We have been featured on the UK "Easyjet Magazine Inflight". Below is a copy from the article.
The testimonial from Mike & Helen you can read here
WORDS BY ZOE DARE HALL
Portugal’s new Star Nestled between Lisbon and the Algarve, the vast region of Alentejo is finally getting the attention it deserves.
Nestled between Lisbon and the Algarve, the vast region of Alentejo is finally getting the attention it deserves.
It is telling of a destination’s pulling power that based purely on chats with a local estate agent and a neighbour who could see the house from her garden, Helen and Mike Gosling bought “the most perfect home in the world” in the Portuguese region of Alentejo—without setting foot near the place.
If that sounds slightly mad, the five-bedroom, €350,000 (£240,000) house with seven acres of land near Beja, the hottest town in Portugal is not some buy-to-let investment they were about to farm out to strangers, but is the Goslings’ new home. And like many people, they had never even heard of Alentejo before.
“We saw the house advertised on the internet and didn’t have time to visit, as we had an African holiday booked the following day, but didn’t want to lose the property so we went for it,” says Helen, 50, who runs a car breakdown recovery business with Mike, 59, in Worcestershire, England.
“We’d visited the Algarve and the Silver Coast near Lisbon, but from our reading about the Alentejo we loved the sound of the tranquillity and sense of remoteness,” she explains.
Wedged between Portugal’s two best-known holiday spots—the Algarve and Lisbon—Alentejo has been slow at taking root in property buyers’ minds, hindered partly by the lack of an airport. That will be remedied if the proposed expansion of Beja military airport, set for 2009, goes ahead, undoubtedly sparking interest in this hidden corner. Until then, Lisbon or Faro are the nearest options, one to two hours’ drive to most parts of the region.
Even well-heeled Lisbonites, who are dismissive of their neighbouring region, are starting to take note, selling up in upmarket Cascais or Sintra in favour of a traffic jam-free commute into the capital from Alentejo.
It’s an agricultural region rooted in tradition—cork production, clam stew and polyphonic singing a random selection of its specialities—but highlights such as the World Heritage city of Evora and medieval hilltop towns are overshadowed by the Algarve’s sought-after golf and beach resorts.
“It has taken me a decade to get people to know about Alentejo,” says the Goslings’ estate agent, Bert Snijder from Alentejo Home www.alentejohome.com, Tel. 0871 711 8992 from the UK or Tel. +351 269 441 717). “Alentejo is the same size as the Netherlands but with 800,000 inhabitants compared with Holland’s 16 million,” says Bert, who, incidentally, is Dutch. “It’s the perfect place for people who want to get away from the stress in Northern Europe. Even in August, you can lie on unspoilt beaches with no one else around for miles.” Lisbon-based real estate agent Barbara Caldeira adds: “Alentejo offers something for everyone. You can build dream house for relatively little money —especially inland, where you can even have your own vines and olive groves. Converting an old farm is ideal for those in search of tranquillity—try Beja, Evora or Estromez. And although you’ll pay more by the ocean, Comporta, Zambujeiro and Sagres are stunning and offer better value than comparable regions in Spain and France.”
“The Portuguese are slightly bemused by crazy British people’s desire for old properties as, like most mainland Europeans, they prefer new-build,” says Annie Seabrook from Portuguese property specialist Square Metres.
“Planning laws vary among local councils, though generally they are strict. “People often think if they buy a ruin in the middle of nowhere, they can do what they like with it,” says Seabrook. “But Portugal is very bureaucratic and there are tight building regulations depending on the location, land and how it is classified.”
Bert Snijder reports that most of his clients want to be within 40km of the coast, “Which may only mean a 20-minute drive away, as the roads are empty. The further east you head, towards the Spanish border, the cheaper the properties. You can find one-storey old farmhouses with acres of land from €29, 500 (£20,000). But the climate is extreme, with boiling summers and very cold winters.”
One inland area predicted to become Portugal’s next major resort is Alqueva, near Europe’s largest man-made damn. Its 800km shoreline is a fishermen’s paradise, and the plans to build golf courses, luxury hotels and restore the nearby rural villages are luring property investors. Currently, two-bedroom houses in the area cost from around €162,600 (£110,000). With coastal development limited to very low build density and nothing within 1km of the sea, Alentejo’s Atlantic coast remains untapped, with endless kilometres of white sands that become more rugged as you head south. “Troia on the Blue Coast, south of Lisbon, has been a Portuguese secret for a long time, but now it’s being developed,” says Annie Seabrook. “They are building a new marina and golf courses, but they are avoiding dense high-rises.”
Vila Nova de Milfontes, with stunning beaches and a cobbled old town, is another resort worshipped by the locals—and some German villa owners—but few visitors from further afield. There, a one-bedroom apartment will cost from around €118,000 (£80,000), while you can buy large family houses for £150,000.
Prices are slightly higher, due to scarcity of supply, in nearby Zambujeira do Mar, an unassuming fishing village momentarily besieged by rock fans attending its festival each August.
Then it returns to typical Alentejo tranquillity, which is just how buyers like it. Even those who haven’t been there yet.
Top tips for buying in Portugal:
Alentejo is a huge region with three distinct areas—the mountains, plains and beaches— so take time to drive around and choose an area before you start looking for a property.
Don’t underestimate the language problems. Unlike in the Algarve, English is not widely spoken so seek recommendations of good Portuguese lawyers from English-speaking agents who know the area well.
Buying a plot of land and building your own house works out cheaper than buying a ready-made villa, and means you can design it how you want it. Building costs are around €700 per square metre.
Land prices are determined more by their access to utilities than by location, so a small plot with mains electricity and water can cost considerably more than a larger plot nearby without these services.
Don’t assume that if you buy a ruin in the middle of nowhere, you can do what you like with it. Strict buildings regulations apply and vary depending on the local council.
Get a licensed builder. Otherwise you will have to obtain a license specific to your property, which could delay renovations by several months.
If you can’t be there in person to oversee building work, recruit a project manager.
Use a Portuguese lawyer who can pick up on the nuances of the contractual jargon. A foreign lawyer may not have the same grasp.
Most people under budget for renovation work. A loose rule of thumb is to take the property price and double it.
Materials and labour are cheap, but re-roofing can be pricey.