 reviews.

“Initially we planned to spend a couple of months a year in Bali, but with the way that things have gone, with how popular it is, I think it would make more financial sense to leave it rented out on Airbnb all the time,” Jones said.

That said, Jones hopes to be able to retire in that villa in Bali in the next five to six years.

An outdoor seating area.

An outdoor seating area.Rory Jones

“We’re working hard at saving and investing as much money as we can to hopefully get to a point where we can retire in my early forties,” he said. “But plans can also change, so it would be great to retire to Bali, but I mean, maybe we’ll stay in Australia. Who knows? It’s still a long way away.”

That said, the couple has plans to build more investment properties in Bali in the future.

Jones has a piece of advice for those who are thinking of building a house in Bali: Manage expectations.

The pool.

The pool.Rory Jones

“Go into it knowing that the standards you may expect from your home country might not be the same in Bali. Expect things to run behind time and expect things to be done in a different way than what you might be used to,” he said.

That way, things will be less stressful, he added.

Have you recently built or renovated your dream home in Asia? If you’ve got a story to share, get in touch with me at agoh@businessinsider.com.

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