Andrea moved to Portugal from the UK with her husband, Omar, in October 2020. They had been coming to Portugal for about 10 years, because Andrea’s sister lives there. Before Covid, they bought a Portacabin size container, which they put on their sister’s property, to be used as a guest house by the couple and other visitors.
Living and working in the UK, their lives changed drastically during Covid. The couple had been running a tour company for language students, for 11 years, but during the pandemic, they had to close, and during lockdown, they decided they wanted to move to Portugal.
They bought a piece of land near Coimbra, where they are currently renovating a wreck of a house. The project is likely to take up to five years, so Andrea and Omar moved the container on site, and that’s where they’re living while they renovate the house!
Buying property in Portugal, even as a foreign investor, is fairly straight forward. However, you should always contract a lawyer to ensure the purchase is legal, and if you’re planning to renovate a building, talk to the council about your plans, before you purchase.
The house Andrea and Omar have bought is a ruin. It’s a 100 year old stone house that has an outbuilding, which was used previously to house animals. Their plan is to convert the house and make it livable again, but right now it’s a shell without even a kitchen a toilet. It needs a lot of work. This will be the third house they’ve renovated, and the first in Portugal, but they admit, they’ve never worked on a project this big before.
First of all, Andrea and Omar thought about what they wanted and what they didn’t want from the move and from the place they were dreaming of living in. That’s a really important thing to do. Consider whether you’re buying a place to live, or a place to rent out. If you’re going to live there, what do you want from your location? If you’re going to rent it out as a vacation home, consider its marketability. And be realistic about how much time and effort you want to put into renovating.
“For us, we knew we wanted to live in Portugal for at least five years. We didn’t want to be too isolated. We didn’t want to be in the valleys, because it tends to be very cold there. We did a lot of research about what kind of place we wanted to be in and then visited 15 properties, which is quite a lot, but it’s the only way to be able to decide what’s right and what’s not.”
As soon as they saw the old house on a hill, close to Coimbra, they knew it was the place they wanted. They didn’t only like the house, but the neighborhood too.
“We fell in love with the location. This site is great for us, because it’s very green. There’s a lot of water, unlike in the Algarve where it’s really dry. And the property is amazing. It’s very close to the city of Coimbra, but we are surrounded by rivers and countryside, so we really get the best of both worlds.”
Have a good look at the different areas and find out what is a good price for the area and the property. Andrea and Omar, like a lot of people, started by looking on property websites like Idealista, which is a really popular site for property in Portugal. They wanted to find the newest properties available, so they contacted local real estate agencies and found a few to work with directly. Andrea told us that they also used some fairly unconventional approaches:
“One great thing to do is go to a local cafe in the area where you want to live, because there are always cafes in the local villages. Often, they know which properties are available and they know the owners, so you can connect with them directly and find a really good deal. It’s a good way to meet the locals, especially if you can speak some Portuguese.”
The other thing to have in mind is your budget. Both Andrea and Omar had wanted to invest in a new property, and Portugal was better value than the UK, where they were living before the move. They were able to make the purchase for just 30,000 euros.
Andrea recommends the following when considering buying a property in Portugal for renovation.
You should always take advice before buying a property and this is not a complete guide to the process, but here are some important tips from Andrea.
Any move to a new country, comes with a few challenges, and for each person, their experience is different. Certainly, for Andrea and Omar, their biggest challenge has been moving from a three bedroom detached house to a six by two and a half meter container - literally a tiny home!
Andrea has found driving very different from the UK. She has noticed that in Portugal, not everyone follows the rules and some people do tend to speed, so she’s learning to adapt to that.
Spanish is Andrea’s native language, so she has found the move to Portuguese easier than her husband, Omar, who is an English speaker. Her recommendation? “When you are learning a language, you have to throw yourself in the deep end and talk, and gradually you will learn.”
They admit that in general, there have been far more positives than negatives.
“We moved to Portugal, because having visited the country, we really like the sense of community here and how open people are. The move has been positive for us. We love the weather. The people and the food are great.”
Although the food in Portugal is excellent, they do miss the variety of different restaurants that they became accustomed to, living in a city in the UK. However, they are noticing that there are a lot more vegetarian options being offered in supermarkets over the last couple of years. Andrea says that in the more touristy areas, the range of food can be a lot more varied, so for example in Lisbon and Porto.
Andrea and Omar have a YouTube channel, on which you can find out more about their renovation project. They’re documenting what they’re doing, their progress and challenges, so people can learn from their experience. Take a look at The Indigo Escape.