Sunny Portugal has seen huge price increases in recent years but you can still find cheap property if you know where to look in the country.
Portugal may offer bags of sunshine, more golf courses than you can swing a club on and long, sandy beaches but it has also gained a name for itself as pretty pricey and upmarket. In many of the established resort developments along the south coast now you won't get much under £350,000 (€505,000), so it seems that finding decent property for less than £80,000 (€115,410) is a tall order.
However, that isn't necessarily so. According to several agents I spoke to, there is still cheap Portugal property to be found - not just in beautiful rural locations but along the glitzy Algarve as well.
"People always think the Algarve is more exclusive and expensive than it actually is," says Connie Vitto of Quadrant Overseas Property. "Some areas are very high end but not all Portugal property is like that. If you want lots of facilities and golf courses you will have to pay a high price for them but it's not necessary. For example, I know of a good studio, large enough to be converted into a one bedroom flat, for £80,000 (€115,410). It just needs a lick of paint."
Vitto says that if you just want a small bolthole and aren't too fussed about amenities you can buy in many places along the Algarve, even in very central locations, for under £80,000 (€115,410). If you head further west towards Lagos or east towards Tavira, you will find more opportunities at that price. "A lot of people don't realise that even if you just go a few miles inland you can find lower cost property. The coast adds a 50 to 100 per cent premium."
Vitto has several value-for-money residences on her books, including apartments in a new block in the central Algarve with lots of great facilities, including a rooftop bar, mini-golf and children's play area from £74,000 (€106.755). There is also a one bedroom townhouse in the centre of bustling Lagos, in the western Algarve, for £60,000 (€86,558) and a one bedroom apartment in the same town with lovely views for just £45,000 (€64,918). Additionally she has a pretty two bedroom villa in the countryside of Raposeira for £68,000 (€98,099).
Another option, if you really want to be on the south coast, is fractional ownership, which allows you use of a property for several weeks per year at a smaller cost than owning outright. You lose the independence of sole ownership but often get a larger, swisher property with all amenities on tap.
Vigia has several fractional schemes at its luxury resorts on the western Algarve. A 12th share in a villa at posh Parque de Floresta golf resort, for example, costs from £25,000 (€36,000). Ownership also allows access to all on-site facilities, such as spa, pools and golf course. Meanwhile, a 12th of a three or four bedroom home in the similarly swanky Quinta de Fortaleza costs from £55,500 (€79,300).
Just like the Algarve, Portugal's pretty capital, Lisbon, is also somewhere that might surprise you. One of the cheapest capitals in Europe, Lisbon can even offer those with less money a place of their own. "If you just want a little base in the city you can buy cheap property even here," says Vitto. She has a tiny but perfectly adequate one bedroom apartment in Lisbon for £45,500 (€65,000), which she described as cute and in the heart of the historic centre.
Raise your budget a little and you could easily winkle out larger one or two bedroom places for around the £80,000 (€115,410) mark, but some may not have great views or will be in need of work. Vitto suggests good places to look are the Bairro Alto or Alfama, the centrally located old part of the city where she claims all the tourists want to be.
For those who can't bear to give up the seaside dream, then there is always the Silver Coast, which is becoming very popular with golfing developers but still has good prices. The region is around 45 minutes from Lisbon and Porto, which are both well served by budget flights and good roads make the driving pretty easy.
You might not be able to afford to buy on one of the big new resorts currently under construction in this area but you may be able to stretch to a local house. You can find cheap property but, again, you need to be prepared to look inland. "You can get renovation projects in the Silver Coast region for around £80,000 (€115,410) to £120,000 (€173,000)," says Vitto, who recently sold a lovely three bedroom property in this area for just over £80,000 (€115,410).
The only issue with renovations is that you need to be able to budget for the cost of the work involved in making the building habitable. One agent who knows this first hand is Kirstin Honeywill of Portuguese Homes, who works in the Alentejo region. The area is a vast rural part of central Portugal and, as well as selling property in the region, Honeywill is restoring her own ruin on 11 hectares of land.
"With most ruins you will need to spend at least €50,000 (£35,000) to bring them up to standard," she says, "but for £80,000 (€115,410) you can easily find ruins with lots of land and if you have at least five hectares it enables you to build a large house. For not much more outlay you can turn the ruin into a nice two or three bedroom home."
Honeywill says that she has seen an increase in people from northern Europe sourcing property in the previously unknown Alentejo. She thinks the interest comes from a combination of increased publicity, good roads and the fact that you get better value than elsewhere. There is also talk of a new airport opening towards the end of 2008 in the town of Beja.
Honeywill has a good selection of property on her books, including rural homes, village houses and seaside apartments for around £60,000 (€86,600) to £80,000 (€115,410). The town of San Luis is one place that seems to be soaking up the influx of foreign expats, mainly because it offers the benefits of small town, rural life with access to a good range of amenities and a close community.
From San Luis, you can be at the sea in 15 minutes. However, if you hanker after salt air and are prepared to go smaller, you can find apartments in the pretty town of Vila Nova de Milfontes for around £80,000 (€115,410) or less. Portuguese Homes has a classic one bedroom apartment costing €102,000 (£71,000). "You definitely get less for your money on the coast," cautions Honeywill, "but you have the advantage of being able to walk to the beach."
Another agent dealing with country property is Ricardo Rodrigues of Pinhal Rural, which specialises in the Alto Alentejo and Beira Baixa regions with their focal point being Castelo Branco, which is around two hours from Lisbon. This is a tranquil spot without any major industry, but people are starting to buy here.
Rodrigues says the majority of clients he has are looking for restoration projects at low prices that they can then spend more time and money doing up to their own specifications. He says that around €50,000 (£35,000) to €100,000 (£70,000) will get a ruin with up to 10,000 sq m of land but it is possible to go cheaper still. On his website there are small farms, country houses and apartments in local towns for as little as €30,000 (£21,000), though most projects are in need of major work.
Like Honeywill, Rodrigues estimates that you would need to spend at least €50,000 (£35,000) to get any of these ruins into a liveable state but then he says you could expect to increase the property value by at least double your initial outlay. "For a rebuilt house with land you're looking at €150,000 (£105,000) to €250,000 (£175,000) depending on size. There aren't too many properties in good condition on the market at the moment so prices for them are higher."
The peace and natural surroundings of rural Portugal certainly make it a special second home location and with Portugal property prices in some areas still so low we may see more Brits heading there soon.
Some information contained within this article may have changed since it was first published. HomesOverseas strongly advises you to seek current legal and financial advise from a qualified professional.