Algarve Property - our very first!
It took a while, but eventually we did it
Found, that is, an Algarve property with the 'wow' factor we were looking for!
Not that it's difficult to spot gorgeous examples of Algarve real estate - they seem to be just about anywhere you look! But, when it comes down to choosing one in which you'd want to live, you need to think hard about everything - not just how wonderful the property looks...
As those of you who receive my Algarve Beach Life newsletter will know, we hit the runway at Faro airport for our September 2005 vacation armed with a bundle of printouts from Algarve real estate agents' websites
Our only problem was knowing where to begin.
How we stumbled into it
We let the first weekend of our vacation go by, resolved to get down to some serious Algarve property hunting on the Monday. And off we set from Portimão, heading for Almancil, where there were at least three estate agents' offices we intended to visit.
But, as luck would have it, we made another, unscheduled stop on the way. Just outside Almancil, bowling along the Rua Cristovão Pires Norte, we spotted a sign that read...
... and Nev suggested we should go back, because he recognised the name from all his Web searches.
And am I glad he did!
We called in at their pleasant, modern offices and met Telmo Martins, the Algarve property consultant who was to feature large during our fortnight of house hunting. We were relieved that Telmo's English is excellent, since our 'Algarve real estate' vocabulary (in Portuguese) could best be described as 'challenged'.
After a relaxed chat about what we were seeking, we made an appointment for two days later, when Telmo planned to spend a full day showing us properties from Vila Real in the East, all the way back to Portimão (which is where our aparthotel was situated).
By that time that Wednesday rolled around, we'd viewed quite a few other stunning Algarve properties with other agents, so we were warmed up to the subject. Certainly, there's a lot of gorgeous Algarve real estate out there!
So, we thought little about it when, halfway through our Wednesday 'travel-thon', Telmo drove us past a house near Moncarapacho and mentioned that, although we weren't stopping right then, that was the one he thought was right for us.
After looking at some other (lovely) properties, we returned a little later to be shown around the 'right-for-us' house, and our interest levels rose rather. Which was odd, looking back, because it wasn't what we had thought we were seeking.
Briefly, it's a property that's being sold in a 'built' state, but with the internal finishing still left to do. And there's the pool to install, and a garden to plant
So, it was necessary to look beyond 'all that', to envisage how the place might be when it's finished.
And this is where I should admit that some of our 'vision' of the property was supplied by our consultant, Telmo, whose enthusiasm is certainly infectious. I think it would be fair to say that he can communicate concepts and possibilities in the English tongue rather better than some native speakers!
Plus, as we told ourselves, the property's location, near Moncarapacho / Quelfes, is only a few kilometres from the nearest beach, is handy for Faro airport, and has the Ria Formosa parklands almost on the doorstep. That subdued the nervous tummies for a short while - but only for a while...
The Jitters Commence
Naturally, we were initially daunted at the project, since we'd imagined buying a resale property and just moving in
But Telmo's inspired at explaining how hurdles can be cleared and obstacles avoided, and we began to peer past the blinkers of our initial timidity and to share in his enthusiasm.
When he escorted us for a second viewing on the following week, we were already decided, I think.
But, inevitably, a few doubts and fears began to resurface about acquiring an Algarve property - and all the differences between how things would happen in Algarve with us back in the UK.
And it was the redoubtable Senhor Martins to the rescue again. Telmo showed us impressive examples of builders' works and finishes, suggested ways to do things, even arranged - and drove us to - a consultation with an English-speaking lawyer.
That's how we came to meet the gentleman who will be our legal representative during our first Algarve real estate adventure. Dr José Bulha not only speaks excellent English, and operates from 3 offices in Algarve, but is also a barrister. (So we hope he won't be too busy in court to look after our Algarve property affairs!)
During our meeting, we reviewed what the next steps would be, and what we would need to do in order to set things in motion. Dr Bulha specialises in property transactions where the buyers are living outside Portugal, so that was reassuring.
(You can read about my researches into what's involved in the purchase of real estate in Algarve on my Algarve property page.)
When we were outside again, and blinking in the strong sun, the 'butterflies' returned. But, Telmo's promised to help us right through until the house is ready which means an awful lot to a pair of Algarve property 'newbies', as you can imagine!
Algarve Property - the next steps
So, keep checking this page, because I'm going to be mapping out our adventures in buying Algarve property right here!
