Finding a house
Finding a house in Bogor and Jakarta requires patience and some flexibility as it can take weeks or months of searching depending upon what’s available. Unfortunately there are almost no short-term housing options for families.
Usually HR will refer staff to a housing agent who will suggest houses and neighbourhoods that are popular with other expat families. Agents are independent and collect their fees from homeowners, so bargaining is highly recommended. Speak with other expat colleagues to get an idea of rental prices in different areas so you know what to expect.
Apart from working with an agent, take the time to drive or better yet, walk, around neighbourhoods you’re considering and look for Dikontrak (for rent) signs on gates (Dijual means for sale). If a house looks empty but doesn’t have a sign, talk to the caretaker to find out if the house is for rent, or find the local officer or RT. The RT is a resident in the neighbourhood in charge of overseeing the affairs and security of one to two streets. You’ll probably want to be accompanied by a fellow Indonesian colleague or English-speaking driver as chances are slim the persons you will encounter will speak any English.
Although house rents are quoted on a monthly basis, landlords typically expect to lease a house for 1 to 3 years. Depending on the agreement reached, upon contract signing you will be required to pay a minimum of 1 year’s total rent up front. Some tenants opt to pay for 2 to 3 years up front. If the latter is the case, be sure to negotiate all repairs and appliances/furniture you would like before moving in.
If you have a 1-year contract only or have opted to pay 1-year’s rent in advance first, know that the landlord reserves the right to raise the rent. Therefore be sure that your contract includes the percentage of annual rental increase (standard practice is 5% per annum).
The house owner may provide you with a standard leasing contract, in which case it will be in Indonesian, or you can obtain a sample from CIFOR HR. Like anywhere, any grey areas in a contract are subject to reinterpretation so be sure that any additional clauses are absolutely clear and non-negotiable.
Before you finalize a lease agreement, consider the location of the house and check out the nearby neighbourhood traffic (vehicles and people) and noise. Visit the house at different hours of the day, even at nighttime. Check proximity to mosques, schools, warungs (outdoor restaurants) and major traffic arteries. If you or family members are light sleepers, find out how loud the call to prayer is from the bedrooms.
A little effort spent checking the location, electricity, plumbing, water pressure and other important matters will save you many headaches later. You’ll want to determine how close you are to your children’s school and the office. Bogor traffic isn’t as bad as Jakarta but rain or road works can aggravate traffic at times.
If you have children and plan to live in Bogor, try to find a house in the same area or close to other CIFOR families or expats with children of similar ages. You’ll find that your spouse and children will thank you for it later.
Setting up home
You can rent a house with or without furniture, depending on your needs. Usually the rent is higher if the house comes furnished. If you are shipping some furniture or intend to buy a few pieces/order custom-made, check whether your landlord can remove items at a later stage.
In most houses, basic kitchen (stove and fridge) and bathroom (water heater) appliances will be supplied. Often you’ll see houses have two kitchens – one in the main house, and one somewhere in the back, intended for staff. This is common all throughout South East Asia in more affluent homes. While the one in the back may seem basic in comparison, don’t be surprised when your staff feel more comfortable cooking there.
Some houses will also come with a washing machine, often the cold water, top-loading kind (something like this). They clean acceptably but for stains or very soiled clothing, some pre-soaking will be required. If you prefer to have a hot water washing machine, you’ll likely need to purchase this on your own.
Clothes dryers are not necessary. The spin function of cold-water machines drains water from clothes efficiently so they dry quickly outdoors. During the wetter, rainy season, clothes take longer to dry but this occurs for a month or two in the year only.
Bogor is a rainy city but Jakarta also gets its fair share of rain so leaky roofs in either can be a menace. If there are signs of leaks, be sure that the landlord agrees to repair them before you move in, or if leaks appear later, that he is responsible for their repair.
When inspecting your house, look out for stains with brown edges in the walls or ceilings. These are often signs of moisture in areas where water collects as a result of leaks. Most houses, especially the older ones, will have these. Although they do not necessarily represent immediate problems, be attentive to them if they appear unusually large and are present in rooms where persons sensitive to mold or moisture will be sleeping in.
Indonesia uses 220V for its electricity, with a frequency of 50Hz. Sockets are round, similar to many European countries.
