The changing portuguese real estate market ( Part 3 )

Emerging sources of clients, supply versus demand imbalances and much more.

The chasm between cost and access to accommodation by local people, and the cost of delivering new inventory

In a report by CIA Landlord Insurance in the UK, published in March 2022, Lisbon is ranked as the third least viable city in the world in which to live, if you are renting. This is due to the discrepancy between disposable income for local people, and the cost of housing.

The Portuguese government has no consistent policy to deliver new housing, much less affordable housing, on any scale. Delivery of Build to Rent, previously also known as PRS (private rental sector), inventory, is practically impossible due to, among other factors, the tax burden. At least 35% of the total cost of any new construction is tax (of which the most significant are: VAT of 23% on cost of construction; 1.23% VAT on sales agency commission; around 5-6% IMT; notary costs; fees and contributions, including compensatory payments, by developers to municipalities). This excludes the cost of bureaucracy and delay which are borne by investors as a reduction in returns, and may be transferred to end buyers via price increases.

Why will new build continue to increase in value (and price)?

In addition to the benefits of newer, more efficient, more environmentally considerate technologies and materials, all of which come at a price, there is also the cost related to the process of developing a new project. As comment by a senior executive at a leading real estate consulting firm in Portugal: challenges include “high property taxes, VAT, and the sheer time it takes to get planning permission from city halls and local councils. This, in turn, makes it impossible for developers that normally plan ahead by up to 10 years, to keep to their original costings and budgets, thereby scaring off investors in this particular residential housing segment.”

The Portuguese Property Survey (PIPS), produced by the magazine Confidencial Imobiliário and the APPII, in May of 2022, reported that there had been an “increase in construction costs of 18% over the past year”. This cost will have to be passed on, in part or in full, to the end buyer.

A combination of existing lack of product, low levels of new build, an increase in labour and materials costs, high tax and slow planning cycles, mean that it is impossible to deliver affordable new build. Any new build that is perceived as cheap should immediately raise a red flag.

As most of the underlying causes of cost are structural and not easy to fix quickly, and consequently with new build prices expected to continue to rise, the Portuguese off-plan market presents an excellent opportunity for investors, both institutional and retail (end buyers). Residential developers willing to spend the time can benefit from uplift in land values when successfully taking a project through planning, and end buyers can benefit from higher-than-average ROI and ROC because of capital appreciation during the build cycle. This is sensible foresight based on sustained demand for end product, rather than the speculative type of investment that characterised the years prior to the financial crash of 2008-9.

The need for urgent change across the sector

The current inflationary cycle means that developers are naturally more risk-averse, as are buyers. In a conversation with a large real estate consulting company recently, I was surprised to hear an experienced executive imply that he expected developers to underwrite the risk of a volatile market so as to offer greater buyer protection. He seemed to fail to recognise the substantial risks already undertaken by developers, many of which are difficult to quantify to an end buyer without laying bare the hugely prejudicial environment in which developers operate in Portugal. The opinion also seemed to contradict the so-called “appeal” of Portugal. If a country is indeed such an attractive investment destination, then surely a more balanced approach between developer and buyer risk must be adopted?

The combination of factors (or challenges) outlined above, make it “impossible to create new build projects at affordable prices for Portugal’s lower-middle and middle classes.” As we have been arguing for some time, eon way to inject more affordable product into the Portuguese market, is to approve, develop and sell more expensive product such that a percentage of larger schemes can also deliver an affordable housing component. Many ways exist to do this, such as waiving VAT (or applying a reduced rate of VAT) on the affordable housing component of any development; encouraging developer-buyer shared ownership schemes by waiving IMI and offering reduced VAT on new build; or reducing IMT on new builds that meet certain environmental or other criteria, they have a secondary positive effect on helping to meet other government targets.

It is even possible for the government to link VAT to inflation in an inversely proportional ratio, such that VAT is capped at the moment of project approval, at the prevailing rate, but then falls in line with inflation as and when costs are incurred: the logic is that if costs go up then the government will still earn its tax as per the original estimate – after all, with no value whatsoever being received by the developer in exchange for VAT payments, it seems at best grotesque that the government should benefit while consumers and economic agents suffer. A similar situation exists in respect of fuel duty in Portugal, that could benefit from a similar inflation-linked VAT solution.

Ultimately, if the government is unwilling to sacrifice its tax revenue, then it must offer developers, who are taking most of the risk, incentives for them to build new product.

What is evident is that development models will have to change and for this to occur and the roles of the protagonists will have to be remapped. Some examples of the possible trickle-down effect:

  • The government needs to reduce the tax burden on real estate development, starting with VAT
  • Councils need to start adding more value, beyond simply having the power to approve projects and ask for contributions. The council must deliver value directly to the local community, in exchange for the revenue it receives from developers.  The percentage of monies received from developers that is used for general municipal expenses should be capped, and the remaining amount ring-fenced for direct investment into the local area of the development
  • Developers need to promote and build products with a client type in mind. Generic products with little focus or differentiation will slowly disappear
  • Banks need to undertake project-based risk analysis, not cross-collateralisation. If a project does not stand on its own merit, it should be turned down. This means banks recruiting industry experts who understand sectorial context and end buyer behaviour, rather than just bricks and mortar
  • Buyers will need to change their mind set from the transactional to the context-driven aspirational. Over time, mini “joint ventures” or collaborations with developers should be allowed to develop, creating a shared objective approach
  • End user finance should become increasingly flexible – we are already starting to see some solutions emerge in this area
  • Real estate agencies should improve efficiency, with technology less of a differentiator due to universal access. As a result, real estate companies should be able to reduce their operating costs and consequently drop their levels of commission, contributing to lower transaction costs. They should be able to change their remuneration model, moving away from the commission-only model, to paying (at least in part) base remuneration, improving levels of quality in the sector, greater job security and ultimately more sales (and therefore inward investment). This will be reflected in a greater level of certainty which is of huge importance to alleviating pressure on social care, healthcare and associated sectors
  • The Manpower Group’s May 2022 talent shortage survey demonstrates that Portugal is the world’s second most difficult recruitment market, with 85% of companies reporting difficulties in filling positions. Given that there is an abundance of qualified and indeed talented human resources in Portugal, it is clear that matching supply to demand is as much an issue in the human resource space as it is in the real estate sector.


