For anyone who is planning to relocate to Portugal, property is a huge part of the equation. For people living outside the EU, it is an essential criterion to secure a temporary Visa ahead of obtaining residency.
When I commenced my adventure back in 2020, building my knowledge of the property market in Portugal was undertaken in front of a screen. Whether it was property websites, relocation television shows or YouTube, these were the accessible routes during the pandemic.
I’d spend hours on an evening going through websites, looking at properties, deciphering the language (not just Portuguese but also their interpretation of “needing minor renovation”) and trying to clarify which village the property was actually in.
I enjoyed it. Maybe it was seeing the opportunity or envisaging my future property. As my online property search continued, so did my “favourites” list. Many were there as examples although a few were genuine contenders that I planned to view when I travelled to Portugal.
On my first orientation visit to Portugal, my approach was to understand the different types of property and the market. An earlier post explains my unorthodox approach to looking for property in Portugal. It’s easy to be disappointed in a property if it doesn’t meet your strict criteria. Therefore, the shorter the criteria, the more open-minded you will be.
Transition from virtual to reality
Now I’ve been in Portugal for a month, I know I can’t believe it, I’ve moved from virtual to real, in-person viewings. While I viewed nearly thirty properties on my two orientation visits, property viewings are still a real eye-opener. And I’m learning a lot.
There is no need to bore you with why specific properties aren’t for me, but maybe an insight as to my approach and some tactics that have worked for me might be of interest.
Contacting real estate agents
Like many people, I’ve had my fair share of agents who simply don’t respond to an email or website enquiry. One agent advised me that they receive more than thirty enquiries every day from “interested” buyers from the property listing websites. As a small agency, they simply don’t have the time to respond to “speculative” enquiries.
After seeing a property on one of the main listing websites, I always go to the agent’s own website. I check if the listing is still on their website (which tends to be the most up-to-date) and then make contact direct to their main email address. I don’t use the “enquiry form” as if I’m serious about a property, I want to ensure my enquiry stands out.
While I’ve still had a couple of no responses (and despite following up, still silence) I typically get a positive response and some agents have also sent me alternative properties that aren’t listed on any of the websites.
Act like a “local”
Eu falo pouco português [I speak little Portuguese] and my surname shouts out that I’m not a local as there are no Portuguese surnames containing a W. W has only recently been included in the Portuguese alphabet due to the increasing use of English words such as whiskey and megawatt in Portugal.
But despite these standout points, I do everything possible to make my enquiry as Portuguese as I can.
Firstly, I translate my email into Portuguese (Deepl is a lifesaver!). Most importantly though, I start my email with the Portuguese version and then add the English translation below.
Secondly, I only ever include my Portuguese phone number. If I don’t receive a response, usually a quick WhatsApp message does the trick (again in Portuguese). I have a mobile that takes two sim cards so I don’t have to worry about changing the sim or having a second phone. I’ve even managed to set WhatsApp up for both numbers. That’s not straightforward, but if you want to know how do drop me an email.
Finally, I specifically state that I am living in Portugal and focus my email on the property and the area the agent is located. I never sent a “cut and paste” email.
Where is the property?
In the UK, a property listing includes the address. It’s easy to check the property, location and local facilities either online or by visiting the area.
Getting the location of a property in Portugal isn’t that easy. It’s probably my biggest frustration. I can understand it a little as there are too many people who want to bypass the agent so by getting the address of the property they have a greater chance of dealing directly with the seller.
But I found a solution that works for me most of the time.
In my enquiry email, I never request a viewing nor do I ask for the coordinates of the property. I always ask for more information and clarify the village property is located in.
Once I have this information and the property is still of interest, I go to the estate agent’s office. I don’t make an appointment, I just turn up. There is no greater benefit than face-to-face English-Portuguese conversation, often with hand gestures and lots of pointing at property images, details and locations on a screen.
In my opinion, this builds mutual trust with the agent and gives them a much better overview of what I am looking for. They are also able to show me the properties that aren’t being “openly marketed”.
Having built this trust, I ask for the coordinates so I can drive past the property, and explore the village and local area. I always explain this so I don’t waste the agent’s time as there is no point in seeing the inside of the house if the outside and location don’t work.
So far, I’ve managed a 100% success rate in obtaining the coordinates, apart from one agent who was adamant they were going to take me. Guess what, it was a waste of time as I would’ve dismissed the house just by driving past.
Put the time in
Househunting in a new country isn’t going to be straightforward. And it is completely different to buying a property in a town, county or country you’ve lived in for the majority of your life.
Buying a property takes time. Most importantly my time. Time is valuable to everyone, but making the wrong decisions is considerably more costly than spending time. Even visiting the estate agent takes time and not making an appointment has wasted a few hours for me. But it means I’m more familiar with the area and bring this into the conversation when I return.
I’ve spent whole days visiting several small villages and viewing properties from the outside. Getting a few properties in the same locality, but with different agents, makes the drive more productive. But, in my opinion, exploring the area is as important as viewing the house.
During my orientation visits, an agent would quickly point out the main facilities in the village but never give me the time to properly visit it. Now, after walking around a village for a few hours, and of course spending time in the local cafe or taberna, I often know more about the village than they do.
Over the last month, property searching has probably taken up at least a third of my time – ten days minimum. But I’ve only viewed eight properties while dismissing double that just by visiting on my own. Of the eight, five of them were with one agent whose preference was to spend the day driving around with me. One of the five properties was one I requested to visit, another was a real contender and the property I revisited last week, the others thought, I probably wouldn’t have viewed with an agent.
Property search continues
I am making significant progress in my property search.
I have a much better understanding of the topography in central Portugal, and what is important to me in a location. My knowledge of village life in Portugal is also increasing significantly.
The fundamental criteria I am looking for in a property haven’t changed, but how that works in reality continues to be fluid.
Maybe I’m just keeping my options open. Or maybe I’m just being picky.
As always, I’d like to thank everyone who reads my blog. I am humbled by your interest in my little world. Please do get in touch or reach out by adding a comment below.