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Pretty Close to Perfect: Dream House

My idea of the perfect place to live in the Algarve keeps evolving. This property checks almost all of the boxes.

I'm part of a family of four - my wife Lisa, oldest boy Alex (13 going on 17), and Rowan (11). While all of these properties are currently out of our financial reach, I get a lot of pleasure from trying to find the perfect theoretical property. As we do our research, we are, of course, considering the property itself and its location. Naturally, we have a number of must-haves and nice-to-haves.


- Privacy.

- Gardens and trees (or at least the possibility of them). This, along with privacy, require a larger piece of property. I'm thinking a bare minimum of 1.5 hectares (almost 4 acres). We want to be able to walk around the place and also smoke without impacting a neighbour (this is an issue where we now live).

- 4 bedrooms and an office space. One for Lisa and me, one for Alex, one for Rowan, and a guest room. Five would be better, and six would be nice (studio, storage, workroom).

- Terraces. Bigger the better, with large shaded areas a must. We are partial to shade structures that feel rustic and traditional. There should also be terraces on multiple levels; rooftop is a nice-to-have. Rooftop with shade options is a nicer-to-have.

- Parking for two vehicles plus scooters/bikes.

- Some kind of water option outside. We all like cooling off in a pool, the ocean, or a stream, but Rowan in particular is a real Water Guy. Having something for him would greatly enhance his quality of life. I should mention here that Rowan has Downs and is also autistic, so things that make him happy are extremely high value for us. An in-ground pool would be ideal, but even an above-ground and/or a fair-sized hot tub would do it.

- 2 or more bathrooms. One bathroom must have a big soaker tub (Lisa and Rowan). It would be helpful if one has a walk-in shower.

- Large kitchen. Doesn't have to be fancy, but it does have to have two sinks, plenty of counter space, and lots of storage.

- Fireplace. Well, this is only 80% a must-have. It wouldn't break an otherwise perfect deal, but boy do we ever love a fireplace. Otherwise, some kind of safe exterior fire pit.

- Internet. And good, solid, fast internet. Cable we could care less about.

- No more than a 30 minute drive to important stuff. Less is better, of course, especially with regards to shopping and facilities, but we would want to be no more than a half hour away from the ocean.

So there you have the essential stuff. Now for the nice-to-haves:


- Separate living unit(s). There is at least one self-contained living unit with its own kitchen, bathroom, entrance, bedroom(s) and, ideally, its own (private) terrace. Big enough for up to two people to live in and up to four people to visit in short-term. Two (or more, but then we stray into B&B territory...) of these is better, with the second potentially being smaller and/or less fixtured (e.g, no kitchen or terrace).

- Bore hole. This is a kind of well that taps the water table and provides free water for irrigation (I believe it has to be regularly tested if it's used for human consumption). You pay for any water that comes in from off the property.

- Water features. We can include an in-ground swimming pool here (and I have a lot of thoughts about such), but this also includes things like fountains and managed streams. I love having running water around.

- Basement. Love a good basement. Nice and cool, storage, ping pong, etc.

- Room for animals. I guess you have room for animals almost by definition when you have around four acres. Certainly zoning for animals - chickens and dogs and whatnot. Perhaps a few goats.

- Traditional materials and style. I'm a sucker for adobe/plaster walls with high wooden beam ceilings. Also lots of curves and arches. Throw in a quirky nook and I'm there. Ditto curving staircases, skylights, and light-wells with large plants. Think rustic, but updated enough that it's efficient and easy to maintain. That leads us to the next one...

- Good Energy Efficiency Rating. As cheap as possible to both heat and cool. Which leads us to...

- Air conditioning. Central, that is.

- Pantry. I like a well-stocked pantry, Appeals to the prepper in me.

- Bidet. Always wanted one. And it would be sooooooo helpful with Rowan.

- Close to the ocean, with both good beach and cliff options. Proximity to the ocean is the ultimate metric when it comes to property in the Algarve, unless you are way up in the mountains around Monchique. The thing is, I don't mind a drive if there is something really good at the end of it. Being a Vancouverite, driving distances is pretty common. I'm used to it. And we are all bike riders (except Rowan, of course). I'm aware, though, that the above considerations put any such property a fair ways away from the ocean. Exceptions being multi-million Euro places that are not really our style or anything within remote range of affordability.

- Built-in irrigation. With a lot of plants and landscaping comes a lot of watering.

- Varied terrain. Flat areas, certainly, especially some flat lawns, but otherwise I like hills and grounds that meander.