In the Algarve, employers who continue to promote heavily seasonal employment will soon need to factor in the higher accommodation costs during the summer. In particular, those companies attracting non-resident, seasonal resources will soon be forced to contribute to the cost of housing during the competitive peak season, failing which the remuneration may simply not be sufficient to allow seasonal labour to move for the short summer. These shortages are already being experienced in other markets with similar seasonal characteristics to the Algarve.

Conversely, employees and workers need to adapt their thinking to a challenging reality for all protagonists in the real estate sector. Those who are or wish to be real estate agents should be ready to commit to sales targets and to be measured on results. The mentality of real estate sales as a quick and easy way to make money, or for someone to turn to when desperate for a ”filler” job, must disappear. Likewise, for companies looking to work with talented individuals, basic aspects such as paying out of pocket business expenses and the payment of competitive commissions must form the basis for attracting new talent.





The changing portuguese real estate market ( Part 2 )


Emerging sources of clients, supply versus demand imbalances and much more.


The increase in the presence and importance of the North American market

The Portuguese borders agency, SEF, has reported a large growth in US citizens choosing Portugal as their residence. While admittedly from a tiny base, the growth of this market underscores the increase in relative wealth of the average person seeking Portugal as their new home. Even those Americans who only receive Social Security payments, are receiving a pension substantially above the Portuguese average. The Canadian market is equally important, because a number of Canadians of Portuguese descent are seeking a return to their roots, and although the Canadian dollar does not represent the same purchasing power as the US dollar, incomes are substantially above those in Portugal. The USD and CAD have appreciated 20% and 14%, respectively, over the last year.

As Bloomberg reports, “retirees and the wealthy have traditionally been the prime buyers of real estate in Europe. But relatively cheap housing — particularly in smaller cities and towns — and the rise of remote work have made the continent alluring to a wider range of people, including those who are younger and find themselves priced out of the housing market at home. Growing crime rates in some US cities and political divisions have also led Americans to look across the pond for a quieter lifestyle, buoyed by a euro that just dropped to parity with the US dollar for the first time in more than 20 years.”

The effect of the supply and demand imbalance

Essential Business, in an article in July 2022, cites that the “residential segment, which today is highly dependent on real estate development (new build) is Portugal’s weak point at present, with the number of units absorbed by pre-existing products (second-hand) in the market far more expressive when compared to new products, owing to an absence of sufficient new stock in the market. The new build market has flatlined since 2011.”

In an article, also in July 2022, published by the idealista portal, it is reported that there has been a 25% decrease in available inventory over the preceding 12 months. This problem is most acute in the Algarve problems, where supply has diminished 37% year on year.

Although rents have also gone up in value, they have not done so by the same margin as sales prices. For this reason, and despite the perception that rents have become expensive relative to 2010, they are still more competitively priced in 2022 than properties for sale.


The changing portuguese real estate market



The growing popularity of Portugal



Some would say that it is ironic that the international market and investment has done what Portugal and the Portuguese could not find the courage to do themselves, namely value their patrimony fairly. With decades of cheap real estate culminating in the financial crash of 2008-2009, the Portuguese were extremely hesitant in making investments in the real estate market of their own country. Accustomed to seeing the dramatic effects of global crises reflected in extremely difficult local market conditions, the majority of the population remained sceptical when the first signs of a recovery when noted around 2014. As international investment grew, bolstered by programmes such as the Golden visa and the non-habitual resident programme, real estate prices rapidly increased, and by the time most Portuguese had gathered enough courage to act, most had been priced out of the market.

The effect of Portugal’s popularity on real estate prices

According to a report compiled by Idealista, Portugal prices have increased 70% in 10 years (2012-22), much higher than the European average of 45%.

The source of growth

As an example, Savills’ World Cities Prime Residential Index, which includes 30 cities around the world, ranked Lisbon as the 7th city where prices had grown the fastest in the first half of 2022, at 3.7%, versus an index average of 2.4%.

The role of foreign direct investment (FDI) on Portugal’s real estate market

Although the cyclical nature of real estate markets (and indeed economies) is acknowledged, this decade-plus cycle of sustained growth in Portugal, largely independently of a pandemic, a war and of somewhat depressed internal demand, seems to indicate something different. Given that Portugal’s internal market is largely unable to sustain such growth, due to still-low salary levels (and consequently limited disposable income) and small size, it is the international market and foreign investment that has been the main driver of this trend.

Backing up this opinion is a quote in Essential Business in July 2022 that confirms that “in 2012, as Portugal was still in the depths of the Great Recession, 46% of investment in Portugal came from overseas, today that figure has shot up to 85%…the overall investment in real estate development in Portugal, in 2016, was €200 million of which less than 50% came from overseas investors. That figure has shot up to an incredible €375 million in 2021, a year in which the world was still affected by the pandemic.”

The National Institute of statistics reports that investment from EU countries increased by 72.3% in Q1 2022, while foreigners buying from non-EU countries increased by 79.1%. In total, foreigners acquired 2556 properties in the first quarter of 2022.

At a granular level, what we observe is the increase in wealthier investors and buyers, meaning that competition for product is greater, prices tend to increase and demand for the upper and luxury segments of the market including new build, remains fairly buoyant.

One of the reasons for this is the trend described in the Henley global citizens report 2022 which shows that Portugal ranks in the top 10 countries expected to receive new millionaires during this year, approximately 1300. New World Wealth shows that Portugal 4, for example, has been one of the most popular destinations for the flow of HNW capital, capturing some of the 4500 high net worth South Africans that have left the country in the last decade.

Bloomberg UK also quotes a Savills report stating that Lisbon, together with Miami and Dubai, is ranked as the top city for high earning remote based talent, specifically senior staff.

Long-term rentals: The future of the rental market in Portugal?


As recently as two years ago, it was unquestionable that Portugal provided Europe’s best investment destination. A growing economy, falling unemployment, a recovering real estate market, an investment surge in real estate driven primarily by the very successful Golden Visa program, a wave of (mostly) wealthy foreign retiree immigration driven by the Non Habitual Resident program, all this fuelled by 8 successive record-breaking years in the tourism industry, and no one could question the underlying fundamentals. Add to this the fact that Portugal had taken a long time to start to recover from the losses caused by the 2008-9 financial crisis, with property values falling as much as 40% in some locations.