The good news is that most computers, phone chargers and TVs will usually run on dual voltage. However, if you are coming from the U.S., Canada or Japan, your 110V only appliances won’t work. One option is to buy a step-down converter at a hardware shop but the size and capacity will vary. High-speed blenders, for example, use a lot of energy so you would need to buy a high-capacity converter, which can be pricey. Baby monitors, shavers or other small appliances will only require a small converter. In any case, it’s probably safer and more convenient in the long term to buy your appliances in the region.
Power surges are common in homes and can diminish the life span of expensive electronic items so be sure to buy a few voltage stabilizers or surge protectors from a hardware shop and use them for TVs, computers and speaker systems. Prices will range from US$30 to over $50. Refrigerators are rather resilient and won’t require a stabilizer.
Although seemingly strange at first, you will not receive monthly bills for electricity, water and telephone. The exception is for city gas, which sends bills monthly.
It is your responsibility to find out where and when your bills must be paid (ask your landlord), and pay them on time (your electricity will get cut off if payments are made too late). You can pay bills via ATM, or set up online bill payments with your local bank. Alternatively, you can have a trusted member of your staff, such as your driver, pay bills at the offices directly.
Most houses will come with a fixed landline under the landlord’s name so you won’t need to apply for one. If your phone doesn’t have an International Direct Dial (IDD) line and you would like one, you can have it connected at the Kandatel office and get a form your landlord has to sign. The connection fee is approximately Rp50,000. However, with decent internet at home you won’t likely need it. Most expats don’t bother setting it up and prefer to call internationally using Skype or FaceTime (for Mac), for example.
Bills can be paid at Telkom Indonesia, some of which have drive-thru services.
If you are making a local call within the city, you won’t need to dial the area code (Bogor is 0251 and Jakarta is 021). If you are calling outside of the city, i.e. from Bogor to Jakarta, you will need to include the area code (0 + area code + tel number). From cell phones to landlines, always use the area code.
Electricity bills are usually due around the 15th of every month. An electricity representative will come by the house monthly to take a photograph of your meter, which is usually located near the gate. You can either pay by ATM or you, or your caretaker or driver, need to go to the electricity office where the most recent bill will be printed out upon presentation of the house account number.
City power failures do occur although not too frequently. Once a month, or every other month is the norm, and will happen during the day for a couple of hours only. This is usually a result of some ongoing maintenance. Extended power failures happen when the weather is unusually bad and can extend into the evening. These are less frequent, though. Upon arriving, buy some long-lasting LED lamps and to avoid frustration when you need them, check occasionally to make sure that they are fully charged.
Most houses have some form of city gas piped in directly to power stovetops and water heaters. Other times, standalone LPG cylinders will be needed, especially if you have a gas stove.
Unless the LPG cylinders are already in the house when you move in, normally you would need to buy them (new or second hand are fine). They come in 15 and 45 kg sizes. To buy gas, you hand in empty gas cylinders in exchange for full ones. While it might sound like a good idea to keep an extra cylinder on hand for when you suddenly run out (like when the oven stops working just as you’re about to put in a cake or casserole), it isn’t recommended as they can be unstable when not in use and pose a fire hazard. Not to worry, LPG sale points are never too far and you can easily send your caretaker or driver to get a new one.
Water is usually piped in directly from the city’s main water supply although some houses will have a well and pump, or a pump and storage tank. Most residential areas where expats live don’t usually have problems with supply, with the exception of Sentul in Bogor, which is a newer development and on rare occasions will experience water shortages.
Bogor’s water supply is reputedly cleaner than Jakarta’s. In either city, however, take precaution and drink only sealed bottled water. If you have children under the age of 7 who are prone to drinking water while brushing their teeth, give them drinking water to rinse. Otherwise, the water is safe to use for general hygiene, washing fresh produce, doing dishes and cooking if the water is going to reach boiling temperature.
When boiling water to make tea or coffee, some expats will use tap water, while others prefer to use bottled water. Do what is most comfortable for you and your family.
In Bogor, waste is collected from your house 3 to 4 times a month. You will find a tempat sampah (waste bin) made of concrete on the roadside, just outside your house fence. Ask one of your staff to find out which days the trash collectors come so that you can plan ahead.
