Though renting an apartment or house in Portugal has some similarities to the process in the U.S., there are significant differences as well. In America, the landlord typically specifies the rental amount and which deposits (security, rent pre-payment) they require. Usually there is not much room for negotiation. That's not necessarily the case here.
In an earlier series of posts we detailed what it took to rent our first apartment in Porto. We have now rented our second and with additional experience we felt we should lay out even more info for those who might navigate these unknown waters. This new series will discuss some of the unique particulars of renting an apartment or house here, translate the various Portuguese terms you'll find in rental ads, and share some tips and warnings about the process. Here we go!
One of the curiosities of Portuguese rental law is that your landlord can ask you to vacate your apartment if they need it for a close relative (mother, father, sister, brother, that kind of close.) Since our landlord indicated he was interested in our apartment for his sister, we began to hunt for a new home. This didn't bother us as we had been thinking of moving at the end of our two-year lease (would have been August 2019) so this was just a few months' early. Also, we wanted a bit more space as the current 850 square foot just didn't give us enough elbow room.
We decided to work with a realtor (Aida Vaz from ReMax Oceanus) who came highly recommended by fellow expats. Despite going through zillions of rental ads--I admit to be incredibly picky--we ended up viewing only one apartment. It was out of our initial price range but magnificent in all regards. The only thing it was lacking was a veranda and that would have just been icing on the top.
The new space had a big enough kitchen we both could work in there at once, all new appliances, tons and tons of storage, two larger bedrooms so we could also use them as offices and a huge living room with windows on four sides. Did I mention the garden at the front of the property (we can't see the road from our building) with two hundred year old trees? (See image above).
Yeah, we were done. We signed the lease on April 1, moved the small stuff ourselves (argh) and had movers come for the big stuff on the 8th. Finally things have settled down enough for us to post on the blog and our next series will be an in-depth look at this move. Because like anything in this country, you always learn new stuff.
Oh, and our cat loves the place. And that, I suspect, is the ultimate thumbs up (if she had them) on this move.
In the United States, when you rent an apartment, it usually comes with ceiling fixtures. They may not be exciting, but they’re there. As Harold checked out unfurnished flats we quickly learned that is not always the case in Portugal. It appears that when the previous tenant moves out, they remove their lights and cart them off. Who knew?
To review, I was in Porto with Miguel, our real estate agent, and after checking out several apartments, the last one was a winner. I was up late talking to Jana via Skype and up early the next morning to let Miguel know we were ready to start negotiations on the Miragaia flat. This is when it gets real…
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.
Before we relate our rental experience in Porto, a little bit of background is in order. First, there are a number of online sites where you can do some scouting on your own (Idealista, Casa Sapo and Imovírtual to name a few). Some offer other language options, but for those that are only in Portuguese we used Google Translate. GT’s camera feature on our iPhone or iPad allowed us to take a photo of the text, then highlight it so Google can translate it. It’s not perfect, but it’s helpful.
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.
During the period between when we applied for our Residence Visas and when we anticipated we would be moving, a change was made in the housing requirement for those visas. There had always been a stipulation that we have a place to stay when we entered Portugal, but when we made the initial application a short term-rental was sufficient.