A viewing trip is the most exciting stage in the journey towards buying a property in Portugal. But taking some time to properly plan your viewing trip is essential and will pay dividends in the end. It helps you to get the most out of your viewing trip to Portugal and will ensure you avoid wasting precious time looking around areas and properties that don’t appeal to you.
Here we suggest ten tips to ensure your viewing trip to Portugal is pleasurable, productive and legally watertight.
1. Decide what kind of trip to take
Deciding what kind of viewing trip to Portugal most suits you is a crucial first step. There are three main ways of going about a property buying trip to Portugal:
An organised/sponsored trip
Specific developments or resorts often offer subsidised viewing trips, which can include travel and accommodation.
But be warned, such trips can come with plenty of “hard sell”. They will only include homes the company wants to sell you. It’s unlikely you’ll have much free time – and certainly not time to head off in your own direction to look at other properties.
There’s no harm in taking advantage of these trips, but it’s wise to be sceptical about anything that’s free or heavily subsidised.
An estate agent organised trip
If you’ve found an estate agent you trust, arranging your viewing trip together with them can work out well. You can work with them – in advance – to decide which properties and areas to cover. While they will no doubt hope you will make an offer on something, you can expect a little more freedom and less hardsell than on a sponsored trip.
A self-planned trip
This option gives you total freedom to try out different areas and to visit as many agents as you please. The big negative is that it can be the most intimidating option, especially if you’re nervous about digging into your Portuguese phrasebook. Much of the uncertainty can be eliminated by lots of up-front planning.
2. List your property “must-haves”
It’s easy to get over-excited when you’re looking around properties abroad. Especially after a long lunch and a glass or two of vinho verde.
It’s important not to make compromises you may regret. A good way to avoid that is to create a list of non-negotiable “must haves”. For example, a pool, a shop within x kilometres, or an area with other expats in easy reach.
Deciding which things you will and won’t compromise on is something you can do long before your viewing trip.
3. Get your viewing trip team in place
No, we don’t mean you need to bring your best friend, mum or accountant. But it’s a very good idea to get a few professionials lined up and ready on speed dial. Remembver that you’ll be making decisions costing potentially all your life savings and family home, so it’s worth making a few phone calls first.
Currency and payment specialist
The first person you should contact is a currency and payments company; one that specialises in overseas property. We recommend Smart Currency Exchange for that very reason. They’ll have seen every possible scenario and have helped thousands of people just like you safely to Portugal. Register for your currency account and you can get a clear idea of how much money you have to spend in euros.
Even more important, they will explain how to lock in your exchange rate as soon as your offer is accepted, to avoid the price of your property being taken out of your reach by exchange rate movements.
It’s not just about ensuring your property purchase is legally watertight. Your lawyer can advise on visas, if required, such matters as rental rules if planning to let out your Portuguese home, and much more.
4. Research before you leave
The more you can learn about buying property in Portugal before you go, the more you will get out of your viewing trip.
This isn’t just about how to search for property. Equally important is eliminating certain areas and homes. There is a lot you can do online. Google StreetView is a hugely valuable resource. If you find a property you like the look of, take a virtual stroll around the area. This may make you love it more, but could equally give you reasons why it’s not for you. Bear in mind, however, that it’s a snapshot in time, and won’t represent how the area looks at diferent times of the day or year.
But it might just mean that you don’t waste hours driving to a property next to a chemical works or pig farm. It’s about ruling things out to help you get closer to your ideal.
Inform yourself with adequate research and you can counter estate agent spiel. Remember, while the agents recommended by Your Overseas Home are honest, others may not be! On the other hand, existing residents will happily share that kind of information on online forums or Facebook.
5. Relax and take time for yourself
A viewing trip shouldn’t be something that runs at a hundred miles per hour. You need time to chat, think and digest. This is a powerful reason why the freedom of a self-organised trip is a good option for many.
Build in time to NOT rush around looking at properties, and to sleep on decisions.
6. Plan your time and route
Even when doing something as big and bold as buying a home in Portugal, a viewing trip needn’t be planned out like a military operation. That’s certainly not the Portuguese way, so it’s worth preparing yourself for nothing happening in a hurry!
However, it’s still worth having a plan for what you’ll be doing each day and – if you’re working with an estate agent already – which properties you’ll be able to visit.
If you’re organising your own trip, don’t assume you’ll just be able to turn up and be shown around every property that grabs your eye. It’s worth making appointments in advance.
Check out local holidays too, as different areas of Portugal can have different bank holidays.
7. Don’t feel forced to rush a decision
This is especially relevant to trips organised by resorts. If they’ve paid to fly you out, and wowed you with fancy meals and plush accommodation, they are doing to do all they can to see you “sign on the dotted line” before you fly back to the UK.
Don’t allow yourself to feel pressured, or guilt-tripped by their hospitality. You’re allowed to have time to think. In the majority of cases (though perhaps not all) the property will still be there once you’ve had a chance to get home, think and breathe.
8. Use your smartphone for notes, photos and videos
These days, most of us walk around with a smartphone that can take great photos and video footage. Make use of it so that you can have a good, unrushed look back through the properties you’ve seen.
This also gives you the opportunity to seek the option of others. They could include people buying with you, but unable to be present, and also friends and family. They may have valuable input, or suggest some questions that you didn’t think to ask.
9. Use the opportunity to build your network
Spending time over your property purchase in Portugal gives you a chance to build up your local network. If – as suggested above – you build some free time into your viewing trip to Portugal, you can use it to meet people and make connections.
For example, you could network with more estate agents, or have an initial meeting with a recommended solicitor. You could also get started on some admin like opening a local bank account or obtaining your fiscal number.
While you’re on a viewing trip, you could also think about connecting with some established overseas residents. People on online forums or social media groups are often happy to extend a welcome, and they will be a source of advice and (often strong) opinion!
10. Consider a follow-up viewing trip to Portugal
Buying a home in Portugal is definitely a life experience where you should enjoy the journey. That journey doesn’t have to happen at Mach 3.
You may wish to go on more than one viewing trip to Portugal, and that’s just fine. You may want to go on several, in order to discover lots of different areas of Portugal. There’s nothing to say you have to cover everything in one visit. Going back home to do further research, before returning with a more precise plan, could prove to be a solid approach.
The most important thing is to make sure your viewing trip to Portugal a pleasurable and safe experience. Whether you’re buying a permanent home or a holiday retreat, you’re likely to spend a lot of your future in the country. Take the time to live and breathe it.