In certain neighbourhoods, you (or your landlord) have to pay the RT a set monthly amount for waste collection. In other neighbourhoods, you pay the waste collectors an “obligatory” uang rokok (cigarette money), which is usually between Rp 15,000 to 20,000. When at times you have an unusually large amount of waste, such as when you’re cleaning up your garden or doing some spring-cleaning, you’ll be expected to pay a higher amount.
For some expats, especially first timers in the region, the prospect of having staff might feel a bit strange. You’ll learn quickly, however, that life in Indonesia doesn’t come packaged with the same conveniences you may be used to. It’s a tropical country so you’ll be changing clothes more often and because doors and windows are left open a lot, dust and critters accumulate. In time, you’ll learn to accept and eventually embrace having house staff (although there are other headaches you’ll have to contend with – there’s no perfect scenario), and before long you’ll enjoy having the extra time to do the things you’ve always wanted to do.
While it may seem daunting, there are many ways to find prospective staff, mostly through informal channels. You could be lucky and find the right persons quickly, or it may take time and a few trials before finding suitable candidates.
Ask for recommendations from CIFOR HR. They are familiar with the circuit of staff who have worked with other CIFOR families.
Talk to colleagues and friends to see if they or their staff know of anyone, especially if other expat families are leaving or have left. Finding staff through this network can be good because you can follow up on recommendations or the staff are already known to other families.
Ask the admin staff at your children’s school. Sometimes they have a list and they will know of families who will be leaving or have just left.
Go though an agency in Jakarta. This is usually a last resort and mostly if you are looking for, and so far have been unable to find, live-in staff. While some agencies have training programs for helpers, the recommendations will often come from unrelated persons or families.
Don’t be surprised if once you’ve moved into your home, candidates turn up at your doorstep with their CV and/or recommendations from previous employers. Word gets around fast.
It may happen that the house you are renting come with staff who work for the landlord. This is a potentially convenient arrangement if they have been with the landlord for a long time, suggesting that they are trustworthy and familiar with the ins and outs of the house. The possible downside is that if things don’t work out between you or if the chemistry isn’t a right fit, then it could be difficult or awkward to ask them to leave.
PROCEDURES AND EXPECTATIONS
If your Indonesian language skills are undeveloped yet, it may be helpful to have a friend or colleague who speaks Bahasa Indonesia present during interviews as majority of the candidates will speak little or no English (consider this your incentive to learn the language as quickly as possible). This applies to Bogor staff primarily. If you are looking in Jakarta in the expat circuit, chances are your candidates will speak some English.
Depending on your needs, house staff will either “live-out” and come in to work for the day, or “live-in” and stay in the staff quarters. If your helpers are from the area, such as those from Bogor, they usually prefer to live out, whereas helpers from other provinces will prefer to live in.
Specify hours of work and duties and hire on a trial basis first, usually one month. For live out helpers, a starting time between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. is the norm, whereas live-in helpers may start at 6 a.m. The time they finish depends on your needs and if you have children. Some will only work till 5, while others can work till 7 p.m. or later. Do not be afraid to explain or demonstrate exactly how you would like things done. Staff are usually keen to please and feel more at ease when they know what is expected of them. Mistakes, while frustrating at times, often happen as a result of miscommunication.
Live in helpers should be provided with a room, bed, mattress, sheets, towels and cooking and eating utensils. It is important that helpers get along with each other so observe the dynamic between them during the trial period.
Important: Don’t feel bad about letting someone go because he or she has not met your expectations. You will be interacting with your staff every day in the closeness of your home so it’s important that you and your family feel comfortable.
Although not legally obligatory, many CIFOR expats prefer to have a signed contract with their staff, initially for a year, with a renewable clause. HR can provide you with a sample. Staff who have worked with expats for a long time will be used to contracts, but less experienced staff may not be as it is not common practice in other Indonesian households.
When you hire staff, be sure to photocopy their Kartu Penduduk (KTP = official identity card). Check also that the name on the identity card and their reference letters are the same. Some helpers will have a KTP from their village and possibly a KTP Musiman (temporary KTP) from Bogor or Jakarta.
Pembantu masak (cook) – Prepares the meals, keeps the kitchen and goes to the pasar (market) or supermarket, should be able to prepare and cook meals independently. Often they will have a good repertoire of Indonesian dishes and some international dishes. Many will feel more comfortable if you show them how to make your favorite recipes. Note that Indonesian food tends to be fried so you may want to ask to reduce the amount of oil.
