How to buy a property in Portugal

Buying property in Portugal

Tara and I bought a small homestead farm in Portugal to renovate, which we are now documenting on YouTube with weekly Sunday vlogs. 

Why we bought in Portugal is a question on its own, and had you have told us a few years ago that we would be buying in Portugal and, not Greece or France we would have probably scoffed in bemusement. 

Portugal was just a country like many others that we had never thought about owning property in. But as it has worked out, not only has Portugal turned out to be a fantastic country to buy in, but had we sat down and really thought about it we would probably have found that Portugal was also the most sensible country to buy in too.

  1. It’s about the cheapest country in Western Europe; EUR100K will get you a lot of bang for your buck
  2. The Visa regulations are the simplest and easiest amongst European countries for those of us feeling the sting of Brexit
  3. From the UK it’s just a couple of hours’ flight
  4. It’s a very well organised country, with land and house records documents leaving little room for ambiguity over ownership (mostly)
  5. Depending on where you buy in Portugal you will get a rainy winter and a hot summer – perfect protection against wildfires and drought
We bought a house in Portugal

In 2021 we decided that we were going to buy a small place abroad, we wanted land, a house to fix up, and it had to be away from any sound of traffic or other annoying noises, like barking dogs or city sounds. A fairly easy list of must haves, except for the road noise and dogs, these two noise “pollutants” you can hear almost everywhere, they are difficult to escape, unless you are far far in the sticks. We wanted to be close to a town, for several reasons, not least that a two hour round trip to the hardware store would be a real pain, but also a little life around us felt important, restaurants pubs, and playgrounds for our children.

Step -1 Find the right property 

We started our search with a road trip the length of Portugal. As we headed further north and the yellows turned to green it became very clear to us that the south and east were not really areas we wanted to live in. The East of course is very popular with foreign buyers because the prices are very low there, the south popular with retirees because of the beaches. The North with its rolling hills, great roads and infrastructure and huge oak trees caught our eye immediately and after looking at just two houses we went ahead and offered…. it felt ridiculous to be doing it, but there you have it, we did it anyway. 

We used www.imovirtual.pt to search for properties, this is not an English-speaking website with overpriced wrecks for sale, this is the local Portuguese website (like Rightmove in the UK) that sells houses all over the country. We then were directed to a local estate agent called Atrium Star in Amarante who took us around a couple of properties before we offered on one. 

We had found the right property for us, three small dwellings that need a lot of work, just outside of a small town called Amarante. 40 minutes from Porto international airport and cheap flights, close to everything we would need, under a canopy of oak trees, low fire risk, and with a year round well and spring on the three acres of land. Perfect. 

We bought a farm in Portugal

Step 2 – make an offer and negotiate

The house prices in Portugal, like in most countries, are guide prices. Of course, the seller would prefer to get the asking price, but they will often accept a lower price. We offered about 10% lower than the asking price, which was initially rejected, but then agreed. Our estate agent helped with the negotiations and gave us pretty solid advice along the way. Finally, after a little back and forth, the price was agreed. This was a funny moment because we didn’t really know what happens next, or even how we should go about buying a property in Portugal. So we left the country and said that we would keep in touch with the estate agent via email. It worked well. 

Step 3 – Pay a deposit

First things first, we employed the services of an english speaking lawyer to help us ensure that we weren’t getting ourselves into something that would cost us our savings or cause us serious problems down the line. This part was really easy, even though we thought it would be crazy tricky. We went on the UK GOV website and searched for good lawyers in Portugal and found one right away, emailed him and then called, said can you help, he said yes and that was that. We used a chap called Albino De Sousa Botelho, a real dude, and I guess we picked him because he was near the top of the GOV list, Albino is probably always near the top of lists. It felt a bit odd because we didn’t really sign a contract with Albino, rather he just said he would help us buy the house and then did just that. We asked how much would it cost and he said in total about EUR1300, which felt totally fine. 

So with Albino on our side, we were ready to pay a deposit. 10% of the cost of the house, this was the first document we signed, and we did this by post. 

Aerial shot of the Newby Farm in portugal

Step 4 – NIF numbers and bank accounts

To buy a house in Portugal you will need a NIF number. You can buy one online, it’s expensive. If you are in Portugal, go to the local municipality office where you are buying the house and ask them to organise you a NIF number. For us it took less than half an hour. We needed identification and also an address to post documents to. I’m pretty sure that was all, we did have a lot of help from our estate agent who was translating for us and helping us through the process. 

The bank account was also fairly easy. We opened this about a week before we completed the purchase, and so we were in Portugal. We started in Santander, and after several weeks of waiting were eventually told that we couldn’t open a bank account because of some reason that was never really shared with us, we think it was to do with money laundering regulations. So after waiting several weeks for Santander to sort their acts out and getting nowhere, we went to Millenium bank. It took less than half an hour to open the account on the same day. 

We used WISE to transfer our cash from the UK to the new Portuguese account, this made me nervous at first so I sent money in smallish amounts. The Halifax bank in the UK wanted about £3000 to move money from the UK to EUR, this fee was hidden in the very poor exchange rate they were giving, with WISE it cost us about £400. I now always use WISE for my international transfers. 

The day before exchanging contracts we paid about EUR40 to have a banker’s cheque made out by Millenium bank for the exact amount left to pay for the house with the name of the sellers on it. Tomorrow as documents were being signed we would hand the cheque over.  

Step 5 – The day of the purchase

The day had arrived for us to buy the house. We were very thankful that our lawyer Albino made the trip from Porto to Amarante. The estate agent, the sellers and their lawyers, ourselves and our lawyer all sat in a room together and signed the documents after they were all read out loud to us. Everything was conducted in Portuguese but translated to English by Albino for us. 

We handed over our cheque and the house was ours. One last thing was to pay the tax for buying the house, this came to about EUR2000 which we paid using a credit card shortly after the contracts were exchanged. 

It felt completely crazy that we’d done it, and for a long while we didnt get back to the property while we were sorting out various other plans in life that were made before we bought the property. This was definitely a time when we doubted our decision and worried that we’d rushed into things. Turns out, it was the best decision we ever made and our future looks brighter and more exciting for it. 

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