Portugal Owners Guide
Owning a holiday home in Portugal
Many British people are familiar with the delights of the Algarve and there is a large ex-pat and second home community in that region enjoying the consistently good climate, golden beaches, fascinating rocky coves and azure sea. Lazing on family friendly beaches, watersports, horse riding, walking, fishing and bird-watching amongst many other pursuits give this area broad appeal. This area is famously a golfer’s paradise, with excellent courses, where rounds can be enjoyed in a perfect climate. If you are looking for an area where English is widely understood, but where the indigenous culture has not been buried, the Algarve can still offer a good balance. Bars, restaurants and nightclubs can be found – but so too can local cafes, vibrant markets and festivals.
For a relatively small country, however, Portugal offers a huge geographical and cultural diversity well beyond its well known southern tip. This is a country rich in art, architecture gems and history with some wonderful sites dating from Roman occupation, the era of the Moors, the times of the crusaders and world exploration and from the country’s time as an imperial power.
Numerous rivers (many with their own freshwater ‘beaches’) and fertile valleys can be found in the centre and north of the country. The mountains of the Serra de Estrela offer skiing in winter and walking, climbing and white water rafting during the rest of the year. Oporto, Portugal’s second city is of course famous for Port, but there are other excellent wines from this region too.
Craggy mountains, arid savannah and national parks rich in flora and fauna are interspersed with olive and orange groves, cork trees and vineyards in the Alentejo region. This region itself has a beautiful coastline, less developed than the Algarve; the area also contains the medieval towns of Estremoz, Marvao and Monsaraz and various megalithic tombs. Lisbon is an elegant, sophisticated but friendly capital with the cultural delights of Sintra, the Museu Berardo and the Museu Gulbenkian for example and is only a short train ride from the lovely beaches of Estoril. The crime rate is much lower in Portugal than in the UK, and even in Lisbon, people are generally helpful and respectful.
Being on the Atlantic coast Portugal does get a fair bit of rain, but this generally falls in the winter and results in a greenness including lovely woodland in large areas of the country, that many will find comforting and welcoming. The good news is that this far south in Europe the summers are reliably hot, if not bone dry. The further south you go the more settled the climate becomes all year round. Spring comes early (from February onwards) all over the country and is beautiful, with its blankets of wild flowers. Winter can be a lovely season in Portugal, and though it can get cold inland (a good excuse to gather round the wood-burner) and many tourist facilities on the coast close at the end of September, the weather can still be very clement. For walkers and golfers, and for anyone who loves sunshine but prefers the quiet, out of season can be a lovely time to visit, it is not unbearably hot and is pleasantly empty.
Not to be forgotten too is the fragrant fertile island of Madeira – the ‘floating garden’, with its benign climate, long holiday season and various activities from sailing to big game fishing. Then there is the less developed archipelago of the Azores, where you can watch the whales, surf or horseride, an attractive, undeveloped place for those who enjoy outdoor pursuits.
Learning about Portugal and getting about
Away from the Algarve and other tourist hot spots property can be remarkably cheap by English property standards though away from those hot spots, learning some Portuguese would be a must.Take time to explore the country or even just the region that you know you want to be in. Try short rents in different places. Such exploration will reveal new things about the country and also help you to focus on what you finally want. You then get a better idea of which characteristics of a holiday home, and its location would be important to you. You will discover compromises you might have to make; the convenience of the town for provisioning and entertainment versus the quiet and privacy of the countryside; or the familiarity/comfort of living amongst plenty of English speakers versus the feeling of being in an idyllic traditional and unspoilt Portuguese location.
Service and product providers
When planning to take on a holiday home, you must ensure that you budget for any on going mortgage payments, buildings’ and contents’ insurance for the holiday home, second home local authority tax and any service charges if your property is in a communal setting. And don’t forget utility bills, TV licence, broadband etc. If there is a pool at your property allow for chemicals, special water rates and on-going maintenance and cleaning. Your insurer will insist that there is someone local to keep an eye on the place – to hold a key and to organise any necessary urgent repairs in your absence. You may well want gardening services to keep the garden from drying out and to give the impression of the property looking neat and lived in. And over time you will need to pay for builders, plumbers, electricians etc for maintenance and extensions etc.
Things to do when you are there
Making the most of the area that you have chosen to live in. Get involved in the local community, culture, entertainment, miscellaneous activities, and keep fit and healthy. Unless you are going to completely live your life amongst the English speaking community, the best thing to do, even before finding a property to buy, is to start to learn Portuguese, This is a good idea on two levels. Firstly, of course, to help you to get by in everyday life; in shops, reading road signs and understanding utility bills and other official communications. Secondly the process of learning will help you to become involved in local life. People everywhere appreciate it when foreigners living amongst them (even if only part time) learn the local language and will often be very encouraging of your efforts. As you grasp more of the language it will help you to socialise, join sports clubs etc. You will enjoy testing out your language skills and be delighted as you understand more and become more understood.
Renting out your holiday home
You may plan from the start to rent out your holiday home for holiday use, or you may find this option more attractive at some point in the future. You will need funds to market your holiday home. Your property will then need to be kept in an excellent state of repair and be very well presented, with clean furniture in good condition and pristine crisp linen for each new visitor. The house will have to meet all rental regulations and if there is a pool/ garden areas, these will need to be kept clean and safe. You will probably need to employ the services of a management company to do this. Adequate holiday home insurance will be required which should include liability cover and loss of rent.