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Find a long term rental in Portugal: the almost catch-22

Find a long term rental in Portugal: the almost catch-22


Disclaimer: this story relates my personal experience on how to find a long term rental in Portugal and is not to be taken as a generality.

Moving from Belgium to Portugal

Last year (2019), after 2 years in the Belgian capital, overexposed to noise and proximity (from the closest neighbor to the habits of the population generally, this story deserves a dedicated article), it was time to go. A beautiful combination of circumstances meant that we were able to escape this lifestyle that was clearly not aligned with our values. Not to mention the total absence of sun 😅

After a 2000 km journey by car with our cats, we landed a few weeks in a charming temporary rental in Alenquer (district of Lisbon), and it was the time to find a long-term rental in Portugal.

Searching for a long term rental in Portugal

Thinking about it, I find it hard to tell myself that the control-freak that I am didn’t think about learning a bit more about the rental market in Portugal upstream (aka before deciding to “leave everything” and go live there). So I had an unpleasant time realizing, once there, that few accommodations were available, let alone in good condition, and that the majority of the market was devoted to sale.

Here again, I may need to clarify that I did not come to Portugal with the intention of living in populated areas or where expatriates are concentrated / in luxury houses or city center apartments / disconnected from reality of the country. Not having the same criteria that most people have probably increased the difficulty of my path, and I’m aware of that.

Real estate websites in Portugal

After a few weeks of browsing online ads, here is the list of real estate websites that I
have been found useful when looking for a property in Portugal:
– Idealista
– Custo Justo
– Imovirtual
– Casa Sapo
– Olx
– Facebook groups related to the targeted region

Renting in Portugal, what you need to know

These few weeks of research allowed me to learn some lessons about how the rental market works in Portugal (at least when you are in my case).

First of all, very few ads are online. It gets better over time, but I’ve often been advised to call the numbers displayed on the signs, or go straight to the cafes in the area and ask the locals if they haven’t heard of a potential rental available. This last method can really work when you don’t have too many expectations on what you’re looking for or when you’re looking for short term rents, I think.

Then, do not expect too much of an answer by email and even less on the ad websites themselves. You will have better luck placing a call directly. If you don’t master the language (yet), you will often have the chance to be able to make yourself understood in English, sometimes even in French. It’s a real bonus when you’ve just arrived!

Finally, don’t stop at the advertised conditions. Except perhaps for apartments in more popular areas or very high-end properties, advancing a few months’ rent may be enough to compensate the absence of guarantors / on-site employment contract / tax notice.

Properties available for long term rental in Portugal

Here comes the complicated part. I shall say straightaway that there are very few properties available for long term rental in Portugal. I am talking about real long term rental here (not temporary accommodation per night / week / month). And when you’re looking for an insulated house (thermally / acoustically) and isolated (from neighborhood noise) it’s even worse.

The most common accommodations seem to be apartments, in the city center or close to the city center, but also houses clearly targeting expatriates, with prices and amenities positioned in this direction (understand very expensive and often in subdivision / condominium).

Apart from that, you might find properties that are (wrongly) called long term rentals but are actually only available in low season (often between November and April). These properties are first of all very short-term Summer rentals (which often bring their owners more over this period than over a whole year, so they do not see the point of renting them on a long term period) or the expatriates secondary residence who therefore occupy the accommodation themselves the rest of the time.

Once all this information assimilated, you can also count on the luck factor and perseverance. For the record, we found the ideal house (based on our tastes) while it was on sale! We lived there for 18 great months before having to leave it to its new owner (for our greatest regret). The race to find a decent long term rental in Portugal had to resume, in a much more complicated context this time. To be continued…

You’re planning to settle and find a long term rental in Portugal? Leave me your questions in the comments 😉 Meanwhile, take a look at the Expat in Portugal category of the blog to give you a perspective of life around here!

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