I am in the unfortunate position of looking for a long-term rental in The Algarve at a time when many landlords are eager to rent short term. The summer tourist season is just around the corner and rental prices triple at a minimum.
(Image Credit: Dmitry Tonkonog – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0)
Many expats, who need to have at least six months of accommodations lined up in order to qualify for a residency visa, rent or even buy a place sight unseen. I might RENT a place sight unseen for six months, but I’m very sure I wouldn’t BUY a place I’ve never set foot in. It was a bit of a leap for me to blindly rent for two months at a clip. I suppose if you have money to throw around, you might say, “Well, if we don’t like it, we can get another place once we’re there and either sell or rent out this one.” Must be nice.
I’m a tire kicker. I want to walk into a place, see if it actually does have “plenty of natural light” and doesn’t have a weird smell. I can look at a neighborhood using Google Earth, but until you’ve had feet on the ground, you don’t know what the surrounding area is really like. To be honest, you can’t really get a feel for an area for at least a week or two of living there. A lot of times we go with our gut instinct without knowing that’s what we’re doing.
Wants vs. Needs
And, having been in The Algarve for a few months, I have more specific needs and wants. I definitely need a washer; I now know not to expect a place to have a dryer. I do want an apartment or house that will have a place for me to hang my laundry so it will actually dry in a few hours rather than take a full day or more. Gas stoves and ovens are the norm here, so I want something that isn’t going to scare the shit out of me every time I go to light a burner. It would be terrific if the knobs actually had markings on them, even better if the markings align with some semblance of numerical values. I want a place on the ground or first floor (second floor in the US), or one that has a lift. Both of my Airbnbs so far have been on the third floor and while I am getting less winded while climbing the stairs, my left knee does not appreciate the workout.
Central heat is definitely on my list, but that may be a unicorn: I don’t know if it is something I will actually be able to find. I am already prepared to buy several space heaters if need be. Or fly someplace warmer for a couple of months in the winter. I’ll also stock up on warmer clothing. I expected to have to make some adjustments. This is one.
And of course, I am looking for an area where I can get to and from the shops on foot without climbing Mount Everest. Yesterday I found a street in Albufeira that was fairly flat and I damn near took a picture of it. The hillsides are beautiful and picturesque. I mean, there are castles on hilltops here! Real castles! That’s pretty amazing to this middle-class kid from New England. Except that I’m no longer a kid and climbing up to that castle will have me checking my phone apps for an Uber.
Craigslist Portugal Won’t Cut It
I am used to hitting Craigslist to look for rentals (or houses for sale, for that matter). The equivalent here is Olx.pt but the filters take a bit of getting used to. There are also sites like Idealista and Casa Sapo. It is recommended that you use a real estate agent to buy or rent and unlike the US, people will use several agents simultaneously. When in Rome, or in this case, when in Portugal, follow the customs. I long ago learned in business not to immediately question why people in an area or an industry do things a certain way. If you watch for a bit, there’s usually a pretty good reason behind it. So today I will start my apartment search in earnest by contacting at least one, possibly three agents for long term rentals in the town of Tavira, near the Spanish border.
Why Tavira? I have no idea. I’m trusting the instinct that led me to Portugal in the first place. But it’s also a certain clarity about myself. No matter where I go, there I am. I can be happy just about anywhere. Add a beach and I’m ecstatic. Warm weather and I’m good to go. Tavira fits the bill.
Portugal is opening up—lifting the travel restrictions that have been in place since I arrived. Next week I hope to visit Tavira for the first time. I may or may not be able to look at apartments but at least I will get a feel for the city and the neighborhoods. I don’t know yet if I am starting my search for a long-term rental too early; I need a place starting in June so I think my timing is okay. I might be starting a little late. It’s all a learning process for me and that’s fine. I became an expat to experience new things. This is one.