Pembantu cuci (housekeeper) – washes and irons the clothes, cleans the house and makes the beds and helps the cook in the kitchen.
Pembantu anak or “babysitter” – Looks after the children, feeds and bathes them, and babysits at night and on weekends whenever required; may also do light housework, especially anything related to the children.
Jaga/Tukang Kebun (nightwatchman/gardener) – Usually a combined role of gardening and guarding the premises at night.
Sopir (driver) – Drives, runs errands (pays bills, buys drinking water, exchanges gas cylinders,…), cleans and maintains the car.
Often the designations are merged. For instance, the cook can be responsible for housekeeping while the babysitter assists with other household tasks.
Finding a house in Bogor is a bit simpler than Jakarta because the city is not as big and the location of the residential areas does not affect commuting time as much as it would in Jakarta.
You will find a variety of houses available depending on where you look. Some houses may be small but have large gardens, while others may be huge but with almost no garden space (this is sometimes the case in newer housing developments). The conditions of the houses will vary, too. Some will need upgrading so if you would like to rent the house, be sure to negotiate what you would like done before you sign the lease agreement.
Most houses do not come screened against mosquitoes and other bugs. If you would like screens installed in your windows and doorways, discuss this with your landlord. Most of the time they will oblige and screen the home before you move in.
There are a few areas popular with expats, all with their own character and advantages.
Taman Kencana is the charming old Dutch colonial neighborhood with tree-lined streets and older houses with lush gardens. This area tends to be highly sought after by many CIFOR expats, especially those with younger children, primarily because of the strong community life and proximity to the International School of Bogor.
The quality of housing can vary greatly and some houses will need repairs or upgrades. You can and must try negotiate most of these with the landlord (prior to signing your lease, of course). The longer your lease, the higher your negotiating power.
Located in the center of Taman Kencana, the International School of Bogor provides the heart and soul of the community for many expats. You’ll often see children walking to and from school in their blue Batik uniforms, or on their way to play at friends’ homes. If you have children from 0 to 13 years old, you may want to strongly consider living here.
Vila Duta is a gated community with newer and larger homes, with bigger streets and a greater variety of houses to choose from. Some will have gardens, while others may have either a small garden or none at all. The location is convenient, with many shops and grocery stores nearby, although a car is necessary as many houses may be a bit far from the entrances into the complex.
Many expats also live in this area. The housing complex is a 10-minute car ride from the International School of Bogor, although a bit longer during peak traffic hours. There can be a bit of traffic congestion near the main entrances but thankfully there is a back road that commuters to CIFOR can use during peak traffic hours.
Both Bogor Baru and Villa Indah Pajajarang (VIP) are located very close to Taman Kencana so commutes to CIFOR and the International School of Bogor are generally pretty good. It is common practice in newer developments for houses to be built on nearly the entire property so houses here usually have little or no garden space. However, the houses are newer and cheaper than nearby Taman Kencana. Residents are mostly Indonesian and the atmosphere is welcoming and family-oriented.
If you are looking for a full immersion experience while living in Indonesia, or looking for low rent in a charming Indonesian neighborhood, Sempur is a great choice. This residential area tends to be popular amongst young professionals and couples with no children. There are some charming, older houses in the area, with extremely reasonable rents. Streets vary in size so some houses can only be accessed by foot or motorbike, which is typically Indonesian.
Because this is a very local residential area, be sure to double check the location of mosques relative to your house as this could greatly affect the quality of your sleep, especially if you are a light sleeper.
Sempur is located right next door to Taman Kencana so families with small children who attend the International School of Bogor would be able to send their children to school on foot.
The houses here tend to be rather large and many have gardens and pools. The temperature is slightly cooler than Bogor, owing to the vastness of the land around it. It tends to be rather quiet and isolated, but if that is what you are looking for, then it could be an ideal location. The large streets and sprawling distances mean that you would need a car. Public transportation is rather sparse.
Finding a suitable place to live may not be easy and like anywhere else, involves a bit of luck and perseverance. Be patient and hold out for the right home because it will be your sanctuary away from the grind that is Jakarta. Some families may look at up to 30 to 40 houses before settling on the one that best suits their needs.
