Renting before buying is a popular choice for new arrivals in Portugal, and certainly makes good sense. It gives you a chance to ‘dip your toe in the water’ without making such a big commitment.
However, renting and buying property each have their own clear advantages and disadvantages. In this article, a long term British expat in Portugal explores some of them.
Renting certainly wins out when it comes to flexibility. It gives you the freedom to sample different areas for (for example) six months at a time, and even gives you the ability to bail out completely if your circumstances change, or if you decide that Portugal is not for you.
However, this flexibility does come with certain sacrifices, which we’ll explore now.
Choice of Properties
Perhaps surprisingly, you may find that renting seriously restricts the types of properties in Portugal that you can live in, especially in the Algarve.
If you want an apartment, you will have plenty of choice, but villas and townhouses are surprisingly thin on the ground for long term rentals, especially during the summer, and particularly if you’re looking for that typical ‘Portuguese dream’ property with a sea view and a pool.
The reason for this is that owners can achieve huge weekly rents for these homes in the summer months, and many will happily see them stand empty during the quiet season, as they know they’ll make as much having them full in July and August as they will renting them all year round on a long term basis.
Obviously you will always have more stability if you choose to buy a property of your own. Although tenants have plenty of rights in Portugal, you’re still slightly at the whim of the owner, who could decide to sell the property, for example.
It’s also worth pointing out that despite new legislation and licensing requirements, there are still plenty of Portuguese properties rented out on an informal ‘for cash’ basis. Don’t expect any legal protection if you take a risk on one of these deals.
If you’re arriving from Northern Europe, property will seem cheap in Portugal whether you buy it or rent it, but the fact remains that rent always will be ‘dead money.’ If you’re seriously committed to Portugal for the long term, you will want to time limit how long you’re willing to pay someone else’s mortgage!
Portugal’s coastal areas, particularly the Algarve, are changed by the seasons to an extent that will be unfamiliar to people from elsewhere in the world. Some Algarve towns have populations that multiply tenfold during the summer months.
So, if you hit the real estate agents looking for a long term rental in June, you’re likely to find very slim pickings, as owners will be keener to get the short term summer rentals in.
For this reason, the time when you move to Portugal may affect the choice available to you. Yes, renting is more flexible, but that benefit is negated if you arrive when nobody wants to do a long term rental. In this scenario, you may be better off buying a property – if you are ready and prepared, of course.