The result of the perception of an improvement in the investment climate and the many measures intended to stimulate the economy was a jump in foreign investment. No sector felt the impact of this increase in capital inflows like the real estate market. From Chinese investors to French residents, the country’s real estate boomed and in 3 years, Lisbon had seen property growth of 60% and off-plan sales of modern, new-build product were back to full swing as if the recession had never happened.

Much of the growth was caused by investors who saw in Portugal not only an opportunity for capital appreciation from a low base, but also the possibility of rental yields. The country’s regulated, but very low tax, regime called the Alojamento Local, meant that early buyers who made their property available to the short-term rental market, were paying approximately 4% tax on gross revenues.

The River Arade glides through Silves town center Long-term rentals algarve senior living

However, since then, we have observed the beginnings of dissatisfaction with over-tourism, the “expulsion” of local residents by (mostly) foreign owners, leading to a loss of character of entire neighbourhoods which were the drawcard attracting investors and visitors alike to the country’s authenticity, and an increased lack of respect for remaining local residents.

As a result, the government, which is in a parliamentary coalition with far-left parties, has set out a strategy of (not-so-gradual) assault on those perceived to be wealthy. And, unfortunately, as houses and apartments with sea views elicit a much more visceral response than pieces of paper known as shares or even a pile of intaglio paper known as money sitting in bank coffers, the government has set its sights firmly on financially penalising all those who own real estate.

While long-term rental contracts have historically paid capital gains tax (mais valias) on gross revenues, the government now appears to have the short-term rental market in its sights, especially if property is being managed as a short-term investment or let to the short-term or tourist market. There is talk that taxation may reduce for longer, more stable contracts, meaning that the discourse is that the short-term rental market may soon lose some of the many advantages it has, relative to longer contracts.

In 2017, the Portuguese government started its assault on real estate owners by approving the AIMI, an extraordinary real estate tax which applied to all owners who singly owned more than €600,000 of real estate (or €1,2 million as a couple). The law was named after the leader of Portugal’s extreme-left party, who campaigned tirelessly for its adoption.

Also in 2017, changes to the local lodging (Alojamento Local) legislation were implemented, including:

  • An increase of the taxation basis from 15% to 35% of gross revenue, meaning an effective increase in the base rate of taxation on short-term rentals from less than 4% to around 10%. While still very competitive, the increase was significant
  • Application of employer’s social security for companies managing client properties
  • Higher water rates in some municipalities for properties registered as local lodging
  • The need to present detailed calculations and proof of expenses, effectively eliminating the simplified regime for owners with annual rental values of around €27,000

It was also in this year that owners of local lodging establishments became aware that all of them had been caught by a little-known legislation which meant that anyone registering for short-term rentals was liable for capital gains. This remains an unclear and little-known aspect of the Alojamento Local.

In 2018, with a number of complaints about the effects of excessive tourism and short-term let properties, and the adoption of stricter rules in locations as diverse as Paris, Barcelona, New Zealand, Thailand, and Croatia, meant it was only a matter of time before the government started to change short-term rentals even further. New legislation, which has been approved by parliament and promulgated by the President, broadly forces the following changes:

  • Municipalities will have the right to define zones with quotas on the number of short-term let properties, and owners will be limited to a maximum of 7 short-term rental properties within these zones
  • Local lodging licences are personal and non-transferable in these areas and so if the property is sold, the new owner may not be able to get the licence renewed if the quota for that area has been reached. Buyers should be particularly careful about historical suburbs of Lisbon including Mouraria, Restelo and similar
  • Condominiums will have the right to determine if and whether local lodging can be assigned to a property. Approval will require at least 50% of all voting members or owners
  • Condominiums can charge a premium of up to 30% on condominium fees for those renting short-term
  • Multi-risk and liability insurance is compulsory and must now also cover damage by clients to condominiums
  • All client and tenant documentation must now be in three languages

These legislative changes will come into effect 60 days after their final approval in Parliament, forecast for October.

Long-term rentals algarve senior living

As a result of these changes, the market is starting to look more seriously at long-term rentals. Because long-term rentals, and even longer winter rentals of 8 months or more, are scarce (most owners prefer to make as much money as possible in the summer), Algarve Senior Living explains to customers how winter lets can complement summer revenue or substitute, in most cases, the summer revenue through an alternative model. Although online booking platforms have made direct marketing by owners much easier, and drastically reduced the role of the tour operator, many owners have yet to fill their properties fully beyond the peak months. It is important that owners do detailed calculations including expenses and tax, to determine which model works best for their propery/ies.

Algarve Senior Living has operated its unique model of long winter monthly lets, alongside the shorter summer weekly lets, for several years. Owners are now questioning whether they should consider transitioning to long lets if they currently operate summer lets only. We have seen an increase in the number of our property owners making their properties available for at least 6 months in the winter, in an attempt to balance the revenue streams in the summer and winter.

Advantages for owners of long-term and winter lets in their properties

  • Winter lets are an excellent way to make extra revenue in months which are usually slow and where properties are closed
  • Taxes and legislation surrounding short-term rentals are increasing, with more changes already approved by Parliament and the President set to become law by the end of 2018. Long-term rentals avoid these changes which affect the short-term lettings market
  • There is already talk of a property and a real estate bubble impacting short-term rental values so owners can protect their assets by negotiating good long-term rental values while the market is still buoyant
  • While the taxation is higher (28% versus around 10-16%, depending on VAT, for short lets), this difference is forecast to reduce as taxation on short lets increases
  • Expenses, including cleaning, in long-term lets are paid by the tenant and not included in the rental
  • Security deposits are higher, churn is lower
  • Commissions from third parties may be lower. In the case of Algarve Senior Living, commission is added to the negotiated base rental amount
  • Owners have time to vet and select their guests. Checking references is possible
  • Long-term tenants tend to be seniors or families. There is less damage and properties benefit from year-round occupation
  • For owners with Alojamento Local, 2018 is the year in which they can move their property from category B (Alojamento Local or local lodging) to category F (Arrendamento or long-term let) and suspend any capital gains which has been caused by the AL status. This is of particular relevance to any resident owners, such as Portuguese landlords, as CGT is much lower as a resident.

