My light obsession with cheap, rural property in Central Portugal continues to simmer quietly on the back burner. Symptoms include checking in regularly on a number of YouTube channels recorded in Castelo Branco, particularly those that have made real estate walk-throughs a recurring part of their content. These are Joseph at farmerforfun and Ken and Gina at OKPortugal, two channels that I have been following for a couple of years. Another symptom is the occasional glance through property listings, mostly Pure Portugal and, more recently, Imofactor Imobiliária - a real estate agency operating in Castelo Branco with some very inexpensive rural listings and a lot of videos on YouTube.
Back in June of 2021, I published What $150,000 CDN (or less) can buy in Central Portugal (turns out, quite a bit). We are due for an update now that 9 months have passed. I dropped the threshold down to 100K CAD (I just realized the abbreviation is CAD and not CDN - oops) just to make the offerings even more of a bargain and a stark contrast to real estate prices in my part of the world (that's 69,296.5 € and 78,739.0 USD). Before we get to that, though, here's a list of some of the other articles I've written about Central Portugal:
As always with an article such as this one, the properties listed will eventually be bought (hopefully) and their listings discontinued. I bring attention to them as a snapshot of what is available within a given price at a certain place and time. Also, I will be adding a few more to this list, focusing more on what is currently available, so check back soon.
Goat Herder's Paradise
€ 60,000 - 3 hectares / 7.4 acres - Fundão, Castelo Branco - (October, 2021)
- Hilltop agricultural land with amazing 360 degree views
- Good year-round water sources, including a large pond and a stream on the lower border
- Multiple access points
- Large, terraced pastures
- Stone ruin (granite) to rebuild, with pre-1951 habitation, about 56 m²
- Close to a village with many amenities
One advantage of purchasing a property that Joseph Marsh from farmerforfun has presented is that you get access to the resources and knowledge that Joseph has. He's been living on and running a cherry farm in Fundão with his family for almost seven years, is very well integrated into the local community, speaks Portuguese, would recommend local builders and professionals, and cheerfully point you in the right direction regarding almost any aspect of working Portuguese land. Another advantage is that he tends to show properties around Fundão, and that's a very scenic, watered, and fertile part of the country.
This particular property has number of features that make it very attractive at the price. Its elevation and position on a hilltop make the views hard to beat. 3 hectares is a goodly chunk, providing more than enough space to do whatever might want to do. You could plant a yurt or caravan almost anywhere in the upper two-thirds of this plot and have a great flat location with a fantastic view. Ready access to water from multiple sources is, of course, a vital advantage. The land is broken up into five large terraces that are ideal for grazing but have been used in the past for orchards, indicating that the land is fertile. Privacy is total, in as much as all the surrounding land is owned by the same guy, the owner of this property, and he lives elsewhere. Joseph recommends this man very highly as a neighbour (invaluable), and the owner has offered to clean the land for the new owner, including removing all the overgrowth covering the pond (a massive job that would cost a fair bit if you hired someone to do it). The stone ruin is sizable at about 56 square meters, and its pre-1951 habitation license pretty much guarantees that it can be rebuilt as a residence. In such cases, renovations can include raising the height of the roof to some degree, allowing the addition of a mezzanine or some fashion of a second floor. Finally, the relative ease of access and the property's location fairly close to a good and vibrant village are real assets.
On the down side, the property is very exposed with very little in the way of natural shelter or wind/sun shade. There are few trees on the land, consisting as it is mostly of open pasture. While it is certainly possible, even relatively easy to plant a couple of orchards and a vineyard, it would be many years before those started to produce in a meaningful way. Really, the land is probably best suited as it currently sits as grazing land for livestock - goats, sheep, or even horses - but there is no infrastructure for it and all of that would have to be built. That means barns, a water pumping and distribution system (also for irrigation) and fencing, and likely quite a bit of the latter.
Still, it's hard to beat that view.
So Many Olive and Cork Trees
35,000 € - 5.6 hectares / 13.8 acres - Rosmaninhal, Idanha a Nova - (March, 2021)
- Plenty big at almost 14 acres
- Extremely well watered with multiple wells, ponds, and streams
- Many mature olive trees and cork oaks
- Privacy is high, but with a couple of neighbours in the area
- Relatively close to Parque Natural do Tejo Internacional and the Tagus River/Spanish border
- Location is likely remote and sparsely populated
This listing is almost a year old, and the agency that listed it (Angariax) indicates that it's no longer available. I include it, though, because Ken and Gina from OKPortugal did a really thorough and comprehensive job documenting this property, and also because it was amazing value for the size and the quality of the many, many mature trees on the land. It also deserves inclusion here for the sheer volume of water saturating the property, so much water that parts of it are actually boggy. Of course, this video was made in March of 2021, after a wet winter, but having too much water in the winter and spring translates into having enough in the summer. With trends in climate change and the way this winter has developed in Portugal with unusually and extremely dry conditions suggests that having liberally watered land will be even more critical in the future. This place fits that bill very well.
