Home Life Arts & Travel Exploring Portugal’s Premium Property Market for Foreign Buyers

Exploring Portugal’s Premium Property Market for Foreign Buyers

by internationalbanker

By Charles Roberts, Joint Managing Partner, Fine & Country Real Estate Agents

 

 

 

 

As an Englishman with almost 40 years of working experience in Portugal’s real-estate sector, it is not the first time that I have been asked to give my opinion on the state of the market and any current trends, as well as try to foretell what the future holds.

I should first qualify my comments by saying that this piece concerns only residential and touristic properties that may interest a foreign market and does not attempt to tackle issues surrounding the domestic real-estate market or touch upon commercial, office or retail real estate. I will also restrict my comments to mainland Portugal and not consider Madeira Island or the Azores.

For the five years leading up to 2022, Portugal was very much one of the “hot spots” for foreigners to invest in for return on investment (ROI) through long-term or holiday rental income, capital growth and the pleasures of owning a second or holiday home in a fabulous country blessed with more than 250 days of sunshine, stable political and economic climates, as well as first-class air connections to every part of the world.

This “mini-boom” was certainly assisted by Portugal’s Golden Visa scheme, which brought a large amount of inward investment through its property-purchase option. The strength of the market was in no small way also inflated by the Non-Habitual Resident (NHR) tax scheme, which offered superb tax breaks to high-net-worth (HNW) individuals from around the globe who were willing to move their tax residencies to Portugal for a minimum of 10 years.

Detached 6-bedroom Luxury Villa with Sea Views in Quinta da Marinha

Both of these schemes, in their original forms, finished at the end of 2022, causing a blip in the market—probably reflecting some hesitancy and uncertainty as to whether these schemes would be replaced with attractive alternatives. One can add to that the usual interruption to the marketplace caused by a general election, which took place in Portugal less than a month ago and has led to a centre-right Democratic Alliance government, ousting the previous Socialist Party majority government.

However, foreigners have been buying second and holiday homes in Portugal long before incentive schemes such as the Golden Visa and Non-Habitual Resident tax regimes were introduced in 2012 to help kickstart the construction economy after the crash of 2008.

In fact, the Algarve as a destination and location for foreign property ownership has been going strong since 1968. Many well-known resorts, such as Quinta do Lago and Vale do Lobo, have celebrated their half-centenaries recently and continue to go from strength to strength. The Algarve’s coastline, which stretches for more than 70 miles east to west in the south of Portugal, is by no means fully developed and is still the main destination for foreigners buying in Portugal.

Detached 5-bedroom Luxury Villa Overlooking the Golf course and the Sea in Quinta da Marinha

Portugal’s most interesting development features over the last 15 years have occurred outside the Algarve. Lisbon, the capital city, is not far from the coastline between the towns of Cascais and Estoril, which has become the rich man’s playground in the central region of Portugal. A two-bedroom apartment in a quality location will not cost less than 750,000 euros, and three-bedroom villas can vary between 1,800,000 euros and as much as 15,000,000 euros in prime locations such as Quinta do Patino in Estoril or Quinta da Marinha in Cascais.

Unlike the Algarve, which British, German and Dutch buyers have dominated for decades, these new development destinations attract a much wider, more cosmopolitan set of investors. There is no preponderance of one nationality over another, but those that stand out are the French, the Brazilians and, more recently, the Americans.

Other areas that have grown and continue to expand are the city of Porto with the attraction of the Douro River and, not insignificantly, prices that are at least 30 percent less than Lisbon’s. The whole area lying northwest of Lisbon, known as the Silver Coast, has boomed over the past 20 years, assisted by the development of Portugal’s highway network and the openings of many new golf-based destination resorts with touristic real-estate projects attached. Real-estate booms in coastal towns northwest of Lisbon, such as Ericeira, are hugely popular with the international digital nomad community and surfing buffs. Often these comprise, in fact, one and the same market.

Detached 6-Bedroom Luxury Villa with Luscious Gardens in Quinta Patino

The most recent phenomenon of interest to the international market has been what is referred to as the Comporta Coast or Blue Coast. This almost virgin, west-facing coastline extends southwards from the top of the Tróia peninsula nearly to Sines—a distance of almost 50 miles. Based on the Algarve’s experience, this destination will not fully mature for at least 40 years.

The main differences between this region and the more developed areas of Portugal are the draconian environmental restrictions on what can and cannot be built, with the specific intention of protecting the environment, the sand dunes that run the full length of the coast and the schools of dolphins that live in the area.

The result is extremely low-density, high-priced, exclusive real-estate projects that have attracted investors from around the world. Major players—such as Discovery Land Company from the United States and the billionaire Ortega family, owners of Inditex (the Spanish clothing giant), as well as standout Portuguese developers such as Coporgest (which are teaming up with Park Hyatt five-star hotels)—are all present, along with dominant French and Swiss investment groups. The area makes no excuses for being expensive and exclusive, with some large villas achieving prices of up to 15 million euros.

Portugal continues to be a major European player, attractive not only to end-user buyers of individual villas and apartments but also to funds worldwide looking for development opportunities in stable surroundings.

Most foreign buyers do not need mortgage financing, or they may choose to leverage assets they own outside Portugal. However, domestic Portuguese banks are generally happy to lend to a foreigner, subject to normal due-diligence processes on the asset to be purchased and the borrower’s ability to repay the loan. It is not uncommon for Portuguese banks to offer as much as a 70-percent loan facility based on loan to value (LTV). The market is relatively competitive in this respect.

Portugal’s real-estate market remains healthy, attracting an ever-wider variety of nationalities. The country’s real-estate market benefits from political and economic uncertainties in other countries. Portugal is considered one of the safest countries in the world, and its geographic location in continental Europe could hardly be better. Its economy is strong; its crime rate is low. English is spoken almost everywhere. Private healthcare systems are underpriced compared to the rest of the world, but the standard of care is first-class. The weather is excellent; the gastronomy is superb.

Today’s discerning investor looks at all these factors and more when making a lifestyle purchase decision. Portugal can certainly claim to be at the top of the list in these respects.

 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Charles Roberts is the Managing Partner at Fine & Country Portugal and boasts more than three decades of expertise in luxury real estate in Portugal. With a background in golf resorts, he co-founded his own real-estate company in 2008. Today, he oversees operations from Estoril, with four Fine & Country offices across key regions of Portugal.

 

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