According to a report by Idealista, a leading Spanish real estate website, foreigners and ex-pats are flocking to five fabulous Portuguese cities in droves. It’s no wonder. Portugal’s not-so-secret attractions include a mild year-round climate, low cost of living, delicious cuisine, excellent safety record, beautiful beaches, and a natural environment.
Lisbon is in the lead as the most popular city, followed by Loulé, Albufeira, Cascais, and Porto. Luis Horta e Costa, a longtime player in the real estate investment space, is one of many locals who appreciate the charms of Lisbon, which is why he and his partners chose to found Square View there in 2016. The firm is a real estate property developer and asset manager.
To keep pace with the market, he says, “We must understand the size of the market in Portugal and the demand all around.”
Another enticement is the relative ease of gaining citizenship through Portugal’s Golden Visa program. In 2012, Portugal launched the Golden Visa Program, which made the country a hotspot for those who want to fast-track European residency through real estate investments.
Based on Idealista’s reporting on data from the second quarter of 2022, the five most in-demand municipalities non-residents seek to buy a house are Lisbon, Loulé, Albufeira, Cascais and Porto.
Lisbon, Portugal’s fashionable capital city, has erected new architecture since an earthquake razed it in 1755 – and it shows no signs of stopping. It must keep pace with demand: The city receives the most requests from foreigners searching for Portuguese property, led by North Americans. Brazilian, British, German, and French buyers follow in their wake.
Lisbon is welcoming for many reasons beyond its colorful cobbled streets, fine dining, and a history that dates back thousands of years. Lisbon is the place for foreigners who speak English since Portugal’s English proficiency is higher than Spain’s, France’s, or Italy’s. And even though it is a cosmopolitan city, real estate in Lisbon is less expensive than that of other European capitals of similar sophistication.
Two Algarve Coastal Hotspots, Loulé and Albufeira
Located in the Algarve, Loulé and Albufeira are the second and third municipalities that attract the most interest from foreign property seekers. The British topped the list, followed by French, German, North American, and Dutch buyers.
Loulé, an inland town on the Algarve, is where homebuyers can get away from the touristy areas and take in the local scene, which looks nothing like a tourist trap. Loulé is famous for its Loulé Municipal Market building, where a market offers fresh produce, tasty street food, and local crafts. Loulé’s historic center is a maze of narrow cobbled streets, making it feel untouched by time.
Hugging the coastline, Albufeira is populated by quaint squares, 18th-century churches, and the ancient remains of a Moorish castle. The white-washed town features a stretch of some of the best beaches in Europe, marked by rugged cliffs and the bright blue Atlantic Ocean.
Luis Horta e Costa and Others Adore Cascais
“Cascais is a very good destination,” says Luis Horta e Costa, and others agree. Cascais ranked fourth among Portuguese cities most popular with foreigners buying real estate. Americans are the biggest fans of Cascais, followed by Brazilian, British, German, and Spanish buyers.
A coastal town 20 miles west of Lisbon, Cascais was a traditional fishing village until the 20th century when its beautiful scenery eventually attracted the attention of artists, writers, and European nobility. Essentially the Portuguese Riviera, the region attracts people who enjoy the gorgeous beaches and activities such as sailing and surfing.
Even though it is attracting more bold-faced names in recent years – shoe designer Christian Louboutin is one of many designers who maintain a second home there – Cascais retains a barefoot luxury vibe.
Porto is Much More than Wine
Porto, Portugal’s second-largest metropolis, ranks fifth in foreign demand for property, with North Americans topping the list. They are followed by Brazilian, French, Spanish and German buyers. This hillside city, alongside the Douro River, is dotted with historic townhouses and Baroque churches, but it boasts a vibrant creative scene and modern nightlife. It’s also a hotbed of prize-winning red wines, fresh shrimp, fish soup, and that Porto must-have, sponge cake.
As foreigners continue to feel their pulses quicken about Portugal’s real estate opportunities, experts such as Luis Horta e Costa must understand what the market wants while introducing something new. He says he and his team at Square View work with architects and interior designers to create fresh takes on Portuguese architecture.
“If you give the market what they want – with the slice of good taste – they love it,” he says. “Our business is about giving people what they don’t know they want. But as soon as they see it, they love it.”
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