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A Great Example of What Central Portugal Has to Offer

Moçarria, Santarém - 62,000 € - 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms - 208 m² built/2,360 m² plot - semi-restored in 1996.

During these crazy times, I often hear people (mainly podcasters, to be honest) expressing the view that finding a place to live that is significantly less crazy might be a good idea. I have been of the opinion for quite a while now that Portugal is a great place to consider for somebody wanting to get out of the rat race, simplify, and establish a lifestyle somewhere that offers security, culture, and the benefits of country life. In other words, homesteading at some level. I was initially attracted to the Algarve, but it's definitely pricier down there. Central Portugal though - bargains! As long as you are comfortable with relative isolation and are willing to learn some Portuguese, there are some amazing properties with really good value.

Of course, there are thousands of farms long neglected and featuring only ruined houses and cottages, usually small stone buildings with no roof. These properties can be remarkably cheap, but usually have strict rules about building and renovation. The trick is to find a place that is big enough and livable enough so that you aren't starting from scratch, have enough living space, and can slowly work on property improvements as you stay there. Location is, of course, also extremely important; proximity to a reasonably sized village or town, having a river or lake nearby, and, critically these days, not living in a high-risk wildfire area are key. There are other considerations as well: privacy, crops currently established, and agricultural infrastructure on the property, to name a few.

Keeping all that in mind, consider this place. It's fairly roomy with a 2,239 square feet interior, the reno work looks pretty solid and appears to still be in good shape for being 25 years old. The roof, in particular, looks really good to my untrained eye. That's one of the most significant expenses when taking on a project like this. The floors are done, the bathrooms aren't half bad, lots of storage, high ceilings. The kitchen is minimal and dated, but there is plenty of room for a nice one. I would want to put in a bunch of skylights and change those flourescents. All in all, the interior has some character and is completely do-able.

The exterior raises many questions, though. We don't get a very good look at the land, but it seems to be fairly flat. It's small at a bit over half an acre, but there is certainly room for a garden and there are at least a few trees. It's notable and unusual that a borehole/cistern is not mentioned. The exterior surfaces of the building need a lot of work, and from the pictures the layout is confusing.

But! The price is right at 73,225.10 USD and 96,020 CDN. The immediate environment looks fantastic, it's not a fire-risk area, major towns are close by (notably Santarém), the Tagus River is near, and it's only an hour or so to Lisbon. Fantastic!

The property is represented by RE/MAX Vantagem. From the idealista listing:

"Semi-restored 4 bedroom villa with 4 bedrooms, 2 W. W. , kitchen, living room, garage. It also has an ideal space for barbecue. Inserted in a plot with about 2360 m2.

Ideal to restore to your liking and create your dream home, taking advantage of all the calm of the countryside with open views.

Being just over 10 min from Santarém and about 1 hour from Lisbon.

Take advantage today and book your visit!"


One of the best things about this property is its location. The first screen grab from Google Earth, below, is the view as determined by the seller - "the owner prefers not to show the exact location but it's in this area." However, the ad specifies rua Principal, and that road has been indicated with a white "x." I have "walked" using Street View the length of rua Principal as indicated by the map, and have had no luck identifying the property definitively. There is one likely candidate, but there is not enough evidence to be sure.

- 10 minutes to Santarém Retail Park, a very large shopping complex.

- 20 minutes to the closest town, Santarém and the Tagus River.

- Less than 30 minutes to Almeirim, a small city

- Less than 30 minutes to Rio Maior, another town

- 30 minutes to Alpiarça, another town

- About 60 minutes to Praia da Foz do Arelho, a fabulous looking beach that offers both wild and tame waters

- About 60 minutes to Lisbon. I drive that far to see my in-laws!

Obviously, the area is very rural - pretty much all farmland. It resembles the Barrocal region of the Algarve (see my article about zones of the Algarve for some words about Barrocal) in that it is dry, with few trees, gently rolling, and ideal for agriculture. Limited trees mean fire risk is lower. Farms mean neighbours and a community. Being close to a river means opportunities for water fun during the hot months. Yet for all this bucolic splendour, there are many amenities with many retail choices quite close by. The Santarém Retail Park really is huge, a massive industrial park full of stores in warehouses, from the looks of it. I would imagine all your shopping could be done there very easily, from pet food to engine parts.

That proximity to Lisbon and the Tagus gives this area a long and rich history. From Wiki's entry on Almeirim:

"There are vestiges of mid-Paleolithic to Mesolithic period along the territory, including traces from Neolithic, Calcolithic and Bronze Age remnants.[4] The Iron Age also marked this region, with archaeological excavations unearthing settlements and artefacts.[4]

Roman legions of Décimo Junius Brutus occupied the territory, following the Tagus upstream and disembarking in Santarém, where they left their marks.[4] These, along with other groups, occupied arable lands, beginning in the first century A.D. This included the development of agriculture (particularly wheat and olive orchards) and raising of cattle, supporting the establishment of Almeirim along the margins of the Tagus.[4]

References to this municipality, began appearing in the 14th century. With rich lands, the territory supported hunting, extending to Santarém, and proximities of the Tagus and Lisbon.[4] This easy access, made Almeirim a preferred place for the Kings of the second Dynasty, and a winter place frequented by members of Corte, becoming known as the Sintra of Winter.[4] Almeirim, therefore, became an ideal place for relaxation, palace intrigue and romantic encounters in the royal gardens, mixed with resolutions of important negotiations.[4] "

Street View in the neighbourhood.

Photo Sphere by Paulo Cravo, probably.

The above screen grab is a beautiful shot of the Tagus River and the Ponte Dom Luís I. This view is about 20 minutes away by car.

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