The Best Place to Buy in the Sun
As confidence returns
The Algarve still holds the top spot as the best place to buy in the sun. There is evidence of much local development – with considerably more in the pipeline – but fortunately nothing like that in other so-called ´second-home hotspots´. The region remains a very attractive place to live, with one of the world´s best climates, a friendly populace and remarkably unspoiled countryside. The new roads that have dramatically improved communications have not spoiled the unique, quiet, laid-back atmosphere.
The Algarve is definitely over the sales lull caused by the recent world recession. Bargain properties have been snapped up and property prices are on the increase due to increased demand from the over taxed French and Italians and of course disillusioned Brexit Brits. There are literally thousands of people looking to buy a home in a better climate, either as an investment or as a semi-permanent home. Read a bit more here on our blog.
Turkey, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Balkans, seriously?
As confidence returns to the world markets, the Algarve is in a better position than most to reap the benefits. Consider some of the alternatives
Turkey has not yet joined the EU, probably never will and faces turbulent times over Muslim agitation, coups and recent aggression with the Syrian Kurds,
Cyprus is half Turkish and very close to Lebanon and other Middle Eastern trouble spots. The last time trouble erupted there, refugees were shipped to Cyprus. The more recent "Bank Grab" by the collapsing government and economy has put paid to any interest in securing property in Cyprus. In addition, visiting other countries and cultures can be difficult when living on an island. Bulgaria would appear to have increasing problems with the local mafia and the big bear, Russia, is again flexing its muscles over former territories. The states that comprised the former Yugoslavia do not yet seem totally stable – old rivalries continue to simmer under the surface.
Spain, I don't think so!
Apart from Majorca, where property is now extremely expensive, the Spanish market is still in trouble. Rampant over-development and ´pressure´ off-plan selling of tens of thousands of apartments, which owners now cannot sell on even at a loss let alone the original price, have taken a toll on confidence. Stories of countless homes bought by the British, which turn out not to have had planning permission, still abound. Many people face the threat of eviction and demolition. Many Brits who bought in Florida cannot sell their properties in a market that is now deeply depressed. For those who live there the ever-present threat of hurricanes, notwithstanding Trump, is very worrying.
Against this background the Algarve is heaven-sent. Now, before prices come under inflationary pressure, could be the right time to buy.
Moving to the Algarve
Wherever you look, the colours of the mountains and sea are always with you, creating the impression of a water-colour dotted with highlights of gold, green and blue. The region is an extensive and pleasant one, with a Mediterranean climate, marked by the smell of the sea at low tide and the scent of wild flowers. A stroll through the tangled web of narrow streets, alleys and steps to be found away from the coast is the best way of getting to know this part of the region. But you can also easily lose yourself in the vastness of the coastal strip. Here the backdrop is composed of some of Europe's most beautiful beaches, from where you can admire the rocky coastline and the playful shadows they cast on the sand.
After the enchantment of the landscape, you can discover the aromas and flavours of the traditional Algarve cuisine. The menu may consist of fish and shellfish, with such dishes as caldeirada de peixe (fish-stew) or cataplana de amêijoas (clams steamed in a copper pan), or you can enjoy the traditional mountain food of wild boar and porco preto. The range of choices will also include the famous regional delicacies, such as figs, almonds, carobs and the brandy made from the locally grown medronho (arbutus-berry), distilled up in the hills in old copper stills.
As you travel across the Algarve, amidst its hills and plains filled with places of great ecological interest, rich in biodiversity and ecosystems, you will feel as though you are passing through an area full of different traditions, unchanged for many centuries. The handicraft is skillfully manufactured by the local craftsmen, who make use of longstanding, ancestral techniques and produce an excellent range of pottery, woven baskets, copper and brass articles, or other pieces made of linen and jute.
Only a step away from the tranquil peace of the inland region is the excitement of the Algarve nightlife. Bars, discos, marinas and casinos guarantee visitors the very best kind of merrymaking. The region's built heritage is something you cannot afford to miss. The architecture of the whitewashed houses, with their brightly coloured moldings and remarkably beautiful chimneys, the church belfries and the museums, all reveal particular memories of the ancestors of the Algarve people and help to make this such a special destination.
