House Hunting and Decorating in Portugal

By virtue of being a Boca Raton, Florida interior decorating consultant, I travel around the world to learn about international trends in home styles and decorating. I recently returned from a trip to Portugal, which is a lovely country with a fantastic array of housing stock. Over the last year, the housing market has been fairly stable. We’ve seen price drops of around three percent in the last 12 month along the Estoril Coast. However, in the southern coastal region of Algarve, prices have tumbled up to 15 percent in the last year. Besides Algarve and Estoril, vacation homes are also popular in the historic district of Lisbon.

Fancy Lisbon apartments go for about $603 per square foot, or €5,000 per square meter. In the Estoril town of Cascais, an ocean-view apartment can cost €4,500 per square meter, but villas will set you back about €6000/square meter. I spent a lot of time in Cascais, which is charming and clean. Foreign executives and officials from different governments who work in Lisbon are drawn to Cascais and its surrounding villages, in part due to the international schools situated there. There are expat communities for transplants from the US, UK, Brazil, China and Northern Europe. In contrast, the Algarve has seen an influx of people from Russia, Angola and Scandinavia.

Buying property in Portugal is no big deal – there are no laws preventing foreign purchase. The process is simple, and usually requires a down-payment plus about 7.5 percent in fees. The fees include a six percent transfer tax, plus miscellaneous costs for land registry and notary services. It is recommended that foreign buyers hire a local bi-lingual attorney – English-speaking lawyers are plentiful.

I fell in love with one house in particular – a five-bedroom villa on the Estoril Coast at Cascais. It has ocean views and a lovely coral-colored façade made of stucco which contrasts nicely with the surrounding volcanic hillside. Built in 1967 and renovated in 2010, the villa has six bathrooms and sports a traditional roof made of terracotta tile trimmed in white. When you enter, you are immediately smitten by the arched doorway leading to a foyer with carved stone pillars and a stone floor. The library has built-in shelves and a stone-faced fireplace, and opens onto a terrace. Stone stairways bring you up to main level featuring the kitchen, dining room and living room. Four of the bedrooms are en suite. Gee, if I had an extra $5 million, I might take a serious look at this villa. Bet someone else will beat me to the punch.