Living in Jakarta means you have to face the traffic. Commuting to work is becoming more and more impossible. Suburbanites spend as much as 5 hours a day to commute to their office. A waste of time, fuel, productivity, and sanity. It is very difficult to keep one’s cool when you have to be stuck in a tin can among many tin cans moving really slowly.
Of course you can delegate the driving task to a driver – and you get to sleep/work during the commute. But how productive one can work during commute? Or how deep can you sleep? It certainly couldn’t replace the nights’ sleep, so it’s not a very effective use of time.
Another viable option is moving closer to the workplace. Depending on the budget, there are many options of residence close to workplace, that can be divided into two basic types: ‘kos-kosan’ and apartments.
Originally from the dutch phrase ‘In-de-kost’ which means ‘temporary stay’. It is basically a place where it’s owner rents out room with. Typically located close to office buildings or campus, kos-kosan used to be just strategically located homes with the owners renting out extra rooms in their house. It evolves now into professionally managed rooms that resembles studio-style apartment, with options of private or communal living room and kitchen. Usually certain services are included, such as laundry and room cleaning.
As land price in the city is becoming increasingly expensive and landed house is not possible anymore, high-rise apartments are becoming more and more common. The location is usually very strategic, have easy access, and some are connected to a shopping mall or office building. While kos-kosan is usually room, apartments are like a small house complete with it’s own kitchen, living room, and service area.
There is a big overlap between this two types or residence. There are kos-kosan that resembles more to serviced apartments in terms of the facilities and rent fee, and there are rumah susun apartments with rent fee comparable to the common kos-kosan.
Here are some things to consider when deciding on where to live.
How much is your budget?
This is the most obvious one. How much is your budget for housing? It is generally agreed that housing expenses should be maximum around 35% of the income, and this includes the electricity, water, cable TV, maintenance, cleaning, etc. For example if your income is Rp 10,000,000 per month, maximum budget for housing is Rp 3,500,000.
Having this number in mind will help you a lot in deciding where to live. If you can spend less that’s really good but remember residence is a place where you go back to rest, sleep, and recharge, so make sure it is adequately comfortable.
The rent fee of kos-kosan usually covers everything, and the payment term is usually monthly. Apartments, on top of the rent fee, also charge service fee and water & electricity fee. There are also charges for helper and cleaner, and possibly parking too. Payment term for apartment is usually longer – up to yearly, so it is more suitable if you’re in a stable situation.
Location, location, location
As Jakarta traffic problem most likely not going to get better soon, at least until 2018 when the MRT is scheduled to be operational, location is very important. Generally the closer it is to the workplace, the better.
Often a kos-kosan is within walking distance to the work place, conveniently located at the alley behind the office building. But being known as the one living closest to the office has some disadvantage. No excuse that something is ‘left at home’ – as you can just walk over to get it. On the other hand, 10-minutes walk to the office means you can leave the house at 8:15 (if your working hour start at 8:30).
Also take into consideration your chosen transportation mode, whether you’re going to drive or ride your own car or motorcycle, or using public transport. This will also affect your transportation budget. The recommended percentage for transportation cost is between 15-20% of income.
How is the access to the place? Is there a ‘pangkalan ojek’ nearby? Are there many taxis passing by? Is it close to a bus station? Which metromini/kopaja/bus is passing the main road? Is it safe to walk alone in the dark? If you drive/ride yourself, can you navigate through the street comfortably? Is there enough parking space? How much is the parking fee or is it included?
If you’re choosing an apartment, there are chances you’ll be cooking and eating at home, so you may want easy access or close proximity to a market, grocery store or supermarket. If you’re choosing a kos-kosan, you’ll most likely be buying prepared food. Are there food vendors nearby, that suit your tastes & dietary standard?
For 41 years old entrepreneur Edward, it is clear-cut “I value my privacy, I don’t like to have non-family in my personal space. That’s why I rent an apartment.”
Most of us have more tolerance to the presence of others, or may even prefer having someone else around.
Kos-kosan ranges from the very private and individualistic ones (not even knowing who is living next door), to the very communal and friendly ones where the ‘kos mates’ gather and chat in the evening. Usually there is a communal living room and kitchen facility at a kos-kosan, so chances you will socialize more.
Some kos-kosan have rules and regulations like no visitor inside the room, main gate is locked at certain time so you have to be there before that time (unless you plan to spend the night out).
Apartments, just like a house, offer more privacy. You have more freedom to do anything as it is your own space.
“I choose to stay in a kos-kosan because I don’t have to take care of the place, everything is taken care of. Everything is clean and neat, even my clothes are washed and hanged.” Winda is a 38 years old executive living in a high-end kos-kosan near the SCBD area.
Although it’s a kos-kosan, she has a lot of privacy, as all her kos-mates are office executives, who, similar like her, don’t want to socialize at home. “I like it here because everybody minds their own business. I don’t have to do anything except to occasionaly smile or nod when bumping into my kos-mates.”
In contrast, entertaining and socializing is important for 33 years old Pilates teacher Mary. She chooses to live in an apartment because “I love cooking so I need my own kitchen. I like to cook and invite friends to eat together. That’s why I need the space. I can’t do that in a kos-kosan.”
Fendy, 28 years old entrepreneur who owns a clothing shop at Tanah Abang explained “I rent a studio apartment at a rumah susun instead of kos-kosan because the rent fee is almost the same – and I need the space to store my goods.”
To consider the convenience factor properly you will need to first define your needs.
How much space do you need? Do you have to store stuff? Do you want to invite people over?
Chores – do you plan to do it yourself? Or arrange someone else to do it? If in an apartment, do you have the budget to have a maid cleaning service?
Any specific activity you want to do? For example cooking, working out, yoga, meditation, watching movies with full-surround sound, etc.
I thought apartment facility (pool, garden, gym) is an important factor but it turned out it’s the least considered, as they’re hardly used anyway. But all the people I talked to don’t have kids. For family with young kids, pool & garden may become an important consideration for the children’s activity.
Another option – apartment sharing
Another alternative, something in between kos-kosan and apartment, is apartment sharing. You get to enjoy all the facilities of an apartment, with lower budget as you share the cost with someone else. Living in close proximity with someone means you have to trust this other person, get along with this person and you don’t mind bumping into him/her possibly in daily basis, and share the facilities.
Apartment sharing is a common practice in the west, but not so much here in Indonesia. Here usually apartment sharing is done with an already existing friend, or someone related, so it’s through word of mouth and recommendation. Actually apartment sharing can be a good solution for those who wants to live in an apartment but have limited budget.
It is unlikely something like Single White Female (a 1992 American thriller) storyline will happen, as unlikely as having Elle Macpherson as a roommate like Joey in the sitcom friends. It’s a matter of finding the right person to share the apartment with.
Choosing where to live is an important decision, and not something to be taken lightly. The four main things to consider is budget, location, privacy, and convenience – and these all depend on what you need. You can choose from kos-kosan, apartment, or perhaps apartment sharing. Just remember you’ll be spending a considerable amount of time here so you may want something that suits you, a place where you can be comfortable in.