I'll try to be informative and objective (even though I'm fairly levitating with excitement), so you can learn as much as possible about the process, should you be considering looking for an Algarve property of your own.
Once the place is finally ours, I'll put up some photographs and log the progress of the builder's finishing efforts, just so you can see how this 'remote control' process works in reality.
So, if I don't update this website's other pages as often as I should, I hope you'll agree that these circumstances do count as 'extenuating'.
Updates will be 'blogged' below...
Update - mid-December 05
I was back in Algarve for a week in the middle of November. That meant I could be present at the signing of the Promissory Contract...
The last couple of days saw some torrential rain. Unfortunately, when I visited the house on the last full day of my visit, I could see that rain water had made its way through from the main terrace on the first floor and was dripping onto the floor of the lounge!
I informed our avogado as soon as I was home, and we're hoping that things are in motion to correct this fault. But, as I write, I haven't learned anything to confirm this... One of the problems of dealing with matters from a distance!
I did manage to visit some kitchen outlets and tile distributors, and was able to choose some finishes for the interior (and exterior paving).
Incredibly, I wasn't able to see inside the garage of the property, since a local builder was storing equipment inside it and had the only key! (Perhaps that's just how they do things in Algarve...?)
Oh yes - and the garage windows had been bricked up - presumably for equipment security?
Our lawyer is going to need to speak to someone about this situation, methinks.
Meantime, I've just managed to finish the list of things that will form the contract with the builder who will be finishing off our house. (No, that's not the same builder that's storing stuff in the garage).
Update - late January 06
We heard last week that the contract with our finishing builder had finally been signed and that commencement of work was imminent!
So now it's a case of allowing a couple of weeks to go by, then check with Telmo (see above) about progress, so I can work out when my next inspection visit should be...
Just when I thought I could relax after finishing my self-assessment tax forms!
Update - early March 06
I've been frantically trying to find out what is happening on the house-finishing front, but events have conspired against me!
It was just my luck that, the last time I contacted our Headlands property consultant, Telmo, he was preparing to come to the UK for a property roadshow...
Since he returned, he's been super-busy and hasn't been out to see the house. But he did telephone the builder, just to check that things were progressing.
More news next week, we hope (fingers and toes crossed!)
Update - late March 06
Telmo came up with the goods and emailed us some pics of the progress on our Algarve property!
Things seem to be approaching the halfway stage of completion, and it's time to wire the second lot of money through to our lawyer, so that the stage payment can be made to the builder.
But, here's a shot of the pool, in its present state of being. I'm looking forward to my inaugural dip, once it's finished and pristine...
Meanwhile, I'm frantically boxing (and occasionally discarding) things to get ready for the move when it happens. How I'll ever get any new pages launched this month remains a mystery!
Update - early May 06
I've been in Algarve for a few weeks now, in rented accommodation, while I check up on the last gasps of our house completion.
Nev came over for about 9 days up to the end of April, but I'm struggling gamefully on by myself at the moment.
As you can see from the before and after pics, the pool has received some attention recently. I wish I could say I was as happy with things inside the house!
I just can't seem to get an agreed target completion date - Telmo's off on business in Lisbon... and my Portuguese just isn't good enough (no surprises there).
Meanwhile, back at this website... if you're a subscriber to my newsletter, you'll have to excuse the tardiness. All my earthly belongings are in storage, and I'm updating Algarve Beach Life from public libraries and Internet cafés. Who said the frontier spirit is dead!
Update - mid-June 06
I've given up waiting around for the last works to be finished on the house - and returned to the UK for some rest and recuperation! With luck, things will have gone as agreed and, when I return later this month, it'll be for the final snagging check and to take possession of the house.
It seemed to take forever for the kitchen units to arrive, and they still weren't fitted when I last checked! Same went for the internal doors - and there are lots of them to be installed...
As Nev says repeatedly, it's just typical of the laid-back way things happen in Algarve. But then, he hasn't been chasing around trying to make things happen!
But we are nearly there, and we'll soon be enjoying a glass of vinho together on a warm Algarve evening and smiling about all our present tribulations. Here's hoping...
Update - late June 06
I returned to Algarve the day before our furniture was due (finally!) to be delivered. In my little hire car, I drove to the property and prepared to bed down (minus a bed) to await eventualities. Imagine my surprise, then, when the removals lorry turned up that afternoon. Complete chaos!
