On the second day of our apartment hunting mission, our real estate agent and I headed out early to the Lordelo do Ouro neighborhood in Porto where there were two flats, both quite close to each other. One of the apartments was of interest, with a nice park out front, and a garage which someone had fashioned into an office.
The flat itself was unfurnished, but the landlord would not rent to a foreigner unless they paid a deposit amounting to six months’ rent, which is excessive. Also, this flat would require a 10-minute walk to the closest bus stop. Most landlords require locals to pay one month security deposit, one month’s rent in advance. We expected to have to ante up a bit more, but not this much.
The most expensive one we looked at could have doubled as an Airbnb. It was fully furnished including bedding, towels, a fully-equipped kitchen with stainless steel cookware and cutlery. Beautiful place but it really would have busted our budget at 1250€ per month (we were attempting to keep the rent under $1K€ per month as the Euro has strengthened considerably against the dollar—as of today it’s $1.177 per euro compared to $1.06 in July 2016.) Once again, this flat was not near “downtown” Porto and a hike to a bus stop. Since our goal is not to own a car, this really wasn’t an option.
While Miguel and I were boots-on-the-ground in Porto, Jana was searching rental listings from Atlanta, as well as sending us information about the areas surrounding each of the apartments we were viewing. Later that day she sent us three more that were of interest, and we went through them during lunch. Miguel called one listing and left a message, then connected to another that said the apartment had already been rented but the rental agent had others we can look at. Apparently, this is quite common.
For the third apartment on the list, Miguel talked to the landlord's son, who was a real estate agent, and he agreed to show us the flat that evening. We planned to eat a late lunch and then walk over to the apartment since it was only about 20 minutes by foot. Miguel wanted to go early and check out the neighborhood since we had plenty of time.
The apartment was in Miragaia, an artsy section of Porto. We found plenty of restaurants, shops, fresh markets (see the photo at the top of this post), as well as a major hospital and government offices. It was a short distance to the Douro River, and bus stops nearby. The area was simply perfect, within walking distance to the types of shops we’ll need if we don’t have a car.
The neighborhood was composed of classic Portuguese apartments, brick and tile fronts with loads of charm. The apartment building was more modern, with a security system on the entry door, four floors and two elevators. The landlord's son was very hospitable, however I would learn later that his father really didn't want to rent to foreigners, either.
The apartment was a T-2 (two bedrooms) of approximately 100 square meters (about 1070 square feet). (In truth, it was closer to 750-800 sq. feet as we suspect the parking space was included in those figures). The kitchen area was small but included a dishwasher, clothes washer, range (three gas burners and one electric) with hood, oven and refrigerator. There was no microwave, but there was space for one.
There was tile flooring in the kitchen and dark wood floors in the rest of the apartment, which meant easy maintenance. Dual-pane windows would decrease the heating costs and cut the city noise, and all the windows had shutters except those in the kitchen. There was ample storage for such a small space—fitted wardrobes in the bedrooms and lots of cabinet space in the kitchen. There was hot-water heat registers, but no air conditioning.
In our household we have a saying that when you fall instantly in love with something “it breathed on you.” Well, this apartment breathed on me immediately. Since our funds are U.S. based, should the euro continue to grow in strength against the U.S. dollar, we needed some "room" not to exceed our budget. Though we'd been hoping for a T-3 and a veranda, this apartment fit the bill in every other way.
Miguel saw me standing there with my mouth agape and asked, "What do you think?"
"We will need to talk," was my response but both of them had to be pretty sure what I was thinking.
"Let's go look at the shopping area," the landlord's son said.
"Shopping Area?" I thought to myself.
And yes, attached to this apartment building there's a freaking mini-mall with shops, clothing stores, restaurants, and half a dozen other things that I was too blown away to remember. After walking through the shops, we headed to the garage to check out the parking. (The apartment has an underground parking area and our apartment has an assigned space.)
"We'll need to sleep on this," Miguel said, always cautious. “We will contact you in the morning."
No surprise, Jana and I made the decision almost immediately, based on the interior photos I shared with her via iCloud and her research on Google Maps. Now to hammer out the contract...
Apartment Rental (Part Five)
Harold is a former software engineer. Jana is an author. Together they're exploring their new life in Portugal.