Also to be recommended is the range of outdoor sports that are available, whether you're playing golf on lush green courses or enjoying some physical exercise at some of the region's excellent facilities, whether you're on the coast or perhaps up in the hills, where, after the rigors of winter and even before the first signs of spring, the land is covered in a pinkish white blanket, produced by the blossom of the almond-trees scattered across the horizon. This is the true portrait of an Algarve that you'll find waiting for you, all year round.
The Serra de Monchique
There are an abundance of villas and apartment in urbanisations along the Algarve coast, this type and standard of living may suit many tastes but if its privacy and space you are after then the best and probably only option is to move inland away from the hustle and bustle of the crowded areas. You guessed it, one of the most popular and sought after areas is the Serra da Monchique. It covers a vast area and is strictly rural and offers the quicker though more costly option of buying an existing good quality home. Prices of these are influenced not only by size and condition but by the view. The most desirable properties occupy prime sites on the south-facing slopes between Monchique and Marmelete below Foia, and in the vicinity of Alferce and Fornalha below Picota. On clear days they look down over a broad stretch of distant shimmering sea. On hazy days, layers of foothills fall away into the blue and purple yonder as in a Chinese painting.
The alternative is of course to build from scratch, however the law does not allow to build on rural land unless there is already a house there in the first place, this is why people buy old deserted ruins so that they can be demolished and have their dream home replace it.
Ruins suitable only for demolishing and rebuilding are now scarce anywhere on the Algarve coastal plain or the so-called ´Barrocal` band between the coast and the hills. Those that exist usually come with silly price tags or cannot be sold because they cannot be extracted from multiple ownership under Portugal´s laws of inheritance. In the Serra de Monchique, however, many ruined properties are still available at reasonable prices.
A Local estate agent Susana Barreira has sold about 200 ruins for development and says it is a myth that they nearly always come with complications – not in the Monchique district anyway. She says that ruins in Monchique have generally doubled in value, or even trebled in select places, over the last five years due to demand for building new homes.
Every ruin can be demolished and rebuilt and the right to do this does not diminish with time. “To make an investment now and build later secures the land at today´s prices,” says Susana “I can´t tell you how many times we have heard the words “we wish we had bought a ruin years ago”. If you invest in the Algarve now, whatever you decide to do, you have an asset which is going up in value and is far more profitable than cash on deposit and certainly without the risk of the recent bank collapses and the stock market gamble.”
Although there are always local planning restrictions on size and style when rebuilding, the Monchique municipal council has the reputation of being more tolerant and helpful than most. Still, there is no point in buying a ruin without being prepared to eventually go through all the proper design and construction stages under the guidance of qualified professionals. Rule out, for example, dreams of a DIY log cabin that nicely blends in with the natural surroundings at little cost. Wooden structures for habitation still require full planning permission the same as a conventional house. Even so, buyers need not feel out on a limb up in the hills away from the Algarve´s main urban centres. There are fully-licensed, professional estate agents, lawyers, architects, project managers, engineers and builders close at hand to help. A total rebuild can usually be accomplished in 18 months from purchase and a major renovation in half that time.
Monchique expatriates, who have seen what is happening on the mountain slopes outside places like Los Angeles, Vancouver and Cape Town, feel the Serra de Monchique may be on its way to becoming “ Upper Algarve”, a reference to more than just its geographical elevation.
However, the Serra de Monchique is not yet deemed to be sufficiently posh to warrant prices as high as those being asked along the coast. Up-market properties with three or four bedrooms are mostly in the 400,000 – 900,000 euros bracket, but you can pick up an old ruin for as little as 50,000 euros or a modern mansion for as much as 1.5 million euros or more.
Few expatriates who move into the hills move out again, except in dire personal circumstances.
Of the future, there is talk – and that is all it is at present – of creating golf resorts in the hills. That´s when some of the Monchique purists may start campaigning not just for a sprinkling of irritating traffic lights, but for stop and diversion signs galore.