Long-term rentals algarve senior living

Advantages for tenants of a long-term rental

  • Stability: knowing that they have a place to stay throughout the year, without the price fluctuations of the expensive summer months
  • Visibility of expenses allowing for better planning
  • Expenses are controlled directly by tenants, so if they wish to use more air conditioning or heating, they pay the bill, whereas if they decide to use blankets, they can save
  • Contracts will allow those tenants who qualify, to apply for Portugal’s tax-free Non Habitual Resident status

Challenges for tenants of a long-term rentals

    • Algarve Senior Living explains in detail the reason why tenants cannot expect to find quality property in good locations at discounted prices: in addition to the boom in demand, many tenants did not understand that long-term rentals are still taxed much higher than shorter rentals
    • Many tenants looking for a long-term or annual rent, finding prices higher than they imagined, enter into a shorter contract in the slower winter months hoping they will then find something suitable when they are living locally. While this is sometimes the case, it often does not work for three reasons:
      • The area selected is not necessarily the one in which they finally wish to settle. Their landlord has no knowledge of other areas nor any interest in finding a solution which will mean losing a winter rental earlier than planned
      • There may be a special requirement, such as pets, which makes the list of available inventory very short indeed. Companies like Algarve Senior Living have spent years compiling their portfolio of properties which often involves months of negotiation with owners. Even then inventory changes but due to a larger variety, finding an alternative is usually possible
      • Every winter month which passes brings us closer to the expensive summer months which in turn sees a decrease in inventory and an increase in price. Often owners, who in November are nervous when they see an empty winter in front of them, become much more confident by March when they see the approaching summer months
    • The largest challenge for tenants is to understand that often sacrificing one or more criteria in order to get a full-year rental contract, is better than sacrificing the length of time in the hope of then finding the perfect solution later. Without exception, the latter approach is always more expensive.

    Algarve Senior Living hopes to continue to play an active role in explaining the benefits of long lets to property owners, and implementing fair long-term rental pricing for tenants in the context of a booming market. Our investment in, the Algarve’s first coastal residential project for expatriate seniors, offering both apartments to purchase or for long lets, underscores our commitment to this model.

Live Like a King for Less

Live Like A King For Less – Budget Comparisons

The cost to live in Portugal is generally among the lowest in Western Europe. Some items, such as fuel (around €1.30/ liter or about US$5/gallon), electricity, second hand cars (Ford Focus 2012 diesel between €12,000 and €20,000, Audi A4 Avant diesel starting at €40,000) and electronic items such as appliances and technology, are much more expensive than in the US, but basic items are very competitive, especially when compared to Northern Europe. The keen grocery bargain hunter should also remain alert to extended weekend specials. With careful planning of your budget, residents are able to find discounts on some essential items every week.

Piri-piri, freshly picked veg, and local honey at the indoor market

Most foreigners find the cost of eating out to be very reasonable. In fact, for a retired couple, it is often as costeffective to eat out and warm up leftovers in the evening (portions in Portugal are generous). Local supermarket chain Pingo Doce operates a number of family friendly restaurants where meals, all prepared daily, cost €3.99 plus the price of a drink. Some even run a daily special including a drink and bread roll for €3.50. Local restaurants, with which most new arrivals quickly become familiar, value regular trade and it is possible to negotiate a meal for two including soup, main meal, soft drink (or glass of wine), and coffee for €10. Do not expect a fancy ambience or service frills, but the quality of the Piri-piri, freshly picked veg, and local honey at the indoor market food is excellent for the price. Finding the preferred, low price local restaurant is a favorite past-time of most expatriates.

Buyer beware: whenever you see a menu in multiple languages, expect to pay more as the restaurant is targeting a foreign tourist market. If you want authenticity at a low price, look out for the “Pratos do dia” (dishes of the day) signs scribbled on a blackboard or paper stuck to the entrance. Prepared in larger quantities and with different fish and meat dishes every day, this is the way to get a tasty local meal for around €5-6.50. Be prepared to get by with sign language, basic English words, a phrase book, and a friendly smile, and you will save yourself money when eating out.

Eating out in Carvoeiro and Silves are two different experiences. Try Silves if you want authentic Portuguese eating. Strangely, one of the region’s most famous seafood restaurants, Rui Marisqueira, is located in the inland city! But a visit to Rui’s is not complete without tasting their carob tart, freshly made and delivered from a local pastry specialist. They don’t always have it, but don’t miss it if it’s in the pastry display. Move next door and try the suckling pig at Fernando dos Leitões. Popular with many tourists are the chicken restaurants that are located on the road next to the river. Arrive early and don’t expect to see a menu. They do portions and half portions of freshly grilled chicken (the chef does it under a plastic tarpaulin where the temperature of his ‘kitchen’ is often hotter than the grill!), freshly fried chips, and salted and seasoned lettuce and tomato salad. Keep ordering portions until you are full…
you’ll be surprised when you are handed the very reasonable final bill.

Outdoor, gourmet eating

On the way between Silves and Lagoa is the Barradas restaurant, pricey by Portuguese standards but with great options and an impressive wine selection.

When reaching Lagoa and especially the village of Carvoeiro, you will be spoilt for choice. The town has a famous hill that is packed both sides with commercial establishments, most of which are restaurants of all types: traditional Portuguese, Italian, Chinese, Thai, the odd English or Irish pub, and even some vegetarian options. Ele & Ela is consistently ranked highly by its diners for its excellent cuisine, and two stand-out quality restaurants are located on the road between Carvoeiro and Sesmarias: Hexagone and Bon Bon. If it’s cheap and filling Portuguese fare you are after, try one of the many options around the Fatacil fair grounds.

A full meal in a cheap restaurant will cost you around €8 including drink and coffee, a very friendly budget. Expensive restaurants will cost between €35-50 per head, including good wine. On average expect to pay between €15-20 for dinner. Lunch is usually cheaper as most people do not order wine, and menus often have quicker and easier-to-prepare options.

