Since you have already selected the region where you want to buy, you now need to do some research before going home-hunting.
There are plenty of real estate offers in Portugal, therefore, in order to save time you should first elaborate a list of criteria of what you want and what you don’t want in the house you are planning to buy.
Define the type of property you like. You have to check your finance and decide on the price range you are considering to pay but also know the general market price of the location.
Real estate fairs are commonplace in Europe Many magazines and newspapers, both in Portugal and abroad, advertise real estate. Internet, of course has become the main communication channel used by real estate professionals to promote their properties.
The AFPOP, acronym of Association of Foreign Owner in Portugal provides information and advice (in English, German, Dutch & Portuguese) concerning building, buying, letting, maintaining and selling a house in Portugal. They publish a newsletter, and keep a list of area representatives throughout Portugal.
It is strongly recommended to take legal advice before making any decisions regarding a house. As you need to get an independent legal advice, be war of lawyer recommendations coming from real estate agents or from the promoter himself. The lawyer’s fee shouldn not be more than a few thousand Euros. Lawyers have to be registered under a number (cédula) of the Portuguese Law Society (Ordem dos Advogados).
It is common in Portugal that real estate is handled by real estate agencies. This profession is regulated by law and agents are granted a license’s number which can be checked by the INCI (Instituto da Construção e do Imobiliário), Real estate agents are required to be covered by an indemnity insurance of € 150.000. They usually charge a 3% to 5% fee to the selle for their service. The fee is nearly always included in the price.
There isn't a set number of houses you should see before you make a final decision. Obtain details of as many houses as possible in your selected region and price range, and make a list of those you wish to view. Visit as many as it takes to form an opinion on the price and the quality level in the area in order to find the one you really want but do not see too many in one day, as it is easy to become confused over the merits of each property.
There are many ways of finding a house: Internet, newspapers, Estate Agents or simply by touring the area where you want to buy. If you use an agent and are shown properties you do not like, tell the agent what is wrong about the properties and what your requirements are. You will save some time. Since you will probably visit different houses in a day, take the GPS coordinates, make notes of both the good and bad features and take photographs of each house: the outside, the major rooms, the yard, the extra features that you like and the ones you see as potential problems. Bring a professional along with you for help and don't hesitate to return for a second look if necessary.
Before you have even chosen the first house you wish to view, it may be worth spending time creating an image of your perfect house, selecting the criteria of what you want and what you do not want in the house. These features should cover the obvious criteria such as the type of house and its rough size, the number of bedrooms and bathrooms.
Of course, it is usually your budget that will dictate this. Apartments are generally cheaper than houses and semi-detached houses are usually cheaper than detached villas.
Another important criterion to take into consideration is the age of the property; do you want it brand new building or an older property that can be renovated? You also need to consider the garden and other external features such as a swimming pool. The criteria relating to the environment should also be taken into account. Is it important to you of being near shops, schools or a railway station?
If you live outside Portugal you have to consider the cost of the viewing trip. Even if you are being offered the travel and accommodation in case you buy, don’t let the real estate agent or promoter rush you. Allow sufficient time to view and compare properties because a long weekend isn’t time enough to have a good look around, unless you know exactly what it is and where you want to buy. If you use a Portuguese contact, confirm that the property you are planning to visit is still for sale before travelling.
After having found the property you like, you have to inspect it thoroughly in order to disclose defects in the property that could materially affect its safety, liveability, or resale value.
Obviously the type of inspection depends on the age of the property. In some case, especially if the house is old or if you suspect some problem in the house, you should ask assistance from a professional to proceed with a full evaluation and get a full report about the structure, foundations, walls roof, woodwork (check also for termite), plumbing and sewerage, electricity, A/C or heating systems and anything else you would like being inspected such as a swimming pool and its equipment.
Banks will also require an evaluation to ensure that the property value is worth the money they are lending. Usually, a full structural valuation will cost you half a percent of the property value or less which is really a small price to pay compared to the peace of mind you will get.
Among the problems that can be experienced by buyers in Portugal are properties purchased without a legal title; properties built or enlarged illegally without planning permission; properties with missing infrastructure; builders or developers going bust or absconding with their clients’ money; un-discharged mortgages from the previous owner; properties sold with outstanding bills for utilities; intermediaries disappearing with the seller’s proceeds (possibly after having been given power of attorney); overcharging by vendors (particularly when selling to foreigners); and properties sold to more than one buyer.
Note that in the not too distant past, many properties in Portugal were built without planning permission, weren’t constructed according to the approved plans or were built on land that wasn’t zoned for building in the first place.