Renting a House in Portugal: What You Need to Know

by Anite Allesis

There was a time when Portugal was regarded by the international community as Spain’s dowdy neighbour, less interesting, less glamorous. That time is long gone, in fact locals jokingly refer to the Algarve as the ‘California of Europe’, because so many celebrities have bought property in the area. In recent years Portugal has asserted its identity and the world has woken up to the fact that the country is not ‘almost Spain,’ but a fascinating country with a rich and unique cultural heritage. So, what are the main attractions of Portugal? Well, for one thing there’s the weather: its coastal capital, Lisbon, enjoys around 300 days of sunshine a year and its winters are mild and short. Then there are the beaches: the country’s thousand-mile coastline is a cornucopia of beaches of every description. The Atlantic coast affords world-class surfing beaches and some of the biggest waves in the world, whilst the Algarve has been voted the ‘best beach destination’ in the world. Portugal’s landscape is one of rich variety, a delight for lovers of nature and the outdoors. Once a dominant world power, Portugal has a rich legacy of architecture, its characteristic Manueline style, a flamboyant Portuguese gothic, is found throughout the country in its spectacular cathedrals and castles. Abundant seafood and a world class wines make dining an inexpensive delight and festivals and fado mean that there will always be something to watch while you eat. And as if all that weren’t enough, Portugal is one of the safest countries in the world and has one of the lowest costs of living in Europe.

Property costs

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As a result of the pandemic, average rental prices in Portugal have fallen by 6.5% since last June and now stand at 1,012 euros per month. The property platform Imovirtual produces a monthly report of average property prices in each municipality which enables you to see variations in price as well as areas in which prices are rising or falling. Despite a price drop of 9.6%, since last June, Lisbon remains the most expensive area in the country in which to rent property, with an average cost of 1,261 euros per month. The city which has seen the biggest drop in rental prices is Beja, where prices have dropped 26.3% since June last year to stand at a modest 426 euros per month. You may think that this price drop is because the city has little to recommend it, but you would be wrong. Beja boasts a spectacular castle, a cathedral, a university, a major museum and important ancient churches. Guarda, a city set in the mountain landscape of the Serra da Estrela had previously been the cheapest city in Portugal in which to rent property, but prices here have seen a 28% surge, though that still only brings the average rental price to an affordable 450 euros per month. Guarda is Portugal’s highest city, has a medieval centre with a maze of ancient streets, a cathedral and a museum. In winter you can ski in the surrounding mountains. Currently the cheapest city in which to rent property through Imovirtual.com is Portalegre, a former textile centre adjacent to the Parque Natural da Serra S Mamede in north Alentejo. Despite an 11.9% increase on last June’s prices, you can enjoy its castle, cathedral and museums for an average of 357 euros per month.

Take advantage of virtual viewings

Thanks to the internet you can cast your net far and wide without ever having to leave home. Video tours can give you a good idea of whether the property is of interest and Google maps will allow you to look at the street view and the locality so that you can spot any potential problems, such as busy bars or heavy traffic.

Make sure it’s legal

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Some landlords may try to rent out a property illegally, in order to avoid tax obligations, so you should always check that the property has been granted a rental license. Never hand over your money without a contract, in English, which you have read and understood, if necessary, you may have to employ an independent translator. The contract should identify the length of the lease, if the rent will be reviewed and how much notice is required from either party. Standard practice is for the landlord to ask for two months rent as a security deposit.

Short or long term?

Perhaps you intend to rent a property as a prelude to looking for somewhere to buy, in which case you may be seeking a short-term contract. Short-term rentals during the summer months will, in the absence of a pandemic, be expensive but during the winter months prices will drop. Short-term rentals are usually fully furnished, whereas long-term rentals are unfurnished. A long-term rental will certainly secure you the best value rent, but you need to ensure that you will be able to remain in the country for the duration of your stay. If you are not an E.U. citizen, you will need to obtain a visa.

What are the transport links like?

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Portugal has three international airports. How important is it for you to be near one? Will you need to make visits to your home country during your stay? Public transport is generally of a good standard in Portugal, but if you decide to rent a property in a remote location then you will need to have the use of a car. If you settle in a city, getting to and from an airport by train should not present any problem.

What weather might you encounter?

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If you are renting in Lisbon or on the Algarve the weather is unlikely to be a problem and you can look forward to minimal heating bills and the opportunity to spend plenty of time out of doors. You should be aware that if you choose to rent property in the north of the country, the winters can be cold and wet and if you settle in the centre of the country, the city of Beja for example, the summers can be scorchingly hot.

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