The schist stone ruins are very ruined indeed, and appear to have been small agricultural support buildings. That generally means that even if they were restored, they couldn't be residences and must remain support/storage buildings. There is a good sized clearing amongst the cork oaks, though, near the small hill's summit where one could park a caravan or put up a yurt with very good privacy and partial views through the trees. Those trees, though - wow. Some of those cork oaks are large and, like oaks tend to be, full of character. I love a stand of big deciduous trees with a high canopy, and there is plenty of that here. The olive groves are definitely worth mentioning, too, as they are extensive and appear to be well maintained.
In terms of location, Rosmaninhal, Idanha a Nova is pretty remote and sparsely populated. It's on the eastern border of Portugal with Spain in the district of Castelo Branco, bordered by the Tagus River, and containing much of the Parque Natural do Tejo Internacional, or Tagus International Natural Park. Coincidentally, one of the properties listed below (the Writer's Retreat) is also being in the vicinity of the Parque Natural do Tejo Internacional. There's something about Idanha a Nova, though, and it shows up again in the next listing.
Two Mountains Farm
€44,500 - 4.95 hectares / 12.3 acres - Idanha-a-Nova, Castelo Branco - (Available as of Feb 21)
"An agricultural building with 40m2.
Land with 4.95ha, a well, cultivable area, olive grove and several trees such as holm oak and cork oaks.
Quiet and sunny place. Privileged views over the Gardunha mountains and the Serra de Estrela. Ideal for those who want a glamping or ecotourism project.
Located in the district of Idanha-a-Nova."
Short on details, but the photos look amazing to me. The land seems interesting in a way that I find very appealing. This is some ineffable combination of slope, flat, trees, water, boulders/exposed rock, places with shade, views, and a kind of meandering quality that results in a bunch of settings. I know it when I see it, and these photos make me want to spend a few days poking around, finding quirks. But perhaps that just me. Regardless, the listing is very short on details, and it's maybe notable that the closeness of mains power and water is not mentioned. Also notable is that the ruin is not included in the photos.
The general location, Idanha-a-Nova, is a place that has caught my eye before, when I was researching my article on Castelo Branco district. To quote myself after listing a bunch of properties in that article, "Hm. An Idanha-a-Nova pattern is emerging. This municipality is as east as you can get in the district, barrocal, low fire risk, close to the mountains, some water recreation options. I like." If the location on the map provided by the listing on Pure Portugal is anything to go by, the property is close to both the city of Castelo Branco and Idanha-A-Nova, 20 minutes in either direction by car, which offers a lot in terms of choices and amenities.
Unique Slice of Hobby Farm
30,000 - 1.4 hectares / 3.45 acres - Fundão, Castelo Branco - (Available as of Feb 21)
- 3 terraces and section of sloped native forest
- Mountain-fed spring at the top of the land, with tank, and access to a trout stream at the bottom of it
- Approximately 5 km to Fundão
- View of the Serra da Estrela, or Star Mountains which I believe they are never referred to as
- A few dozen or more of mature olive trees, plus other trees such as chestnut, cork oak, pine, and madrone (aka, the strawberry tree)
- Extremely ruined stone ruin to reconstruct
- Currently 3/4 overgrown with brambles and bushes and in need of a serious cleaning
- The back of the property abuts onto a nature reserve
I'm adding this property to this article on Feb 21, Joseph having just dropped his farmerforfun video presenting it on YouTube.
I think someone with a limited budget who wants a small off-grid hobby farm in a beautiful part of Central Portugal need look no farther. It has everything you need in a 3.5 acre rectangular slice up the lower slope of a mountain. It has decent access, 3 terraces on the lower half and native forest on the upper half, spring-fed water and access to a sizable stream, enough olive trees to produce oil for yourself, room for a big garden, chickens and a few goats, areas with privacy while having neighbours around 300m away, a fabulous location only 5 km to Fundão, and all of it recommended by Joseph who will ensure that you have access to everyone and everything needed to get the plot up and running. He makes no mention of mains power, so it's safe to assume that there isn't any. I also don't think he mentioned the orientation to the sun, but given the Serra da Gardunha are most likely behind the property, the slope is probably north-facing. That orientation gets the least amount of sun, which is probably a good thing during the hottest summer months but less good for solar energy.
It should be noted that the bulk of the property hasn't been worked for many years, meaning that 3/4 of it is very overgrown with brambles and bushes. Most of that can be cleared out with a tractor, and Joseph assures us that he knows locals who could get it done in under a day. The ruin is very ruined indeed, and any plans to rebuild would be a long-term project depending on how the building is categorized and licensed. There's plenty of room for a yurt or a caravan, though, while the matter of building permissions is being sorted out. The lower terraces with the olive trees have been maintained to some extent, meaning the trees are in good shape and need only minimal pruning.