While my kitchen still awaited its worktop, the fitting of a sink and a few other bits (like taps), here were all my worldly goods arriving before the house had been cleaned. Who wrote the script for this comedy?
Things have calmed down (and so have I) in the last three days since I returned. Last night, I took the much-anticipated inaugural dip in the pool, before driving to Olhao and consuming an enormous pizza.
Oh, come on - I deserved it!
Update - early July 06
So now I'm just missing the correct taps in one of the bathrooms. Oh, and delivery of my washer/dryer machine. And a proper water supply. And a telephone connection, so I can get back online properly...
I'm still adjusting to living in a new place, of course. It's a bit echo-ey, because I 'retired' so much of our UK furniture - and it's a big house. Nev suggested nailing egg cartons to the walls. Okay, so it would cure the echoes... But we don't eat that many eggs anyway, so I'd have to ask the neighbours. Embarrassing.
The other morning, I was awakened early by a combination of noises. One source was the builders starting up over the road. I thought the other noise was cicadas or crickets, but have since been informed that it's the local snakes sloughing off their old skins. Nice! Since the adjacent lot is full of rocks, it's become the snakes' favourite gathering place. As if I needed a reason to keep the outside doors shut!
Nev's flying over for a break tomorrow, and I'm trying to sort things out before he gets here. It would serve him right if I'd collected a large mound of egg cartons for him to nail up!
I do hope the weather stays cool, so we can play some tennis together. It's been ages.
Update - late July 06
Apparently, I was having my leg pulled about the snakes and their skins. I don't know whether to be annoyed that I was so gullible, or pleased that the racket really is just cicadas.
Had a busy time during the two weeks Nev was here, and now I have my sis and her husband staying for a while, then a friend from Aberdeen arrives. Pretty soon, I'm hoping to have enough sound-absorbent articles indoors to cut down the echoes!
Yesterday, I took delivery of my new washing machine. It's taken about 4 weeks to have it ordered and delivered. Since when I discovered that the local Worten concession within my nearest Modelo supermarket would have delivered free and had suitable machines in stock!
If you're forming the impression that my early days as an Algarve resident are a voyage of discovery, then you're probably not wrong.
Even after my kitchen was fitted, I had problems with the extractor fan recycling cooking fumes into the room. Turned out it hadn't been sealed. When the fitter arrived back to correct his mistake, all he did was stick silver tape over the end of the 170 mm diameter hole!
Ah well, it can wait for Nev's return, and he can fix it...
Meanwhile, the weather's been 'scorchio' every day. Which means that the pool is just bliss for cooling off. Indoors is another thing, I'm finding, but I only got one quote so far for air conditioning - and I thought it was rather expensive. Thank goodness for pedestal fans. I'm not sure I'd be able to fall asleep without mine...
(Much-needed) Update - late August 06
I'm writing this months after the events, but what happened was...
... I got really fed up with the way things were going with our Algarve property puchase, and bought a ticket back to the UK to rejoin Nev where he was working (Aberdeen, as it happens).
It gave me a chance to catch up with all my friends, as I worked my way up the country towards the North East coast of Scotland, where we lived for so long before year 2000.
But it also gave me a rest, away from all the craziness that seems to be involved with dealing with our property purchase.
As I left it, we were trying to sort out 'retrospective' planning permission for building works already completed - all of which we were reassured is 'quite normal in Algarve'.
After many emails and telephone conversations with my lawyer, builder etc. during the time I'd been away from Algarve, I returned to check over the property, have meetings and generally try to kick things into shape, since I couldn't believe how much time had elapsed.
The first thing I established at an 'everyone-there' meeting in my lawyer's office was that...
... nothing much had happened! Things regarding finalising the paperwork were pretty much where they were back in May, when I first started to live in the house.
It's enough to drive you crazy! (Except that, according to all the kind folk I've met socially over here, it's pretty standard for an Algarve property purchase. Only the details vary between my disappointing story and theirs. If you expect things to go smoothly and logically, you're in for a disappointment.)
The only consolation is that they all still insist that living in Algarve is great - despite the annoying complexities involved in an Algarve property purchase!
Late January 07
So we finally 'bit the bullet' and moved properly to Algarve! Queue the jitters and all that...
