When I started this blog/website, the Pandemic had just started and I was only about four months into recovery. These two factors synergized into an almost obsessive interest in Portugal, and for quite a while that was the website's main focus. Because I had visited the Algarve a couple of times, that's where I initially directed my attention. For reasons I have explored elsewhere (The Questionable Ethics of Using Science Fiction to Research Real Estate), one of the main threads of that early website consisted of reviews of various properties in the Algarve that I found on idealista. This was real estate window shopping with a big side order of internet detective, and I got a real kick out of it.
I started out looking at properties that were on the expensive side, near the coast. That transitioned into properties that were more affordable (relatively speaking), and that meant further inland. Examining rural properties combined with my recent rediscovery of gardening (another side effect of recovery), which made me think about homesteading and the whole simple-life/back-to-nature thing. The fact that a Pandemic had gripped the globe added a survivalist/security aspect to it, and before long my focus had shifted to Central Portugal where there exists a growing population of expats who are pursuing varying levels of off-griddiness and a pastoral lifestyle. Property can be had there very cheaply; lots and lots of abandoned farms to choose from.
I no longer fantasize about moving the family to Portugal and establishing a Pandemic-resistant enclave, but I still very much enjoy learning more about the country and seeing what properties are on the market. The property covered in this post caught my eye for a number of reasons, high among them the level of finish and ready-to-move-in quality. I will quote from the lengthy idealista listing and return after it to discuss some of the details and considerations.
From idealista, via a private seller:
2 separate houses, the larger with 2 floors, 5 bdrms, 5 bathrooms,
"This lovely property gives buyers the rare opportunity to enjoy a unique occupation with separate guest accommodation, multiple family lives or even a great business opportunity.
The properties are located on an urban plot of 1.205 m2, which is completely walled and sealed, rolled on 3 sides by another 8455.00 m2 plot of agricultural land with several olive, oak and orange trees, and 2 wells.The urban plot incorporates a large parking area (186 m2) accessed by double electric gates from the off-road parking.Another pedestrian gate provides access to formal low-maintenance gardens, with several private play areas and a fully equipped kitchen / bar, a furnished fire place, several elevated decks, a swimming pool and a large circular sun-lounging patio adjacent to the 33'x 12 'pool.
Both properties were completely renovated in 2018/2020 to a very high standard and provide all the amenities for a life of comfort while maintaining many of the character's characteristics.
The main house has a front entrance hall, leading to an open plan 47 m2 L shaped living area, consisting of 2 living areas and a dining area.This room has a wood burner and 3 radiators.
The grand kitchen, accessed from the main living area through double doors, has a wide range of high gloss white cabinets fully equipped with multiple granite work surfaces.Zanuzzi Integrated halogen hob and oven, black glass hood, dishwasher and space for an American style fridge and has a separate pantry.
Through an additional door you enter a light and airy utility room with picture windows providing stunning views of the formal garden and olive grove, door to the rear of the property.
There is also a door that leads to a modern cloakroom with walk-in shower, wc, bidet and handbasin.
On the first floor there is a landing, hall, 3 double rooms, an open plan office, all of these rooms have wooden floors.There is also a family bathroom with large walk-in shower, wc, handbasin, heated towel rail and feature shelves.
The master bedroom is L-shaped, walk-in wardrobe, dressing area and a bathroom with toilet, shower, handbasin and heated towel rail.
The guest room benefits from a balcony overlooking the pool, sun terraces, with far-reaching views of Tomar and the surrounding countryside.
The third bedroom is another double with a view to the front of the property.
Adjacent to the main house is a completely independent two bedroom property.
Comprising a large lounge, open staircase to the gallery's landing, a double bedroom with en-suite, and vaulted ceilings with Velux windows.
On the ground floor there is a fully equipped kitchen, a large lounge / dining room with a fireplace and wood burner, a fully equipped pantry, a main bathroom, a large double bedroom overlooking the olive grove.Patio doors lead to a covered area, independent barbecue and gardens."
363 m² built
T5 (3 bdrm + 2 bdrm)
Land plot of 9,660 m²
Parking space included in the price
Second hand/good condition
Okay, let's have a look at this thing.
This property offers some very strong positives:
- Renovated 2018 - 2020. And it looks like a pretty good job, from the photos. I would want to know what kind of insulation has been added and what the houses' Energy Efficiency Ratings are (they are not given), but modern materials and the presence of central heating suggest houses that will not be traditionally freezing in the winter. This place looks move-in ready. While it is not mentioned, it can be assumed that the property is attached to the municipal power and water mains. It's also likely that internet has been installed.
- Separate houses. Having two houses makes the use of this property much more flexible and affordable. It can support two families, or a family with grandparents, or a family who uses the other building as a rental. The rental option is probably the least attractive option, as the houses are so close together and share the pool and terraces. I, though, personally love buildings that frame a kind of open courtyard, a shared space that offers privacy and community and the same time. The photo that heads this post evokes that feeling for me, a kind of coziness.
- Pool and outside living area. An essential part of the Portuguese lifestyle is spending time outdoors, and this property is clearly very well set up for that. The pool looks new, and presumably the attendant pump and filtering system is also new. Having a pool at all is a huge plus in the intense summer heat.
