Building and renovating houses in Portugal

I have been a property developer (new build, renovate and sell) and have also ran a large construction business helping people achieve their dream property in Portugal.

Recently I have been reading a lot of forum comments from people who are in difficulty or having property related problems when buying, building or renovating a house. 

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Building and renovating houses in Portugal


May I share my advice and experience here?

Finding a truly dependable real estate agent in Portugal is very difficult for 3 reasons.

British and Dutch buyers tend to buy off British or Dutch agents based on language and culture not ability or dependability.

Portuguese agents market themselves to foreigners very poorly so we don’t use them.



There is also culture of “getting the highest price you can” and “telling the client whatever they want to hear even if it is a lie”

Tips for buying property in Portugal

Part 1


Think carefully about the location:  Location, Location, Location is often said but very few people do any research at all on the location of their property they just buy with the heart or for the lowest price.

If for example you’ve found a nice plot of land, property or ruin or old house it is absolutely crucial to understand what you can and can’t do to it.


Many people continue to erect yurts, cob homes or new buildings knowing that what they are doing is wrong but hoping that they can get away with it.

Make sure you’ll be permitted to build or enlarge if it is your intention, to increase the house size or build a swimming pool, etc. 

It is your responsibility so Don’t end up with a piece of rural land where you can do nothing but plant vegetables and whine on your way back to your country of origin. Telling people that you have been naive and ripped off falls on deaf ears.

Properties can be checked fairly easily through the local council or checking out the official documents (valid building license or official plans, topographic surveys and maps that prove the location is in a building zone).

It is vital to know for certain that the land you are being shown is actually the land or property that you are intending to buy.

Sounds strange – here is a typical and common scenario.

You see a old house with a detached ruin 3 meters from it. The land you are told by the owner/seller and the estate agent is a rough square in shape and goes from that olive tree to this one and down to the road. You can’t get to the olive trees because of the waist high brambles so take their word for it.

They say it is over 3,000 meters but is only registered at 400 m2 because uneducated granny didn’t know how big it was.

You buy the house and start clearing the brambles.

Neighbors come over when you have almost finished and say – “why are you clearing my land?”  They may even drag along a child who speaks a few words of English or most probably the GNR (police). Who will ask the same question? Why are you cleaning their land?


You say I am not! The land I bought goes from that tree to that tree and so on.

They then show you the stone markers set into the ground. Looks like they have been there forever (they may not have). They say these marks define the boundary of our land and yours.

Your land is now a rough rectangle not a square and only 600 m2 in size.

Immediately you think I have been ripped off. I am going to take people to court and get retribution.

1, You’re not in the UK now and this is not UK law. So don’t waste your money.

2, The locals can get together. They are probably related anyway and if they swear in court that the stones were always there. You are stuffed.

3, The estate agent, seller will say The land was only registered at 400m2 the buyer could see that in the documents and in fact he has gained 50% more land than he thought he owned. Once again you’re stuffed.


How do you prevent these things happening and spoiling your ambition of buying a place in Portugal.

First of all OPEN YOUR EYES no! really open them!


Pretend that you are moving to the worst area of your own country. What questions would you ask. What proof would you need and what documentation would you need to have copies of.

For some reason people moving to a new country NOT JUST PORTUGAL leave themselves wide open to making stupid decisions, trusting the wrong people and taking risks that can backfire in a bad way. (Ignoring planning permission requirements for instance.)


So what would this “know it all” do in the above situation to secure a happy outcome to the property purchase?

1, Know what you are buying. When I was buying a property a month as part of my property development business I used to insist that the land was cleared before I looked at it. Then I used a can of luminous green spray paint to paint the boundary stones as I was shown them. I also painted a circle on the ground around the stones so that I could see if they had been moved since I last saw them. I took photographs of the owner and estate agent at each stone. They hated it and used to squirm. At least the dodgy ones did.

I used to think of it as my “green can of truth” because you would not believe the number of times people would say. My brother told me that the boundary stone was this one I can’t be certain. Five minutes before the photograph they were absolutely certain!

Tell them to go and get their brother.

2, Make the seller register the true size of the land and provide a topographic survey showing the boundaries and boundary stones which the seller/sellers sign.

3, Make sure that your promissory contract covers all servantias/tracks or foot access across your land.

4, Make sure that your promissory contract names anyone or local land that has access to the well or water on your land.

Then there are the zoning and other government related things to know about which will be covered in part two if I have not put you off already.