We had concluded that nothing was happening (nor was likely to) with us in UK. That meant Nev quitting his job and much furious packing and arranging, then - presto! - here we were!
First impressions weren't great. The house felt cold and damp, having been empty since I left in early December to 'do Christmas' in the UK. Of course, in mid-January, it would be foolish, even in a climate as benign as Algarve's, to expect anything other than what we found.
Thus far, things have been good and bad (like the curate's egg?). Since we have no air conditioning or living room fire, it's been impossible to warm up the whole house, so we're restricted to living in only part of it. We've had estimates for all that sort of stuff, but nothing happens quickly in Algarve, as we've found to our cost.
On the plus side, we've had a great time meeting up again with friends we've made. Every Saturday morning, we've gone for a beatiful, uplifting walk in the tracks that snake through the Serra above Sao Brás. We've played some tennis every week, usually in sunny, warm conditions. And it's been great spending so much time together after a long time apart...
Then again, we still haven't managed to fineigle a home telephone service out of Portugal Telecom, so our Internet access is still limited to visits to libraries, Internet cafes and the facilities offered by thoughtful friends - but it certainly makes maintaining this website a frustrating undertaking!
But, we have managed to make some progress on driving things toward a final stage in the house-buying process - and it looks as though by mid-year we'll have a Habitation Licence and be living normally. Sound familiar? It should do, because that is what I wrote this time last year! Portugal is a wonderful place, but it does have the knack of teaching you patience.
I'm going to concentrate on putting up more pages on this website and gathering more information to help you improve your Algarve vacations, so keep visiting and watch out for additions - and for the regular (I promise!) newsletters.
And - if you haven't been receiving any Algarve Beach Life newsletters after subscribing, do please check that you have added 'email@example.com' to your email service address book. I know that some of you simply aren't receiving them, because they show up as having 'bounced'.
Wow! If I previously thought that I knew the meaning of
the world 'patience', then buying my first Algarve property
has taught me otherwise...
Only this week did I learn that our vendor has finally
signed the last bits of paper necessary to allow our
finishing builder to pick up the 'licence' from the local
authority (Camara Municipal). This is where I thought
we were in May 2006! (In fact, I received assurances
that this was so).
So, now I'm led to believe that the licence will be
picked up this week, then the Habitation Licence application
can be submitted. After a check that everything has been
built according to the project plans, the Habitacão
should be placed in our hot, sticky little hands.
If they're quick, we may even get this stuff concluded within
two years since we first viewed the property! If
you're thinking that most properties are built from scratch
in way less time than that, you'd be right... we've just
It's a good job we've made so many good, kind friends
since we came here, or I'd definitely be a gibbering wreck
Next time I post, I hope to have something positive and
final to tell about this process. Then, I will sit down and
compile a list of dos and don'ts, in the hope that those who
read the list will not make the same mistakes or fall into
the same traps as those that have afflicted us.
Keep your fingers crossed for us?
Some long-awaited good news finally arrived yesterday.
Our lawyer's PA advised us by email that the building
licence had finally been sprung from its lengthy period of
enforced incarceration in Olhao's municipal offices and was
ready to be submitted as part of the process of obtaining
the habitation licence. It might not sound like much, but
As we're off to Monte Gordo on the night of Sunday 9th,
for a meal with friends and to enjoy the final midnight
fireworks display of the season (see this month's Algarve
Events page), we'll probably make so bold as to have
a tiny celebration. Nothing too ostentatious - we wouldn't
want to upset the Habitation Licence fairy...
We're hoping that, soon, this whole protracted tale might
be at an end.
Then, I'll add the final coda to this page, just in time
to prevent it exceeding 'War and Peace' in length!
One and a half months into the new year - and we're still
I was searching through some Algarve Best
submissions from readers of Algarve Beach Life and came
across one from António, who used to be an architect in
Algarve and was used to the hurly-burly of getting things
One of his comments read:
description is pretty fine; I just think you should advert
readers to face some occasional disappointments during the
process (this is the bitter memory of someone who gave up
being an architect in this country and became just a
yes - I'd have to agree with the 'occasional disappointments'
we're still "hangin' in there"!
Watch this space for the next instalment of Algarve Property Purchase News!
Or check out this page that you really should be reading
if you have a hankering after some Algarve
real estate of your own.
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