Buyers, Beware (Renters, Too)!

Technically, Portugal’s mainland is divided into 18 districts (distritos) formerly referred to as provinces; 278 municipalities (concelhos); 159 cities (cidades); 533 towns (vilas); and 2,882 civil parishes (freguesias). Countless “unofficial” villages like ours add to these numbers.

Unless you know someone with boots on the ground, speak the language well enough to be treated like a local, or are lucky by happenchance to be in the right place at the right time, finding an acceptable place to live means turning to “property agents” to help and guide you.

The property representation enterprise differs from country to country within the European Union, and is altogether different from what we have experienced back in the States.

Beginning online … where most people start their property searches. Property portals Kyero, Idealista, Custo Justo, Olx, and Milanuncios are good places to look, along with Facebook groups like Pure Portugal.

Then, if we use the handy form online to request more information or a showing, we have every right (if not reason) to expect a representative will contact us … if not today or tomorrow, sooner than later. No?

Often, multiple agencies will list the same property … but with different (and, sometimes, conflicting) information. Whether the property is connected to municipal water and sewer mains (and/or has wells and a septic tank or field) … if the water is heated by “bottled” gas, gas lines, or electricity … the condition and construction of the windows, doors, and roof … which appliances and what furniture shown in the pictures are included in the price … all of this matters to us and makes a difference regarding those properties that interest us.

Pictures are worth thousands of words. The more (current) pictures posted of a property, the more (or less) attractive it will appear. Pictures of any land included with the property are nice, but – by and large – we’ll want to see the inside of properties where we may live.

Yes, we’ll be noticing those cracks in the walls, the missing tiles on the floors, the damp mold on the ceiling, the condition of the roof and its wood, cement, or metal beams. Why shouldn’t we?

Most properties in Portugal and Spain have their own peculiar quirks, as there are few (if any) real building codes required … especially in the smaller towns and villages. With steps of different heights and widths, and slight little step-downs or -ups between rooms, mobility can be a major accommodation factor. Even those of us without wheelchairs have tripped, slipped, or bumped into something all-too-often. It’s part of the idiosyncratic “character” of these curious properties.

While “location, location, location” and its condition are factors in determining a property’s price, all too often, “time is of the essence” for us. Our time is limited when we’ve come to the country, primarily, to find a property.

So, after viewing a property, ask your property agent get back to you quickly with answers to your questions, reassurances about your concerns, and any helpful information that they can provide.

“The real estate market in Portugal offers the luxurious, the good, the average, and the mediocre … with prices adjusted to the condition of the property,” asserts one local, “depending on what you are looking for, where you’re looking, and your available budget.

”That’s why proper property representation is vital.

Or, as our British friends would say, “bloody brilliant!”

Shared here are personal observations, experiences, and happenstance that actually occurred to us as we moved from the USA to begin a new life in Portugal and Spain. Collected and compiled in EXPAT: Leaving the USA for Good, the book is available in hardcover, paperback, and eBook editions from Amazon and most online booksellers.

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