A NEW LIFE
One reason for creating this site was to offer
information to people who are considering a
holiday or buying a holiday home in Portugal.
Another reason was to offer help to those who
are considering relocating to live permanently
We have found the countryside to be stunningly
beautiful, the people almost invariably kind and
gentle, and the way of life slow and peaceful.
BACK TO THE FUTURE
Those of us of a generation who can remember a time when the streets were not clogged with cars and litter, and who can remember when the way of life was gentler and less frantic, will find a haven in Central Portugal. Here it is like going back to a way of life in the UK from fifty years ago, but with the added benefit of lots of sunshine (so good for arthritic joints).
Although many aspects of life in Portugal hark back to a gentler age, the Portuguese infrastructure of roads (due to large injections of EU funds) and most technology is extremely up to date, possibly even superior to the UK in many cases. For instance, in the centre of almost every town and usually in the vicinity of the local Town Hall, free wifi internet is available to all. You can sit in the garden of the Town Hall, in the shade of a tree, and email your friends and family for free, for as long as you like, a very civilised local amenity.
The Portuguese also adore mobile phones and even in the wilds of the mountains you will see a shepherd tending his herd of goats or sheep with his mobile phone clamped to his ear. This is only possible because the mobile phone coverage is so good overall.
Many people are concerned that they will be able to find good healthcare, and experience shows that the hospitals are excellent. Initially, for British people, a UK issued EHIC card (free online) will ensure that one only pays the same healthcare costs as the Portuguese people (the authorities will claim the money for your care back from the UK Government - a reciprocal agreement). Dental care is normally excellent and not at all expensive.
Whether it becomes necessary to have a top-up health insurance for medical care in the future remains to be seen. Experiences of other ex-pats have reassured us that in an emergency an ambulance will arrive very quickly and take you to hospital where you will be normally be treated with efficiency. Each regional area has a major hospital in the main town or city. For instance Coimbra has an excellent hospital which serves all the region around it.
TO GROW YOUR OWN OR NOT TO GROW YOUR OWN
Many people, having decided to make their home in Portugal come up with a pre-planned list of what criteria a property needs to have. Often this includes a property with plenty of land in order to be self-sufficient by growing one's own vegetables, and perhaps keeping some small livestock, such as chickens. These criteria are usually based on the amount of properties available for sale on the internet in a certain price bracket. Many come with large plots of land, and are sometimes in isolated areas. Many people buy one of these properties quite quickly, having fallen in love with it, only to discover that the property does not suit them at all in the long run. It is much wiser to rent a place for a period of months, to give yourselves time to acclimatise to the Portuguese way of life. In time one learns that there are some disadvantages to some properties and some areas, and taking time to learn about these things is a very wise decision. You may find that, with experience, your original list of criteria may radically change.
One may realise that maintaining a large area of land would probably be much more hard work than visualised, and also quite a responsibility. In Portugal, land which is relatively close to houses must be kept tended to reduce the risk of fire, and cannot be left to grow unchecked. Many do not realise how hard it is to care for a garden in the heat of the summer, and how fast things, including weeds, grow here in the sunshine. On the other hand, water is precious here, and we learned how vital it is, if you do want to grow things on any scale, to have a source of free water, either from a well, a borehole or perhaps a small river or stream. N Although it is possible to buy houses with these sources of water available, it is essential to check that they don’t dry up completely in the summer months.
In addition, fresh produce is so cheap and readily available that it is not really of any great benefit financially to grow all your own vegetables, although it is nice to perhaps grow your own tomatoes and salad stuff. There is no real need to keep chickens as the eggs available in the markets are of excellent quality and taste. It is hardly even necessary to have fruit trees as your neighbours will probably have too much fruit for themselves and bring you bags of oranges, peaches or plums, or whatever is in season.
When searching for a rental property you will find that furnished rentals, outside the winter period and at a sensible price, are extremely difficult to find. Most of the Portuguese estate agents will have some rental properties on their sites and it is worth contacting the owners and negotiating the price for a rental of a few months.
