With fewer surplus properties than neighbouring Spain, Portugal remains a popular alternative, especially the Algarve. Portugal’s Algarve has traditionally been associated with an older demographic of UK buyer than Spain. Sir Cliff Richard, an Algarve resident for 30 years, has his own vineyard and is fairly typical of the affluent, retired or semi-retired Brits living the good life in a sun-drenched land of wine, good beaches and plenty of golf.
Lisbon is a good alternative to trendy Spanish cities such as Barcelona, and two newer buying areas, Alentejo and the Silver Coast, are both within an hour’s drive of the city. Portuguese people are friendly and welcoming to the British arrivals. The property market didn’t experience the Spanish bubble – though prices have fallen and the country has general economic issues – but more importantly it hasn’t been overdeveloped, so there isn’t a vast glut of properties further suppressing demand.
There are three main buying areas in Portugal, plus the island of Madeira. Most well-known is the Algarve, the 240km southern coast. It’s very popular with British and Portuguese buyers, especially the central strip between Faro and Lagos, which includes Albufeira.
This is well-developed with hotels, apartments, villas and world-famous golf resorts. Studio flats start at €75,000 in Albufeira, nicely positioned two-bedroom apartments at €150,000 and four-bedroom villas from €350,000. It is also a great holiday rentals hotspot, with a strong market for long-term "snowbird" tenants in the winter months. he further eastern and western stretches of coasts are wilder – the area around Lagos has become popular in the past few years – but with some large-scale resort developments between the fishing villages. The mountain villages of the hinterland are attracting more buyers, too, with villa prices similar to those on the coast.
South of Lisbon, the Alentejo, or Blue Coast, has been “discovered” for several years, but remains undeveloped due to the financial climate, so you can choose between unrenovated property at very low prices, or a few classy new-builds such as|the Pinheirinho Hyatt Resort, with apartments from €240,000.
Further north past Lisbon is the Silver Coast, where the rolling hills, vineyards and olive trees meet the Atlantic in hundreds of kilometres of sandy beaches. Apartments (and smaller townhouses) start at €100,000 to €150,000, villas from €250,000.
Madeira is a closer alternative to the Canary Islands with a well-integrated UK community. Basic villas are €250,000, with pool and sea views from €450,000. Apartments are from €90,000 but restricted development and topographical limits have dented supply.
There are two stages to the buying process. The first is the promissory contract (contrato de promessa de compra e venda) between buyer and seller, on the condition of the property.
A deposit is normally paid at this time, usually from 10-25 per cent of the purchase price. Following this, the lawyer does searches and checks for encumbrances or mortgages on the property.
The second part of the transaction is the escritura de compra e venda, or final deed, and this is the point at which the property ownership is transferred to the buyer. As with the promissory contract, it is signed in front of the notary (notario). The final contract is then sent to the Land Registry.
The biggest cost is property transfer tax (IMT), paid on properties over €92,407 on a sliding scale from 2-8 per cent. Notary, admin and registration fees are 1.5-2.5 per cent, and legal fees 1-2 per cent, of the purchase price. The seller pays the estate agency fees.
Ensure that your lawyer checks that plans of the property held by the local authorities that refer specifically to the property agree with the existing construction. You should request from your local lawyer a report on title, stating that the property is free of any charges (or that such charges will be removed before completion) and you should also seek advice on the planning rules for the area.