Algarve Monthly Budget

Algarve Monthly Budget

No Language Worries In The California Of Europe

The Portuguese, according to CNN’s Friendliest Countries report, are the “7th most welcoming people in the world.” The World Economic Forum ranked Portugal as 7th (among 140 survey nations) most-welcoming nation when receiving foreign visitors. In the field of language the Portuguese go above and beyond the reasonable to ensure that guests are made to feel welcome in their own tongue. Portuguese is a difficult language to master but some basic knowledge will accelerate integration and make simple daily tasks easier. Some language schools exist but there are well-qualified freelance language teachers who teach Portuguese at each student’s pace.

The Association of Foreign Property Owners in Portugal, or AFPOP, caters to the many foreign residents and property owners in the country, and offers a range of services and discounts to members. With membership at €40 per annum, the benefits quickly outweigh the cost.

Due to Portugal’s strong cultural and historical links with England and the fact that the Algarve is such a major tourist destination, English is widely spoken. English is compulsory as a second language in the schooling system and so the youngest generation speaks it. French, which was the second school language prior to being overtaken by English, is extensively spoken by the older generations. Portugal’s largest expatriate population lives in France, and many of those people, nearing retirement and spurred on by adverse changes in French pensions and positive changes in Portuguese laws affecting pensions, have decided to return to the country.

Multilingual menus, but reasonable prices for all tongues

Many establishments including restaurants, private and public health centers, and hospitals, clinics, sports clubs, and supermarkets, have people able to interact with the public in a foreign language.

In Lagoa there is a well-established second-hand bookstore with thousands of foreign titles and many genres. Hand in your used books for a credit of between €1-3 and use your balance to buy other titles from as little as €2.50.

In summary, the Algarve is very well-placed linguistically to receive visitors and new residents from the USA and Canada.

Year-Round Activities

Fatacil is the largest showground in the province and hosts several large events during the year. The most popular for expats is the International Algarve Fair held in June every year, which unites the local and expatriate community around a variety of activities, shows, services and food and beverage. Larger still is the summer fair held in August, with daily live concerts by top national (and often international) artists. At a few euros a ticket per day, you won’t find better value for money on a sultry summer night.

The Medieval fair in Silves is a celebration of the city’s roots. Dancers, jugglers, flame-throwers, fire-eaters, and snake charmers, and snake charmers combine with a feast of regional cuisine to offer a very authentic experience. Costumes can be hired by those who want to dress the part!

In Lagoa, the annual sweets festival is an exquisite display of delicacies produced mainly from local ingredients, including fig, orange and almond, and the lesser-known carob with its cocoa-like powder—a staple ingredient in regional Multilingual menus, but reasonable prices for all tongues pastry making.

Around June every year, the smell of grilled sardines permeates the air of the coastal towns, as the annual sardine season peaks. Most traditional restaurants will keep them coming until you say ‘basta!’ Pay by the half-dozen and you know you’re in a tourist establishment.

Throughout the year, but mainly from spring through fall, to make the most of the great weather, open-air jazz and
classical concerts are held. Most are free. Experience jazz at Lagoa’s Sitio das Fontes but make sure you take some mosquito repellant because the idyllic location, on the Arade River, becomes a haven for these pests at nightfall. The Lagoa Auditorium is the place to take in a concert by the local youth orchestra (or even attend students’ final auditions that are open to the public) or to watch a film priced between €3-4 per ticket.

Hop on a pretty little sailboat for a trip up the river

The Arade Congress Centre, a white elephant financed by several municipalities, private groups, and the regional tourist body, is nonetheless one of the most impressive congress centers in the country. With Europe’s fifth largest stage and seating which, when retracted, increases the capacity from 1,000 to 4,000 or more, it sits quietly on the banks of the Arade River near the town of Ferragudo. Once or twice a year it springs to life with a motor car launch, a performance by the Russian ballet, or the finals of the World Dance championships.

If it’s sporting action you’re after, try something different. The daughter of the owner of one of the largest boat businesses is a multi-world champion and the family is always happy to offer adventure style practice sessions on the Arade. Kayaking, paddling, and scenic boat trips are all on your doorstep. And don’t forget the boat trips to visit the cave-encrusted coastline or to fish. Or the sailing schools at the river mouth which are, by international standards, inexpensive.

For the tennis enthusiast, join the many expats who gather for social tennis at the Carvoeiro tennis club, or try the local club at Silves, located between the schools of the city and next to a park (to which you might have to retire to for shade if you dare play in the summer afternoons!).

Carvoeiro also has a well-stocked book exchange that allows expatriate residents and visitors alike to trade in books they have read for new titles.

Many retired expatriates become involved in local community or charity work: from manning kitchens, which serve meals to the homeless, to assisting with food distribution to the poor, supporting the donkey sanctuary, or helping with the housing of abandoned dogs, there is no shortage of opportunities to contribute to society and make a real impact that will also help you integrate faster into local culture. Although Portugal is a highly religious country and many social actions are coordinated by the church, there is an increasing trend for people to organize volunteer organizations, often bringing new and innovative ways of doing this from their experiences abroad. See the “Rolodex” for contact volunteer information.

Getting About…Drive, Walk, Sail, Cycle, And Paddle

Driving is easy in this part of the world. Short drives are often scenic. Leave Lagoa along the EN125 road westward towards the large town of Portimão. The approximately 5-mile drive involves crossing the Arade River near its estuary. See flocks of migrating or nesting birds, canoeists, and the occasional angler in galoshes searching for cockles. Return via the picturesque village of Ferragudo.

Local transport is reliable but the intervals between departures out of peak times can be long, especially in smaller village and inland locations. The municipality of Silves contains the province’s main train station link, at Tunes, to the country’s capital 180 miles away. Lagoa has one of the region’s busiest bus stations, with buses leaving for locations in the Algarve and direct to Lisbon, a 3-hour trip away in luxury vehicles with Wi-Fi, in-trip movies, toilet facilities, and reclining seats.

Cycling off- and on-road is very popular here

Tackle the rugged coastal paths on a mountain bike or on foot and get the benefit of spectacular sea and coastal views. Both Silves and Lagoa are easy to visit on foot and walking is much more popular in towns and cities than cycling.

The Arade River flows through the center of Silves. At high tide, small riverboats make their way downstream to the river mouth at Ferragudo and Portimão, and then back upstream. Kayak and canoe enthusiasts are often found paddling up and downstream.

How Easy Is It For The Disabled?