- Land. The amount of land is relatively small at close to 10,000 m², but that is more than enough for gardening and landscaping. The presence of two wells facilitates those efforts. I wish there were more photos of the plot, but what little there are show land that looks flat and groomed.
- Location. It's odd when it comes to location and the information provided in the listing. Unusually, the owner provides a specific address for the property but close examination of that address using Google Earth make it obvious that the address does not match up with the photos of the property. Some brief scanning of the area has not provided me with that delicious "Ah ha!" moment that makes searching for properties using Google Earth so rewarding. Let's assume for now that the property is somewhere nearby the address given. The following series of maps zoom in on that area.
Two things really jump out at me regarding this location. The first is the proximity to Tomar, one of the most historically significant towns in Portugal, and second is the immediacy of the huge lake created by the Castelo de Bode Dam (Albufeira da Barragem do Castelo de Bode).
Let's start with the lake, which was formed when the Zêzere River, a tributary of the Tagus River, was dammed in the late 40s by the impressive Castelo de Bode Dam. Having such a large body of water close by is invaluable when living in Portugal's interior. As mentioned on this blog many times, it gets extremely hot in the summer in this part of the world. Having easy access to water-based recreation makes any property a lot more attractive. It's also worth noting that this particular lake is very long, winding, and branching. Seeing it from the God's Eye view using Google Earth puts me in mind of a traditional Chinese dragon:
"“I left Tomar and Portugal with my mind ablaze.” Italian novelist Umberto Eco wrote these words in his 1988 novel “Foucault’s Pendulum” following his visit to Tomar, in central Portugal, in 1984. Mr. Eco traveled to the city to see The Convent of the Christ, a former hilltop convent that was once a castle for the Knights Templar, because it had been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site the year before."
From Lonely Planet:
"Tomar is one of central Portugal’s most appealing small towns. With its pedestrian-friendly historic centre, its pretty riverside park frequented by swans, herons and families of ducks, and its charming natural setting adjacent to the lush Mata Nacional dos Sete Montes (Seven Hills National Forest), it wins lots of points for aesthetics. But to understand what makes Tomar truly extraordinary, cast your gaze skyward to the crenellated walls of the Unesco World Heritage–listed Convento de Cristo, which forms a beautiful backdrop from almost any vantage point. Eight-and-a-half centuries after its founding, this venerable headquarters of the legendary Knights Templar is a rambling concoction of Gothic, Manueline and Renaissance architecture that bears extravagant witness to its integral role in centuries of Portuguese history, from the founding of Portugal as a nation state to the Age of Discoveries."
A number of the above photos of Tomar were taken by the amazing Vitor Oliveira, aka Portuguese_eyes; you can find his 219-photo Tomar album on his Flickr page, all of which he has donated to the Creative Commons, as he does all of his thousands of photos of Portugal. Broken down by municipality. Thanks, Vitor!
Tomar, the town, is the administrative seat of Tomar, the municipality, which is in turn part of the district of Santarém. For more on the municipality of Santarém, please see this post from October, 2020.
One could certainly do worse than having Tomar be your daily destination for errands, being both beautiful and only fifteen minutes away. There is also a grocery store in the immediate area, and a small industrial park with a building supply store less that ten minutes away. In terms of major destinations, Lisbon is under two hours away, and the coast is just over an hour away. Probably the closest beach destination is Nazaré, famous for its extremely big surf. A more relaxed experience can be had in the protected waters of São Martinho do Porto, "one of the most beautiful beaches in the country, a bay, shaped like a scallop, with calm waters and fine white sand" (Wiki), about 75 minutes away.
Further to location, if the property in question is indeed somewhere near the address provided by the seller, that particular area is relatively flat and only sparsely treed. Fire safety should always rank highly in one's considerations when buying land in Portugal; the lack of forest and woods in the immediate vicinity is a plus, here. Having such a large lake nearby doesn't hurt in this regard, either.
The above property is my current best guess as to where and what the actual property is. It's about a half mile from the address given, the m² area is almost bang-on, it has a pool, there is a two story house and a one story house, there is an interior courtyard, there are orderly trees, the main house is against the road. But! There are too many buildings; surely that many out-buildings would be mentioned in the ad. Also, the configuration of the buildings by the main house seems wrong, and the terrace paving looks wrong. The listing mentions two wells, but I don't see any. I don't know. Regardless, that's how much land is involved, about 2.4 acres. (***Edit, May 18: I don't know why I didn't walk past the above property using Google Street View. Duh. I just did, and this is absolutely not the property.)
Idealista provides a mortgage calculator. I calculated a monthly payment of 1.277 € with: a deposit of 50,000, a 30 year term, and a fixed rate at 1.7%. If two families are involved, or at least two parties splitting the mortgage, that's 635 € a month, plus bills. Say around 900 € per month, or $1,093 USD and $1,323 CDN. That is roughly equivalent to what we pay now for a three bedroom basement suite in Vancouver, and we have amazingly cheap rent.
I love it. All the thumbs all the way up. I will end this post with a few screen grabs from a walk in the neighbourhood using Google Street View. Click on any of them to be whisked away to that spot through the tawdry magic of Google.