Buying land to build on in Portugal

Many bargain properties across Portugal are great renovation projects, and you will often see adverts for a ‘habitable three-bedroom property, set in several acres of land, complete with natural stream and hundreds of olive and lemon trees’, along with a laughably tiny price that wouldn’t buy you a lock-up garage in some parts of the UK.

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Sometimes new buyers are able to turn these properties into dream homes, but more often than not these are left half-finished because buyers fail to consider the full costs, legalities and unique quirks of the way things work in Portugal.

Broadly speaking, internal renovations are much simpler to manage in Portugal than external works, as there is less to consider in terms of legalities. Unless you are changing the core structure of a building by, for example, pulling out entire floors to create a galleried mezzanine, you are generally free to do what you wish with the inside of a home.

There are a couple of exceptions. If you buy a home in an area designated as a natural park, you can’t really do anything without permission. Similarly, things can get complicated if you need to connect mains services like electricity and water where they haven’t been connected previously. It is also important to mention that there are plenty of reports of these things taking years to complete, rather than weeks or months.

Another thing to be careful of is electrical work. Ensure you check the credentials of anyone performing this, and don’t be tempted to fly out a UK contractor. UK electrical qualifications aren’t valid in Portugal, and work can be considered illegal if not performed by a certified person.

External renovations get a lot more complicated. If you intend to make your property larger or taller, or if you need to change the roof or facade, you are going to need permission from your local camara (town hall). For this, you will need an architect to draw up plans for you. The language barrier can become an issue here, so if you cannot speak Portuguese, a friendly lawyer can help to ease the process. Friends in high places can be useful in Portugal, so try to have someone on your team that has some!

Once permission is granted, it’s important to realise that planning permission here has an expiry date, so you need to ensure work is commenced on time to avoid going through the entire process again. Ensure you use licensed trades people, otherwise, although your project may get completed, it could prove difficult to sell on if you don’t have all the paperwork in place. Above all, remember you are in Portugal - a country you probably chose for its wonderful, slow pace of life. So try not to get too frustrated when everything takes longer than you would expect. It’s just the way things are.


Further reading for Buying In Portugal

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Viewing Guide

Finding the right property can be a challenge. What do you need to think about early on?
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Hidden Costs

The price of the property as listed is never the price that you will end up paying. There are a host of other costs.
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Legal Matters

Buying a property in Portugal has very different legal requirements to the UK.
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Currency Zone

Did you know that you could save thousands of pounds when emigrating by using a currency specialist?
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When purchasing property legal hold-ups can be disastrous. You need to make extra sure that you have an English-speaking, impartial solicitor looking out for your best interests from the very start.

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