After a string of Christmas and New Year’s celebrations I am back, my dear readers!
As promised, I will try to tell you everything I’ve learned about buying land in Portugal, and let me assure you that the act itself is not as perilous as you might have been led to believe. Or maybe we were just lucky?
Undeniably, Portugal is one of the cheapest and safest options available within European Union for property buyers. The country is mostly agricultural, green, environmentally conscious, sparsely populated and very welcoming.
The winters are mild, the summers are hot and everything in between is very pleasant.
If like us you came to the same conclusion and aim to start your own self-sufficient farm, this is one of the most logical and affordable choices within the EU.
First of all, don’t panic.
Ideally you want to start looking through Rightmove Overseas straight away. This is a site compiling properties from the various estate agents within different countries and depending on your budget you might narrow down the areas you’d like to visit in your search.
Make a list of what you need on your property. If you are interested in permaculture, Geoff Lawton describes the must-haves brilliantly in this video.
Think of what land size you need.
Originally me and Alex thought that we needed 2 to 5 hectares, but as soon as we walked our first 5 hectares property we changed it to maximum 2 hectares, because frankly we were knackered. Who needed that much space for 2 people?
Be prepared to be flexible.
Believe me, your views and ideas will change with each property you view.
Don’t agree to buy something straight away believing that if you wait and look at more properties this one will go to another buyer.
The property market in Portugal is extremely slow.
It’s normal to have a property on the market for 1-2 years or more. Moreover, some properties are not even advertised online, so the more you talk to people the more you might be able to see because everyone knows someone who is selling a piece of land.
Narrow down the area you like.
Then you can sort out your accommodation. Before we arrived to Portugal we pre-booked three weeks of staying here. Nice place, by the way. But it was in Coimbra area (Silver Coast) within a large expat community and higher than we could afford prices, and we ended finding something more suitable in Central Portugal 3.5 hours away.
So, by our second week in the country we were commuting way too much and wasting time and money on the motorways. My advice, don’t pre-book anything. Arrive to your first viewing or first place of staying and go from there. You will always find somewhere to stay easily, and the prices will stay around the same no matter when you pay for your room.
Don’t bother with a lawyer, Portuguese bank account and fiscal number until you see something you want to buy.
Again, this is a matter of pinpointing the location for you and avoiding unneccessary commuting for everyone. When you find something you want to buy, go to the local municipal centre. I’ve seen a list of solicitors in ours. There bound to be someone English-speaking in the area.
In the same municipal centre you will get your fiscal number – a tax number needed for the bank account and for buying your land. When we first came to the country in May we had to pay for it, our friends got theirs last month, and it was free. You need a passport and a home address (within EU).
Look around which banks are available in your area. Go to one of them with your passport, fiscal number and your address in EU (if it’s a Portuguese address you’d need a proof of address) and within half an hour you’ll get a bank account and a temporary card. You’ll be able to use it in ATM machine (Multibanco) or pay for the goods in the shops.
By the way, ATM machines in Portugal are amazing. You can pay your land taxes in Multibanco, top up your phone card or pay any other bill.
As to lawyers, depending on the service you’re getting from the estate agent, you might or might not need one. It’s also a matter of trust. We used a lawyer to be safe, but I’ve seen plenty of successful sales without one.
Where to look for land?
Estate agents like Pinhal Rural, Remax , ERA (I can vouch for the first two because I’ve looked at some properties with them. Our acquaintances used ERA). Expats that advertise with sites like Pure Portugal on behalf of their Portuguese friends or themselves. If you meet someone in a cafe/restaurant/supermarket and strike a casual conversation you’ll be amazed how many people know someone who is selling the land directly. You can always go and look at it and then ask your lawyer to check if all the documents are alright. By the way, if anyone reads it and know of more Portuguese estate agents, please add them in comments.
The majority of estate agents will speak English.
When you see something interesting write an email to them or give them a call. You’ll be able to arrange a day for a few viewings. I’ve heard that ERA limits the amount of viewing you can do in a day, but we went to Remax in Castelo Branco and their service was marvelous. We saw 9 properties in 2 days, and they took us in their own vehicle to each and every one of them.
Maria and Paolo, hi! *waves hand* When I can I’ll drag you to this blog and make you give me an interview. *grin*
Get yourself a Portuguese sim card.
Honestly, go to TMN, Vodafone or anyone else and buy one. It will save you a lot of money on chatting with estate agents, solicitors and sellers directly.
Most of the time you’ll get by with just English. Again you’ll be surprised at how many Portuguese will speak it.
You are probably wondering what happens when you find the right property?
We started looking at properties with both estate agents and local mediators/translators who became our friends later, and ended up buying directly from the seller with their help. As soon as we agreed on the price, the lawyer checked that all the documents were alright, and the seller booked the date for signing in the municipal centre.
Within a week, we paid the land purchase tax through Multibanco, asked our bank for the check in the name of the seller and sorted out the payment for our lawyer’s services and that was that.
We went to a signing, signed and paid. Sounds easy, right?
Be ready to wait.
Not all the property purchase is that simple. In some cases the land belongs to few siblings and they all have to agree on the price and the date for signing. Most of them will be living in a city, so they will have to arrange a day off work to come and sign. All of them have to be together for that.
Nobody really wants to do anything fast, although there are exceptions. Estate agents or private mediators do try to hurry things up but even they can’t do much apart from bodily dragging someone to the signing.
If you can’t wait any longer you can always grant your lawyer or an estate agent permission to buy on your behalf and go home to wait.
Otherwise, the process is pretty logical and straightforward.
Even if the sale doesn’t go through, don’t panic.
Peeps, there is plenty more fish in the sea. We have a friend who put an offer on his first property and after a few months the sale didn’t happen. He put an offer on another beautiful property and it didn’t work again. At last, his third property found him and he signed for it really quickly and easily.
The moral of the story:
if it didn’t happen, it wasn’t the right property for you. The right one is just around the corner.
Hope it helped someone and alleviated their fears.
I am going to ask our friends/property mediators/translators to talk to you in a podcast next time and answer some of your (and mine) questions.
Please ask your property purchase questions in the comments.
Over and out.