The Portuguese attitude towards helping others is reflected in a general openness towards minorities, in whatever sense. The disabled are no exception, but they have been faced, historically, with the challenge of inappropriate infrastructure, such as traditional stone sidewalks that are difficult for wheelchairs and for people with canes or walking aids, few ramps into public transport, and poor signposting. Portugal’s infrastructure is improving for disabled communities and it is generally true that where specific conditions do not exist, local people will go out of their way to help. Silves and Lagoa have benefited from significant retrofits to existing or newer facilities. Community swimming pools are fully equipped with ramps and disabled pool access, public buildings such as libraries now have disabled access, and even public parks make it easy for the disabled to be dropped off and enter with reduced effort.

Even parks have well-signposted disabled access

The Gay And Lesbian Community

Historically Portugal is a deeply Catholic country. For this reason many of the beliefs and religious traditions remain, although change to this belief system has accelerated dramatically with globalization, the free flow of people and ideas over country borders, national debate around topics such as adoption by couples of the same sex, and changes in the law. The GLBT community is neither large nor very visible. Do not be surprised, therefore, if you and your partner visit a remote area and get inquisitive looks from the locals.

How To Get Here

Faro airport, located around 60 kilometers (38 miles) from both Silves and Lagoa, is one of Portugal’s busiest airports and its most important tourist hub, handling about 5.5 million passengers a year. Direct flights arrive from 76 international and three national airports. Airsat’s recent addition of a weekly direct flight from Toronto’s Pearson Airport means that the destination is now directly accessible to the Canadian market. If you travel from the US, you would probably connect via a major European capital.

Well in excess of 4 million visitors arrive in the busy July- August period, which means that the remaining months are remarkably tranquil for travelers.

Travel to Lisbon in 3 hours in air-conditioned comfort

The A22 highway links Silves/Lagoa to Spain, 112 kilometers (70 miles) away. The cost of the one-way toll is approximately €7.70. The A2 highway, with easy access from Silves via Tunes, makes Lisbon, the country’s capital, approximately a 3-hour drive. Taking the fast route to Lisbon via the toll highway, where legal speed limits are 120 km/h (75 mph), will cost around €20 for the 180-mile drive. Choose the more leisurely route along the national road, which is mostly in excellent condition, and where you can stop to eat at one of the many traditional restaurants or have a picnic on one of the route’s scenic vantage points, and spend only €4 on tolls (the saving will pay for a meal for two!).

Bringing Pets To Portugal

The transportation and importation of pets is well regulated in the EU and the rules applicable to Portugal are documented on the relevant Ministry site, which is also available in English, here.

Unfortunately, the economic crisis of 2008 resulted in a significant increase in the abandonment of animals by people who could no longer afford to keep them. Although there are local municipal kennels, due to overcrowding they tend to operate a strict policy of putting animals down after a week if they have not been rehomed. There are several local charities, including a few charity shops in Lagoa and at least one in Silves, which raise money for initiatives such as the Donkey Sanctuary and the Association for the Protection of Animals in the Algarve (APAA). The Scruffts dog show held annually at Fatacil is also a source of complementary income for the work they do. These organizations are always looking for volunteers to help in whatever way possible and it is a great way to get involved if you are an animal lover. See the “Rolodex” for contact information.

Warts And All

The biggest complaint of most people who arrive here is Portuguese bureaucracy. Much of this is due to a language barrier which makes matters such as finance, tax, and dealing with banks and utility providers frustrating at times (especially as the latter generally have poor records of customer service). Nonetheless, renewing or getting a driver’s license is easier than doing so in the US, for example, as Portugal has migrated most of its public record system to electronic records over the last decade or so.

My recommendation would be to stay away from any project involving planning. If you are a keen builder, developer, or would like to make substantial changes to existing historical buildings (such as converting them into boutique hotels)… choose another location. Planning is a lengthy process requiring years, with major projects often taking more than a decade to clear the upward of 30 entities who typically need to give their opinion as to the merits of any endeavor.

Starting a business in Portugal, while not as complex as in countries such as Brazil, is not as efficient as in countries such as the US. Accounting requirements can be complex and appropriate legal, tax, and accounting support is a must for new arrivals wanting to work in or from Portugal.

Many people are concerned about the economic woes of the country prior to and following its bailout post-2008. While this is indeed a concern for existing residents who have seen the tax burden increase, the NHR measure is aimed at attracting new residents to the country and guaranteeing low tax. New residents will benefit not only from this status but also from Portugal’s need to become more competitive, which in many instances has driven down prices. An excellent example is real estate.

New residents should consider carefully where they live, because the inland areas of municipalities such as Silves have very few inhabitants, and the initial search for quiet and privacy can quickly turn to isolation as foreigners find themselves far from town and city centers and unable to communicate with rural populations whose command of English is not as good as that of people in towns and cities.

Almost without exception those who have chosen Portugal as their home, and have planned financially for their move, are extremely positive about the country and its lifestyle.

Is This The Place For You?

If you want an excellent quality of life, with a low cost of living or budget, great tax benefits, in a location that within easy access of all of Europe and equidistant from North America and Asia, the Algarve is an obvious option. If you seek the tranquility of country living while being minutes from the region’s awardwinning beaches and golf courses, and from the hustle and bustle of a range of tourist activities, then Silves and Lagoa are excellent choices.

The ability to save money, pay less tax, access quality healthcare, enjoy a healthy lifestyle, be part of a community
where English is widely spoken, and get to most European cities in less than three hours, are major attractions for foreign residents.

Sharpen your short game skills on this 9-par executive course


Most people who move here notice the change of pace from large cities and towns. It takes time, like good wine, to mellow. If you are moving here to work locally, be prepared for some stress relating to bureaucracy and the difficulty in the language if you don’t already speak it. If you are looking to work abroad and want to leave your family in a safe, healthy environment, then look no further. Hundreds of expats already do this, and once the secret is out, many more will do so. If you wish to retire, there is hardly a person who has visited who does not think of staying for good. Making friends is easy, whether with locals or expatriates. The fact that new residents will soon have an option to reside in rental communities of like-minded individuals, who share interests, means that purchasing properties is not the only route for new arrivals.