- A view. Hm, can't believe me it took me this long to get to a view. But obviously a view is great. Ocean view, sure, but a rural/wild view is also great. The key is distance and, again, hills. Rolling hills covered in a combination of wooded and cleared areas, with perhaps some buildings here and there and the sea at the end of it? Hard to beat. In the absence of a distant view, a more immediate view of wooded areas is fine. The very last thing we want is a view of somebody's back yard.

I'm sure I will add to those lists as time goes by, though I can't imagine subtracting much.

A big part of the above bedroom/self-contained-unit consideration is the fact that we would like very much for my Mom to live with us. She's living by herself in a nice little place in a retirement building in Victoria, B.C.. She's got mobility issues (walker, scooter) so that has to be taken into account. While I know she would love the company, she is still a very independent person and a smallish attached/annexed apartment would suit her very well. Barring that, a room on the ground floor with access to the kitchen and a bathroom with a walk-in shower. If that did manage to take place, we would then want an additional room or something for guest/s. So that's a five bedroom, minimally. Plus an office space. Jeez, not asking too much here, am I? ;-)

What follows is a property that satisfies almost all of these conditions at a price that seems very reasonable for the present moment at 825,000 Euros. That's about $1,270,000 CDN. With fees and whatnot on top of that. It's very likely that property prices everywhere will come down over next the year as the market is impacted by the economic meltdown that is our current reality.

This property is hosted on idealista (soon to be the focus of their own blog post here), an amazing meta-listing service that covers Portugal, Spain, and Italy. That link takes you to the top page of their Portuguese listings in English. Do yourself a favour - spend some time with this site. Idealista is what got me started down this very pleasant rabbit hole. So versatile, so many properties, so many functions and filters and features. I love it.

This is the link for the property in question. Unusually, it is not represented by a real estate agency; looks like it's a private sale by a guy named Jorge.

Here are some photos from the idealista listing, used with no permission or authority:

Not too shabby. Please visit for more pictures and also for the quoted information below:

"Excellent renovated 4 bedroomed farmhouse with adjoining six bed roomed property. Currently a thriving family run bed and breakfast open for 12 years. Large pool 12m x 6m. Large garden in a beautiful rural area surrounded by orange groves."

"421 m² built, 420 m² floor area

- T10

- 10 bathrooms

- Land plot of 63,360 m²

- Terrace

- Balcony

- Fireplace

- Second hand/good condition

- Storeroom

- Orientation South

- Energy efficiency rating: B- (ECI not indicated)

- Swimming pool

- Garden"

As for location, find "Igreja do Poço Barreto, Silves, Portugal" on Google Maps and you are in the immediate neighbourhood (probably - more on locating properties on Google Maps later). That's 20 minutes to the beach, Praia dos Salgados:

It's a half an hour to Lagos, a great town to spend the day in. Really good for taking visitors, too, because some very spectacular cliffs, beaches, and caves are just 15 minutes walking distance from the town. Handy.

This is one of those beaches, what is sometimes called a pocket beach, Praia do Pinhão:

Here's a shot of a square in Lagos' old town. That green building is a small hotel run by a couple of sisters who treated Lisa and me very well in 2005. I'll have to look them up to see if they still own it:

The closest town to the property is Silves, also the name of this municipality. Ten minutes by car, an hour and 20 mins by foot. About the municipality, from Wikipedia:

"Silves is a municipality in the Portuguese Algarve of southern Portugal.[1] The population in 2011 was 37,126,[2] in an area of 680.06 km².[3] The urbanized area includes approximately 11,000 inhabitants. Silves is the former capital of the Kingdom of the Algarve and is of great historical importance.[4]",_Portugal

Silves looks very cool, with a strong Moorish influence and an imposing castle. The town has facilities and amenities. I can think of worse places to get my shopping done. I believe it's very important to examine this kind of stuff when considering a place to live - the closest place to get milk and bread is a big part of daily living, and it's a huge bonus if that closest place is attractive and has options. I can imagine having a falling out or something with the guy running the one grocery for miles - that would suck.


This property is clearly fantastic. It's got everything going for it - lots of land with gardens, trees, and space, many bedrooms including self-contained units, nice pool, great view, traditional style, high ceilings, fireplace of a sorts, decent Energy Efficiency rating, terraces. No bore hole is mentioned but I'm guessing there is one with a rural property that big with that many gardens and trees. Also no mention of internet, but it seems likely that it is installed given that the property is currently operating as a bed and breakfast. Not too far to the really good stuff like the coast and towns like Lagos, and really close to a great looking town for the day-to-day shopping. Two thumbs way up.

I should come up with a rating system for these places. Or maybe two systems, one for luxury places like this one, and one for cheaper places that make a lot more concessions on the must-have list. For now, let's make hammocks the rating system for luxury properties. So five out of five hammocks for this listing.

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