In Part Three of this series, it's time to dig into those often hard-to-decipher rental ads and discuss some of the differences you'll find between Portuguese apartments and houses compared to the U.S. Let’s dig in!
Portuguese accommodations are measured in square meters (1 equals 10.76 sq. feet). A quick rule of thumb is to multiply the square meters by ten or eleven and that will get you a rough square footage. Often there are two numbers on the rental ad—the total space in sq. meters and the usable amount. The first number may include any number of things, including terraces, verandas and parking spaces. The second number is supposed to be actual living space, but there appears to be a lot of variance as to how landlords list the apartment sizes.
As I mentioned in an earlier post the most popular online rental sites are: Idealista, Imovirtual, Casa Sapo, BPI Expresso. Facebook also has a rental section in its Marketplace. As with any ad, take those with a grain a salt and always back off if something feels wrong.
Let’s start with a bit of terminology to get you going. We recommend you check www.Forvo.com on how to pronounce these words if you’re game. (Use European Portuguese, not Brazilian.). If you’re totally overwhelmed, consider enlisting a real estate agent or some other professional to help you.
Apartamento – apartment
Moradia (or) casa – house
Andar moradia – one floor of a house
Quinta – farm
Arrendar, arrendamento, alugar – for rent
Venda - for sale
Duplex – an apartment or home that has two floors
Triplex – apartment or home with three floors
Novo Construção – new construction
Bom Estado – good condition
Segunda Mão – second hand
Para Recuperar – remodeling needed
Com – with - sometimes abbreviated c/
Sem – without – sometimes abbreviated s/
Andar – floor
Rés do Chão – ground floor
Penultimate Piso – second-to-top floor
Ultimo Piso – top floor
A reminder: in Europe their first floor is the ground floor (rés do chão), so if an ad says the apartment is on the third floor it’d actually be on the fourth for those of us from the States.
Cave - basement
Garagem – garage
Fechado – closed. Can be used in regard to a garage or a condominium which has some form of security.
Piscina – swimming pool
Varanda – veranda
Mobilado – furnished
Sem Mobília – unfurnished
Segurança - Security
Vídeo-porteiro – video console that allows you to see who is at the door and to allow them access to the building
Quarto - bedroom
T0 – a studio
T1 – one bedroom
T2, T3, etc. – additional bedrooms
To indicate a very small room, sometimes without a window, you will see +1.
A T2 + 1 is a two bedroom apartment or home with an extra room that probably doesn’t have a window. In the past these +1 rooms were normally a maid’s quarters which were physically detached from the living areas and might be adjacent to the kitchen. They tended to be very small and if they had a window it would be tiny, or maybe just a glass-block or a small skylight to supply exterior light.
These rooms are usually only suitable as a kid’s room, or for storage. The exception is for apartments that have been refurbished in which the new floor-plan did not allow for a window. If there is no window, the law does not allow it to be classified as a full bedroom.
Armário de Roupa, Armários Embutido – built-in closet(s)
Depending on the age of the building, the bedrooms may not have built-in closets.
Sala – essentially a living room
Sala de entrada – entry hall
Cozinha – kitchen. May be equipada (equipped) or not.
Cozinha equipada usually means frigorífico (refrigerator), placa (cooktop/hob) and forno (oven), exaustor (vent fan). It may also include a maquina da lava louça (dishwasher) and a microondas (microwave).
Lavandaria – laundry. This will either include the maquina de lava roupa (washing machine) or just be the water connections so you can supply your own appliance. Sometimes the washing machine may include a drying cycle (seca). Dryers aren’t that common and will likely be electric.
Where you might be tempted to use a local laundromat, the costs of washing and drying your clothes can be costly if you have to do it frequently. We use the laundromat for big items, like sheets, duvet covers—the price includes detergent and fabric softener—the rest of our clothes we prefer to wash at home. We air dry them or hang them over the heated towel racks (a brilliant invention though sadly our new place doesn’t have them). Some apartments allow you to hang your clothes outside your windows, others have rules that prohibit that.
Your laundry room might also include a boiler–aquecimento or caldeira–to heat water for washing and, if your apartment is so equipped, for the heat registers. As is not often the case in the States, our washer and dishwasher heat their own water.
Casa da banho These can either just be a sink and a toilet (like a half bath in the U.S.) or a fully equipped bathroom with toilet, bidet, tub or shower base (duche) Some have towel warmers as the source of heat and others have radiators. Or they’re not heated at all. Do not be surprised if your bathroom doesn’t have a window.
Portuguese houses and apartments tend to have a LOT of doors, usually with locking hardware, between most rooms and at the entrance to hallways. Normally the doors in the living areas and the hallways will have glass panels, but bedroom doors will be solid. If you have small children, it is wise to remove the keys from the interior doors so curious little ones do not accidentally get themselves locked in. Even the bathrooms will have skeleton-key locks that allow the door to be secured from both sides.
Entry doors tend to feature formidable locks, with thick wood or steel doors and steel door frames. It is common for there to be 5 to 8 deadbolts, and when securing the lock will require several turns of the key to set all the deadbolts. Some of the locks have a unique feature where you give your housekeeper a special key, while your own key will allow an additional turn to disable the housekeeper key if they are not expected in while you are away.
Ours has four deadbolts plus a regular deadbolt near the lock plus three more of the round bolts further up. Our old apartment also had even more deadbolts, include those that went into the top of the door frame and into the floor. The Portuguese take their personal security very seriously.
So let’s look at a couple rental ads. Usuually after a paragraph or two of description there’s a list of features like this (English translation is below):
*115 m² construídos, 110 m² úteis
*2 casa de banho
*Lugar de garagem incluído no preço
*Segunda mão/bom estado
*Certificação energética: não indicado
*Acesso adaptado a pessoas com mobilidade reduzida
This is a secondhand 2-bedroom apartment with 2 bathrooms, a garage, built-in wardrobes and about 1100 sq. feet. It is oriented to the south, has a central boiler, the energy rating is not indicated and it’s handicapped friendly. 15th floor (which isn’t the usual here), with an elevator. And BONUS – it’s got A/C!
Price is 1110 € per month which at this posting date’s exchange rate about $1245 per month.
Here’s a recent listing from a ReMax site for a property here in Porto;
Apartamento T2 localizado em zona residencial sossegada, com boas áreas e em bom estado de conservação.
*Hall de entrada,
*Cozinha equipada com (fogão, frigorífico, exaustor), lavandaria e despensa,
*Hall dos quartos com roupeiro,
*Dois Quartos um deles com varanda,
*Casa de banho com luz direta
*Lugar de garagem.
Pátio do condomínio nas traseiras.
Muito próximo de comércio.
Serviço de transportes a cinco metros.
Acessibilidades às principais vias, estrada da Circunvalação N12, (A28, A1 e A20).
2 bedroom apartment located in a quiet residential area, with good areas and in good condition.
* Entrance hall
* Common room
* Kitchen equipped with (stove, refrigerator, exhaust fan), laundry and pantry
* Hall of bedrooms with wardrobe
* Two Bedrooms one of them with balcony
* Bathroom with direct light
* Parking space
Patio of the condominium at the rear.
Very close to shopping. Transport service at five meters. Access to the main roads, road of the N12, (A28, A1 and A20).
Honestly, now that you have the terminology it's all a matter of reading a lot of ads to make sense of them. We started by running them through Google Translate and took it from there, though now we can usually translate them on our own. You'll reach that point as well after a LOT of practice. And again, if this is overwhelming consider using a real estate professional.
Coming up next: You've found your home and want to go to contract.
Harold is a former software engineer. Jana is an author. Together they're exploring their new life in Portugal.