With all this and a lot more, it is easy to see why the region has attracted more than 63,000 official residents or about 15% of the region’s population—although the number is several times higher as many foreigners remain in the country for a substantial part of the year but never become officially resident. Just over 4,500 of these residents live in the Silves municipality and 3,700 in the Lagoa municipality*, with Carvoeiro being one of the most popular multicultural expat towns in the Algarve, catering to a range of nationalities. (* Source:

The World’s Most Stable Climate

The World’s Most Stable Climate

World Weather Online states that the “Algarve enjoys one of the most stable climates in the world” with its moderate weather influenced by both the Atlantic and Mediterranean seas and its proximity to North Africa. Portugal has 3,300 hours of sunshine per year, one of the highest in Europe. The Algarve has a temperate climate and although bathed by the Atlantic, exhibits Mediterranean characteristics. Below are statistics for the province of the Algarve. Silves temperatures tend to be higher than the average for the region, given its microclimate which is much appreciated by many foreign visitors and residents.

Safety First

Portugal ranks as the 17th safest country in the world, of a list of 153. Violent crime is very rare and petty crime is limited mostly to opportunistic incidents during the busy tourist season.

The OSAC report, produced by the US Bureau of Diplomatic Security, confirms that Portugal has no indigenous terrorist groups. Organized crime is not a major issue with the exception of isolated Eastern European or other immigrant groups. Foreigners, however, are well integrated into Portugal’s multi-ethic society and while the country remains predominantly Catholic, it is very tolerant of religious, ethnic, and cultural diversity.

Old people ‘killer’

Highways in Portugal are an excellent quality and the A22 highway is no exception. Portuguese drivers, although at times prone to speeding and impatience (in common with many southern Europeans) are nonetheless quite peaceful. Incidences of road rage are uncommon. It is more likely that visitors will become frustrated by an encounter with a 50 cc car (called mata velhos or ‘killers of old people’ because the cars, little more than a shell atop a motorbike engine, don’t have the safety features of modern vehicles) or with the occasional gypsy horse-drawn cart.

Lagoa, located on the busy EN125 road which also crosses the Algarve, is not considered an accident hot spot on what is otherwise one of the country’s busiest regional roads. The city of Silves, situated further inland, is a driver’s haven, with calm roads, respectful drivers, and no traffic jams.

112 is the national free number to call for most types of emergencies (from a fixed line or cellphone).

Beautiful Beaches

Where to begin!? Silves’ two beaches, Armação de Pera and Praia Grande, have blue flags awarded by the European Blue Flag association. Among Lagoa’s 17 spectacular beaches, some require bathers to descend large flights of stairs into wondrous cliff-enclosed coves bathed by azure waters. Others allow you to pull up and stroll out onto the light-colored sand. Most beaches have lifeguards during the summer season. Many have restaurants or snack bars, some of which stay open all year round.

An easier access to the beach at Centeannes

World Renowned Golf

The Algarve has an enviable reputation as far as golf is concerned. With Portugal voted Europe’s ‘Best golf destination in Europe in 2014’ by the World Travel Awards, and the Algarve the gem of the Portuguese collection, it is no wonder that hundreds of thousands of visitors are attracted every year to the more than 40 golf courses dotted along a stretch of little more than 75 miles.

A great place to relax and play Gramacho golf course

The Lagoa and Silves golfing landscape is dominated by the Pestana Group, Portugal’s top hotel group. The Pinta
and Gramacho golf courses in Lagoa and the Silves Golf course allow players of all abilities to test their skills against a backdrop of some of the region’s indigenous species of flora such as ancient carob and olive trees, combined with natural stone walls and artistic use of water features. With designs by famous US golf architect Ronald Fream, and South Africa’s Nick Price, a round of golf here is an experience. The 5-star Amendoeira golf resort—with 36 championship holes designed by Nick Faldo and Christy O’Connor Jr—is one of the seven golf courses operated by Portugal’s largest golf operator, Oceanico. For families or those who want to hone their pitching and putting skills, there is the 9-hole Vale do Milho course, with views to the Atlantic.

There are a number of specialist tour operators that not only book group golfing holidays but also arrange preferential tee times, discounts, and the all-important 19th hole arrangements!

The Tortoise and the Hare – From Lisbon to the Algarve

The Tortoise and the Hare:

Rambling or racing from Lisbon to the Algarve

Portugal has just been voted the winner in the best European destination for American tourists, as voted by readers of 10Best Readers’ Choice and USA Today: As the country’s capital, many intercontinental flights stop over in the Portuguese capital. While this may be an inconvenience for some, it presents a wonderful opportunity to experience the city (one of Europe’s most popular weekend getaways) and also to choose the way in which to connect to the visitor paradise of Portugal, the Algarve, located at the southernmost tip of the country, so here we let you know the top priorities from Lisbon to Algarve.

Portugal is one of the world’s 20 most visited countries, with over 13 million people visiting the country every year. After a long-haul or transatlantic flight, a few days in Lisbon are an opportunity to overcome jet lag and to adjust to the different weather and gastronomy, in the city voted by Food and Wine magazine as one of the world’s most romantic.

tourism pace setter portugal lisbon to algarve

Being based in Lisbon is convenient in that most tours start in the capital. When on a short stay, highly recommended is a visit to Cascais with its beautiful cobbled streets and the amazing sweeping views over the bay and the Tagus estuary, and a wander through the medieval city of Sintra. The city’s Pena Palace was voted the continent’s most attractive castle by European Best Destinations, beating Neuschwanstein and Segovia’s Alcazar to the post. Only 30 kilometres (less than 20 miles) west of Lisbon, venture out by catching the train at the Cais do Sodré station near the Tagus River, which passes underneath the impressive 25th April bridge linking the popular Docas area to the Christ the Redeemer statue on the southern banks of the river. You will also pass the Torre de Belém and the Monument to the Discoveries, testament to the golden years of Portuguese maritime exploration. In the same vicinity, the Jerónimos monastery is a wonderful example of Manueline architecture (named after the King who ordered it built). Further along, pass Estoril, in the earlier part of the 20th century the place where the European wealthy congregated. The imposing casino, the country’s largest, is easily spotted from the train. Then hop on a bus or do a tour of Sintra, and make sure to try some of the sumptuous pastry!

