Written by Ben Taylor,
Last Modified: 29th December 2021

Every country has its quirks – and Portugal is no different. If you’re house-hunting in Portugal, it’s certainly helps to understand those quirks.

With that in mind, this article examines seven things that are helpful to know when you’re searching for a Portuguese property. These points will help you to hit the ground running when you begin to look for your new home. Let’s begin!

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1. You need to understand the seasons

Contrary to what some people believe, Portugal is a country with distinct seasons. While much of the country enjoys a long and hot summer, and a short and mild winter, it’s a fallacy to believe that it’s summer all year round.

So what does this have to do with house hunting in Portugal? Well, first off it can mean that certain areas have a completely different feel depending on the season. This is particularly pronounced in resort areas in the Algarve. While some popular tourist destinations (such as Lagos and Tavira) are also working cities, some other places (such as Armaçao de Pêra and parts of Albufeira) can feel distinctly “closed” off season.

With this in mind, it’s certainly worth visiting your favoured destinations at different points in the year – or, at the very least, doing research into just how much areas can change.

Portugal is a country with distinct seasons.

Conversely, in the peak of the summer (primarily from mid-July to mid-August), many residents of Lisbon and Porto decamp to the beach resorts. This can make for a good time to head to these cities, but also means it’s the one time of the year when you may find businesses (and estate agencies) closed in the city.

The seasons in Portugal can also impact the behaviour of sellers. The start of the tourist season isn’t always the best time to look for a property to buy or rent in one of the popular beach areas. Owners are looking at a lucrative period for short-term rentals, and often defer decisions until the end of the season. As you can probably guess, this makes the end of the season a good time to look!

It’s worth noting that world events at the time of writing will inevitably impact some of these broad trends. However, it’s reasonable to assume that these patterns will resume.

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2. There’s a code for bedrooms

When you’re browsing Portuguese property listings, you will notice properties – particularly apartments – described as T0/T1/T2, and so on.
There’s nothing mysterious here – it simply refers to the number of bedrooms. A T0 is a studio with no separate bedroom. A T1 is one bedroom, and so on.
Something else you might see is T2+1, T3+1 etc. This indicates that there’s an additional small room – think dressing room or box room – which may or may not be big enough to serve as an additional bedroom.

3. Email isn’t widely used

International house hunters are often surprised when they email agencies about properties and receive absolutely no response back. This isn’t unique to Portugal.

First off, you cannot email an agency in English and expect to receive a response. You probably wouldn’t if you emailed a British agent in Portuguese! You may improve your hit-rate if you use Google Translate, but you will likely still find responses are thin on the ground. It’s simply that some agents in Portugal still do things on a more “face-to-face” basis than you may be used to.

4. You won’t find everything online

On a similar note, you shouldn’t expect to find every available Portuguese property from an online search. While there are sites such as Casa Sapo that carry plenty of property listings, there’s not really a true local equivalent for sites like Rightmove and Zoopla.

This is especially relevant if you’re looking for property in small villages in rural Portugal. Sometimes the only way you’ll find out about a particular property on sale is because a local agent tells you.

You shouldn’t expect to find every available Portuguese property online.

5. It’s worth getting a fiscal number

The Portuguese fiscal number (the Numero de Indentificacao Fiscal, or NIF), is hugely important. The closest British equivalent is the National Insurance number, but the NIF in Portugal is used for far more. You’ll certainly need it to buy a property, but you are also asked for it for smaller things such as buying a mobile phone.

Of all the paperwork in Portugal, the NIF is one of the easiest things to get. If you’re serious about buying a Portuguese home, it’s worth obtaining one sooner rather than later. Nowadays there are even online services that help you get one from a distance – just ensure you do your due diligence on such services.

6. Estate agents will often offer a lawyer

If you show interest in a property while you are house hunting in Portugal, it’s likely that the agent will offer to put you in touch with their own friendly lawyer to assist with the sales process.

There’s nothing to say that there’s any ill-intent here, but it’s always best to select and hire your own lawyer. That way you know that they are working entirely in your interests, without any conflicts.

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7. You should budget 8-10% for fees

When you’re setting the budget for your Portuguese home, it’s important to remember that there are purchase costs to think about too.

As a general rule, once you’ve taken account of agency fees, legal costs, registrations and taxes, you will be looking at about 8-10% of the property purchase price. If you neglect to allow for these fees and find your dream home at the top end of your budget, that home might actually be out of reach.
Certain types of property come with tax incentives, and you may find you can reduce this figure. However, assuming you’ll be paying 10% on top is a wise strategy.

House hunting in Portugal can be a joy – so be sure to take your time. Soak up the country, and the hugely diverse range of different areas. Embrace the pace of life, and understand that there’s no hurry to make a decision. Portugal isn’t a country where anyone is in too much of a hurry – and that’s one of the wonderful things about it!

Download your free Portugal Buying Guide

The Portugal Buying Guide is designed to support you through each stage of buying property in Portugal, providing relevant, up-to-date information and tips from Portugal property experts and expats who have been through the process themselves. It helps you to:

  Impact of Brexit
  Find your property
  Ask the right questions
  Avoid losing money
  Avoid the legal pitfalls
  Move in successfully

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