There are literally thousands of HOUSES FOR SALE in Portugal, in common with hundreds of other people, you may well fall in love with several and end up quite confused. Because of this, it is good to remain flexible about what kind of house you want (and need) as your ideas will probably change quite rapidly. You will almost certainly fall in love with a house which may then either be exactly the right house, or turn out to be a nightmare.
Perhaps you might see a house in the middle of the day when the area is peaceful and quiet as everyone is out a work or taking a siesta. You fall in love with the house and commit to buying it. When you actually move in, you may find that every evening the local dogs bark incessantly, cars rush past your house at speed hooting their horns, and the “bells” of the local chapel clang discordantly every hour. So when you find the “perfect” house, take your time and make sure it is still perfect at all hours of the day, and if possible, at all times of the year. Of course if you love hustle and bustle, and to hear lots of life going on around you, then it might still be the perfect house for you.
Or perhaps you fall in love with a house in the depths of a tranquil forest, accessible only down a track. This type of house may turn out to be unutterably lonely for anyone who likes the company of people, and the track may become inpassible except to a 4x4 in the wintertime due to being waterlogged. It may also be hard to get house insurance for these properties due to the fire risk. It is important to check this out. If you can find someone advertising house insurance then ask them to check that the property you choose is in an area where insurance is obtainable. You will need the post code of the property for this.
There are forest fires and these are usually dealt with impressively quickly by the marvellous Portuguese Fire Service, but they do (understandably) give a priority to protecting villages and the odd isolated house may suffer as a result. It is something to think about before you buy.
Houses here in Central Portugal are often built in a similar fashion. The front is quite often right on the road (which may be a quiet back road)and the upper storey has the main living rooms and bedrooms. At the back, and built into the hillside, are the downstairs rooms which are usually “adegas”. These rooms were originally for storage, wine making or for storing produce and possible for keeping animals in. When these downstairs rooms are incorporated into the house as part of a renovation, it is important that they are done properly to a high standard or damp and mould may be a persistent problem. Additionally you may see a house advertised as having four bedrooms, but these may be tiny and only just big enough for a bed and little else. The bedrooms often are grouped around the living room (sala), an arrangement which is often not to Northern European taste. To alter a house to fit one’s own lifestyle can become a costly business so check the costs of any renovations before putting in an offer.
We cannot comment on the quality of Portuguese builders, but experiences seem to vary as much as people's experiences with builders back in the UK! If possible get a personal recommendation and ask to see an example of work they have done. From other people experience it seems this is a good way to judge the quality of a builder. Certain jobs, such as gas fitments, have to be done by a registered tradesman but this is a good thing for safety's sake.
We really advise taking someone who speaks Portuguese or who has some experience of house buying in Portugal. They can bring your attention to the various pitfalls that can happen.
It is also quite important to accept that many things are very different here to life in the UK, and the differences are often part of the charm of the place. Even outside of the cities you will be able to shop in a good supermarket within a few miles at most, but almost everything else requires a bit of a hunt. Except in the larger towns and cities, there are no huge, out of town centres where you can find large chains selling hardware, garden equipment, pet supplies, etc. as you can in the UK. These establishments may be dotted around the countryside and can only be found by asking someone locally where you can find such-and-such.
To sum up we strongly advise anyone considering moving to anywhere in Europe that Central Portugal can compete favourably with most places, but the golden rule must be to rent or stay in a B&B for a while before you decide which area you like the best and what kind of property you really want, because if your experiences are anything like most peoples your criteria will change. It is a good idea to be staying in Portugal in the summer while you search, as the heat is a greater consideration than the mild, short winters. Saying that, most houses older than 10 years will not have insulation central heating or double glazing. The winters are often pleasant during the day but extremely cold at night. If you think you will require insulation, etc., in your new property then it is advisable to get a builder to quote for the cost of upgrading the property.