Back in Lisbon, the options are almost endless. Stroll down Rua Augusta which Condé Nast Traveler has voted the street one would most wish to visit before dying! Climb up to St. George’s Castle and gaze out over Lisbon’s seven hills. Explore the Chiado with its fado singers and traditional dishes. Visit the modern redevelopment of the Expo area, with its modern architecture, cable car ride, scenic tower, views over the Vasco da Gama Bridge and Europe’s largest aquarium.

tourism pace setter portugal lisbon to algarve

Ucityguides has ranked Portugal the 6th most beautiful country in the world, in a list topped by Italy, Spain and France, and which includes perennial favourites Brazil, South Africa and the USA. From Lisbon to Algarve, your final destination, beckoning, will you now be anxious to race to the California of Europe or tease your senses by meandering slowly through the Alentejo province?

If you choose the former, there is no better way to experience Portugal’s world-class infrastructure than to cross the Vasco da Gama Bridge and head straight down the A2 highway for an approximately two-and-a-half hour journey to the Algarve. Once there, the A22 highway will take you east to Vilamoura, Faro, Tavira and Spain and west to Lagoa/Carvoeiro, Portimão, Lagos and Sagres, including crossing the fabulous bridge over the Arade River.

If your choice is to take your time down to your final destination, then cross the 25 de Abril bridge, pass Christ the Redeemer and continue south on the A2 until the exit at Alcácer do Sal. Take the national road which gives you a bird’s eye-view of the Sado River and one of the largest rice plantations in the country. Make the most to stop off for a bite to eat at one of the simple road-side restaurants serving typical Alentejo dishes.

lisbon to algarve

After probably having overindulged on generous portions, make your way to the coastal road and be prepared to spend a few hours on a meandering road, but well worth the effort to turn off to visit Porto Covo, Vila Nova de Milfontes, Zambujeira do Mar and Aljezur. Before heading down towards Lagos and the western Algarve, make one more stop – take the circular route via the beaches at Bordeira and Carrapateira.

tourism pace setter portugal lisbon to algarve

Nothing drives home the reason why the World Travel Awards have anointed the Algarve as Europe’s leading beach destination than looking out at miles of pristine beach, sand dunes and river, knowing that some miles further south, lies the first of the 40 golf courses which contributed to the World Golf awards voting Portugal as the World and Europe’s leading Golf Destination for 2014. Just a small part of the reason why the Algarve is the Best Place in the World to Retire.

The Algarve: Best Place in the World to Retire!

The Algarve: Best Place in the World to Retire!

Finally it is official!

It has been coming for some time, it must be said. Europe’s leading beach destination – World Travel Awards. 2nd best place to retire overseas – The Telegraph. 7thfriendliest nation in the world (among 140 surveyed) – CNN. World’s leading Golf Destination – WTA.

And now: Algarve, Portugal: Best Place in the World to Retire – 2014 Retire Overseas Index.

The index, which has just been published, sees the Algarve ranked ahead of 21 global locations including places such as Abruzzo in Italy, Barcelona in Spain, Istria in Croatia, Pau in France, Chaing Mai in Thailand, Istanbul in Turkey, Dumaguete in the Philippines, Ambergris Caye in Belize, Mendoza in Argentina, Puerto Vallarta in Mexico and City Beaches in Panama.

The ranking was compiled using 12 criteria including climate, cost of living, crime, English spoken, entertainment, environmental conditions, existing expat community, healthcare, infrastructure, real estate, residency options and taxes. Portugal scored top marks in several categories: it received an A for its sizeable 100,000 expat community which allowed new arrivals to integrate faster; an A for Environment, an A for Crime (I think that should be lack of Crime!); and A for infrastructure, recognition that EU money was actually spent on something tangible; an A for Residency and of course an A for climate – no surprise there!

best place

Surprisingly for many, but not us, it was awarded an A for Entertainment. This is not New York or London, but you can see a World Premiere of a musical – Blind Faith has its run of 8 performances in October before starting a 60 performance tour in the UK. It isn’t New Orleans or Paris, but you can enjoy jazz, fado, youth orchestras or ballet, most weeks of the year. It isn’t Flushing Meadow or Adelaide, but you can play a tennis tournament most weekends. Wentworth it ain’t but talk to any of the pros and they will tell you that among the 42 courses that grace the Algarve, there will be at least one that will match your favourite anywhere in the world. Plus you won’t have to travel more than an hour to reach any of them. And when it comes to traditional markets and an array of dining experiences, well, there is really no need to travel to Florence, Rio de Janeiro or even Spitalfields.

Health and Real Estate ranked as an A-. Taxes only ranked as a B because the Non Habitual Residency programme, which allows many new resident foreigners to earn pensions tax-free, only lasts 10 years for any qualifying individual. And the Algarve’s lone C was earned in the English Spoken category, not because few people speak English in the region but because Portuguese as a language is considered very difficult for a foreigner to learn.

Forbes, the highly respected and influential magazine, business and entrepreneurial group, was quick to publish news of the Algarve’s new-found status for retirees. The report, which can be found at, incorporates the summary of the comprehensive study conducted by Live and Invest Overseas, the US-based publisher which spent months analysing data from different countries.

As Kathleen Peddicord, publisher of Live and Invest Overseas, states of the Algarve and Portugal in general, “it’s the most affordable option in Europe for retirees” – But as she points out, “retiring part-time overseas can also be a good idea”. The publisher frequently encourages those wishing to retire to a new location to do so for a trial period before making a final decision.

Service-based solutions such as those run by, are changing the landscape of the decision-making process of new and potential retirees, providing a way to experience the lifestyle and the region’s many advantages (and any challenges) prior to taking the plunge.

Luis da Silva, Founder and Managing Director at Algarve Senior Living, who has been actively involved as a local correspondent for publications such as the Overseas Retirement Letter, states “we are passionate about living in the Algarve and the many benefits and advantages of life in the region.” Algarve Senior Living assisted in researching and providing relevant data to support the Algarve’s status as an excellent retirement destination.

Algarve Senior Living is not only walking the walk, by launching the region’s first flexible solution for independent seniors. It is also talking the talk, by trumpeting positive data on Europe’s most famous secret, now also the best place in the world to retire. Hope to see you at an Algarve Senior Living village soon, where we walk the talk!