As we neared the date we were going to be without a home in the U.S. (August 31st) we knew we needed to find a place to live in Porto at the end of July. As we mentioned in the last blog entry, at this point we were under the impression we just needed a short-term stay like a hotel room or an Airbnb, so we were not being too aggressive about finding an apartment. We’d spent the last year tracking various rental sites (Idealista, Casa Sapo and Imovírtual) so we had a good idea of what was on offer and how much we’d be paying per month. Armed with that info, we sent messages to several real estate agents in Porto. And never received a response.
We also sent requests to landlords via those same rental sites and still no response. A check of the ex-pat message boards found our experience was not unique. There are many places listed for rent, but getting someone to talk to us proved impossible.
Knowing we were getting nowhere on our own, it was time to call our lawyers (Lugna). They introduced us to the brilliant Miguel Paninho (ReMax Action in Lisbon). We executed a Skype call and discussed the details of what he, as a real estate agent, could offer us, what would be required of us as renters, and what our expectations would be for an apartment.
We established a rather unusual strategy, but what we came up with was extremely powerful and eliminated a lot of back-channel negotiations and complexity. In the end, it gave us EXACTLY what we needed, and when we were able to move on a rental property, we could do so with the minimum of obstacles.
We developed a mission plan (we code-named it Spade) wherein Miguel and I would travel together to Porto from Lisbon, stay in the same hotel, look at apartments during the day and over dinner we would review each apartment and decide our action plan for the next day. The unusual aspect of our plan was that I would be covering all of Miguel’s expenses, plus paying his commission directly.
Why would this matter? Real estate in Portugal is cut-throat, even more so than it is in the States. When you involve a Buyer’s (or in this case a Renter’s) agent, the Seller/Landlord’s agent splits half of their commission. In proceeding this way, we’d taken that objection off the table as the Seller’s agent would not be splitting his/her commission (usually 1-month’s rent). Now that agent would a lot more likely to go the extra mile to negotiate a reasonable agreement since his cut of the deal was substantially higher.
So with all that in place, Miguel and I began our search for the perfect apartment. The next blog details that hunt.
Next Up: Apartment Rental (Part Three)
Harold is a former software engineer. Jana is an author. Together they're exploring their new life in Portugal.