Once you’ve selected a home, be prepared to put in a deposit immediately as demand for good housing is high and landlords have been known to verbally accept offers of intent then let the place go to someone else. Be sure all repair and upgrade requests are finalized at the time of negotiating the contract and before the landlord has received the full rental payment.
Assuming at least one spouse or person in the family will be working at CIFOR, you will want to choose a house located in South Jakarta and if possible, close to a highway entrance/exit. If you are single or accompanied by a spouse/partner and don’t have children, you could consider apartment living, but there are not many options in South Jakarta. You may want to consider areas such as Menteng and Kuningan, bearing in mind that this may significantly increase your commuting time.
The residential areas in South Jakarta cater to expats and you can find most of what you need in the shops in the area. The main international schools, Jakarta International School and the Australian International School are located here, while the British International School is accessible by highway. There are a lot of activities for young children and taking day trips out of the city are not so painful.
If you live in a house and unless you live in an enclosed compound, it’s a good idea to hire a guard or night watchman. Never leave your house empty while you are away as word gets around when this occurs.
Below are some of the areas you may want to consider:
This residential area feels a lot like it was once a small village that just kept on growing and growing. There are some beautiful homes, both modern and traditional, with spacious gardens and swimming pools, interspersed with charming shops and restaurants. But the narrow street network means that traffic can be a problem at times, especially during peak hours.
The two highway exits/entrances to consider in Kemang are Cilandak and Cipete. If you can find a house not too far from either of these, then your commute can take anywhere from 45 minutes to 1.5 hours.
If you are fortunate enough to find a home in the area called the ‘Dalams’ (meaning “inside”), you may be able to walk out of your house onto a quiet street that is safe for children to bike and play on. These streets are generally called “Jalan Kemang Dalam,” followed by a number. It is worthwhile to drive around the area looking for “For Rent” signs. Most of these houses will have a caretaker present who can show you around. An agent should be able to help you learn more about the place afterward.
The major supermarkets here – Ranch and Kemchecks – cater to expats and carry a lot of imported, fresh, dairy and organic food items. Kemang is also where International SOS Medika is located.
This upscale residential area was developed around the 70s so unlike Kemang, the streets are wider and the area has a slightly more modern feel to it. The homes here tend to be rather grand, often with little garden space. The main advantage for CIFOR staff is its quick access to the highway and close proximity to the Jakarta International School.
Pondok Indah is also famous for its huge 2-building mall, filled with restaurants and shops. There is also a big Carrefour and a Ranch Market, an upscale supermarket catering to expats that carries fresh local and imported fish, seafood and meats.
Pondok Indah Hospital is a private hospital frequented by many of the high-end residents in the area.
Read more advice and tips on housing in Jakarta.
Play it safe
Chances are the area that you choose to live in will be safe. However, it’s good to take certain precautions.
- Register with the local authority. Soon after you move in to your neighbourhood, register your family with the local RT (Rukun Tetangga). You can ask your staff to inquire where the RT lives. The RT will be a fellow neighbour who administers around 30 to 50 households on your street and is a good reference when you have questions about security and neighbourhood works. RTs are usually very friendly and approachable. He/she reports to the RW, who oversees around five RT representatives.
- Handling strangers at the door. You and your house staff must never open the front gate to unfamiliar persons, even those claiming to be the police. Be especially wary of strangers popping up with requests for information or money. Politely decline and when in doubt, check in with your RT.
- Keep your gate locked. Unless you have full time security or someone within regular earshot of your front gate, keep it locked at all times. Be sure to inform your staff about this.
- Keep your belongings close when walking. Refrain from using your cell phone on the street and hold on to your bags at all times. Snatchers on motorcycles sometimes roam residential areas, even in the more affluent ones. They act quickly and get away before you even realize what just happened.
- Valuables in the home. Do not leave valuables, money or important documents exposed in your home. We suggest keeping them under lock and key. Over time you will learn to trust your staff, but best not to leave temptation out on the table.
- Increased security during Ramadan. Be especially vigilant about security, particularly during the Eid-ul-Fitri celebration at the end of the fasting month. Houses tend to be left empty because it’s a holiday period and most house staff return home to their families. If possible, do not leave your house unattended.