Really, the biggest issues with this property is that of power and the fact that it contains no infrastructure beyond a tank that is fed by a spring near the top of the plot. If the land is indeed north-facing, the only place I can think of to plant a solar array is on the lower terraces. That would be workable but not the most aesthetically pleasing solution. It would also probably be necessary to put in a water distribution network if one doesn't already exist; such an irrigation/delivery system would likely be worked by primarily by gravity, which is a pleasant side-effect of physics.
If I was in a position to buy, I would seriously think about this one.
€ 29,000 - 5.5 hectares / 13.6 acres - Malpica do Tejo, Castelo Branco - (Reserved)
- Large property at 13.5 acres
- Hilltop location provides panoramic views
- 4 water sources (dams/ponds)
- Property is largely uncultivated and wild
- Very small, one-room cabin that looks move-in ready
- Some solar panels
- Large, covered porch area and covered parking
- Privacy very good and very isolated
I believe this listing is currently reserved, which is not surprising given the amount of land for the price. The agency, Imofactor, is still quite new to me. They have walkthrough videos on YouTube (which is how I found out about them) as well as listings on the internet, but they often leave something to be desired when it comes to details.
On the plus side, the plot is large, has great views, is supplied by multiple water sources, and is surmounted by what looks like a well-appointed, small, one-room cabin that is insulated and completely off-grid. If one was looking for a writer's retreat, this would be perfect, assuming that there is the ability to connect to the internet (not specified in the listing). My biggest question would be regarding the property's classification; in other words, would you be allowed to build on it? My gut tells me probably not, given the wild state of the land at present, the surrounding agricultural/silvacultural activity, and the fact that the property is located within Tagus International Natural Park. I think that this might be a challenging place to live if building on it is not possible. The cabin is super small, and there is nowhere else to go on what is a very exposed piece of land when it gets stormy or very hot. I suspect there is a reason that they built berms on two sides of the cabin, with that reason being for protection. I also suspect that this is at least part of the reason that the price is so low.
Another possible reason is the isolation, which appears to be profound. Here's a screen grab of the area from Google Earth, and it's pretty empty:
The other thing that leaps to mind when looking at terrain like this is the risk of wildfire. Steep hillsides covered in trees, particularly farmed trees, provide conditions that wildfires like a lot. Were I a Buddhist who had bought this place as a spiritual retreat, or an academic who is studying native species, or a novelist cranking out their fifth zombie romance, the very first thing I would do is devise some kind of mobile water delivery system that could handle the sloped terrain.
A Little Bit of Everything
€ 45,000 - 2 hectares / 4.9 acres - Fundão, Castelo Branco - (Nov, 2021)
- Practically 5 acres
- Excellent views
- Multiple water sources: water mine and access to a groomed stream
- Mains power available
- Stone ruins to rebuild
- Mature olive trees; forest with local species; pastures
- Very high privacy
- Village nearby
This is an older video of Joseph's, from November of 2021, so I expect this property has been snapped up by now. Still, it's a lovely example of the kind of potential that can be found in this corner of the world for a very reasonable price. € 45,000 works out to about $65,000 CAD, and about $51,000 USD. A Canadian with a $100,000 budget would have more than enough left over to outfit such a property completely with a yurt and all the tools and equipment necessary. As someone who lives in Vancouver, where the last million dollar property was sold about five years ago, the idea that one could get set up completely and comfortably on five acres of scenic, varied, private, and workable agricultural land for $100,000 is mind-boggling.
One aspect of buying a property like this one that features a stone ruin is the matter of rebuilding it as a place to live. Now, Joseph is a terrific resource with ties to builders in the local community that he has personally had success with. He is also an optimistic romantic, and my impression is that the combination of the two results in a glass-half-full approach when he discusses such renovations. Almost all of the evidence that I have seen via various YouTubers and online discussions suggests that even if the builders are reliable, skilled and timely, this is still an immense project to take on that will consume a lot of time and money. To get a very thorough and detailed vlogged account of the process of converting an abandoned stone ruin into a traditional Portuguese-style home, please check out Bee and Theo's ongoing efforts at The Indie Projects. So. Much. Work. Finally, while the evidence is purely anecdotal, finding reliable builders who will finish the job in a timely manner appears to be the exception and not the rule, at least when it comes to some of the YouTube channels I follow. Just be aware as you begin such a project that your projected timeline is likely far short of the reality, and there is a chance that you will be completing the work yourself. Always keeping in mind, of course, that these words are coming from a guy who has no direct experience in such matters. I can only speak based on what I've seen others have done.