When planning to immigrate to Portugal, one of the first tasks you have to solve is finding housing. The most popular option for many immigrants is still a long-term apartment rental, and this is what our article today is devoted to.
Is it possible to rent an apartment on your own without Portuguese language proficiency? What should you pay attention to when concluding an agreement and what can be the pitfalls in a long-term rental in Portugal? We will talk about this in more detail in the framework of this article.
Why is it profitable to rent an apartment in Portugal?
In the article about comparing the advantages of buying your own home in Portugal with long-term rent, you can read about the economic benefits of buying your own home in the country. And this is true, but I would like to emphasize several factors that make long-term rental the most optimal and profitable option for almost anyone in 2022.
Just think about this:
- We live in a turbulent time when it is just impossible to build long-term plans. I think it is unlikely that in 2022 anyone can argue with this. In 2020, the world felt that everything was changing tremendously, and severe shocks constantly arose that made long-term planning ineffective.
For example, the tourism sector in Portugal has been flourishing for a long time, but with the advent of the pandemic, many small tourism businesses, hotels, restaurants, etc., simply could not stand the new reality and, unfortunately, did not survive. In this regard, it would be strange to come to a new country and immediately buy housing, tying yourself to a specific place, because none of us already knows and cannot imagine what will happen in six months or a year, and perhaps there will be no need in your purchased apartment.
- It is very difficult, or rather, almost impossible, to choose a city and area for permanent life if you are unfamiliar with the country and have never tried to live here. The probability of making a mistake is almost 100% because without having lived in a particular place, you do not know whether it is suitable for you or not. Of course, you can read all articles about Portuguese cities on our website and watch many videos on Youtube, but it doesn't compare to your personal experience.
For example, Cascais is very popular on the Internet and social networks, but, frankly, this place is not suitable for everyone, and you will understand this very quickly after living there for at least a couple of weeks, not to mention the highest prices for rent and purchase housing in this area. From this point of view, buying property in a place where you have never lived and experienced it for yourself would also be strange.
The two points above make the option of renting an apartment the most optimal, because firstly, having rented a house, you can always leave it (after the end of the agreement) if you don’t like the area or city. Secondly, if you decide to leave Portugal or urgently need cash (for example, to create a business), you can always do this without being financially and physically tied to a particular place.
So renting an apartment in Portugal is a flexible and the best option, especially for the first time, when you have just arrived in the country, and you need to settle here, get to know different regions, cities, and districts, and only after that make a purchase decision.
Can I rent an apartment in Portugal on my own?
Sure, you can if you speak English or Portuguese. In English, it may be enough to communicate with landlords in large cities (in Lisbon or Cascais).
If you don't speak Portuguese, there is a very high risk that many homeowners will not be able or will not want to communicate with you, especially if you are looking for affordable housing in small Portuguese cities.
Often in social networks, you can see a recommendation that you can communicate with homeowners even remotely, using Google translator. However, this advice seems rather strange to me because it is essential to understand that renting apartments in Portugal is most often accompanied by a one-year contract, which means that you cannot live in an apartment for a couple of months and then move out because you just didn’t like it (more precisely, you can leave, but you will need to pay for housing until the end of the contract). That is, by signing a rental agreement, you undertake to pay for housing for at least a year (the conditions will depend on each specific agreement), and if you want to carry out this process using Google translator, then the choice is yours, the main thing is that you understand the corresponding risks.
If you decide to look for an apartment for long-term rent in Portugal on your own, then we suggest using the following sites:
- Bquarto – I advise you to pay attention to this website. Although it is not widely known, it is often used by older people who cannot even upload pictures to the Internet. Therefore, sometimes you will see ads without a photo, just a phone number. If you speak Portuguese and have the time, it is worth checking out these ads. Sometimes you can find very decent accommodation for reasonable money, just because people skip ads without pictures. At one time, this is how I was able to find a perfect apartment in the Cascais area at a price below the market.
- Uniplaces – this portal was created specifically to help international students who do not speak Portuguese find accommodation in Portugal. Now, this site is already working for the general public, not just for students, and it has several advantages. The main advantage is that you do not need to communicate with the landlord. This is done for you by the portal itself (which is essentially an intermediary). You can book a room or an apartment in a couple of clicks, and if you need supporting documents (for example, for a visa or entry into a country), the site will also provide them to you. Yes, the prices on this website are higher than if you search for accommodation through private listings, but it is safer, and you do not need to speak Portuguese to find an apartment.
- Airbnb – although this portal is aimed at tourists, if you do not speak Portuguese and cannot find an apartment for yourself for the first time, then you should consider this website as a temporary option (for example, rent an apartment there for a couple of days or weeks, so that during this time personally go around other apartments and rent something for permanent staying).
- Booking - with this portal, the situation is the same as with Airbnb.
- Flatio – this website is very similar to Uniplaces, because on it you can very easily book accommodation for several months without a deposit and the need to communicate with the owner of the housing.
If you decide to look for an apartment for long-term rent in Portugal on your own, then remember that at the moment, the demand significantly exceeds the supply, so do not be surprised if the homeowners do not answer you because often they have a queue of people who want to rent their apartment.
In any case, seek the help of real estate agents in Portugal or consultants, or accompanying, or just your friends who have been living in Portugal for a long time. From the point of view, it would be beneficial that you would enlist the support of a person who speaks Portuguese and is well versed in the area, which means he can help you negotiate with the owner in a quality manner, getting the most beneficial conditions for you.
Concluding an agreement to rent an apartment in Portugal
Well, you have already found an apartment, and you are ready to conclude a rental agreement, which is very important because this document will serve as an official confirmation of your residence (the same “registration”) in Portugal.
If the homeowner does not want to conclude an official agreement, which he will have to register with the tax authorities, it hardly makes sense to deal with him because that can create many problems for you.
The lease agreement is concluded in writing, and, in principle, this procedure can be carried out remotely if you are outside Portugal. However, in this case, you will need to have a Portuguese tax number NIF and an open bank account in a Portuguese bank.
For the personal or remote conclusion of a rental agreement, you will need the following documents:
- Identification document (for example, passport)
- Portuguese tax number NIF
- Open account in a Portuguese bank
- Proof of your financial solvency
The fourth item on this list is especially problematic for those just planning to immigrate to Portugal.
If you have been living in Portugal for a long time, then you will be asked to provide the latest tax IRS declaration, employment contract, and payslips for the last few months (if you are employed), or your account movements and invoices for the previous 3 months if you are an individual entrepreneur. Sometimes all these documents, even for the Portuguese, are not enough to rent an apartment, and then the owner of the property may require the involvement of a guarantor (fiador in Port.), who will vouch for you and pay the rent if you cannot pay it. The guarantor will also need to provide documents confirming his financial solvency, and as you understand, only a very close person or family member who trusts you 100%, has Portuguese citizenship or residence and will pay rent for you in that case if you can't do it. So even the Portuguese find it challenging to find a guarantor, not to mention immigrants, who often do not have anyone in the country who would be ready to vouch for them financially.
What to do if you are arranging to come to Portugal and you do not yet have (and at the initial stage cannot have) Portuguese documents confirming your financial solvency?
In this case, the only option would be to negotiate with the owner of the apartment, and it is for this reason I question the possibility of having any serious negotiations with the landlord through Google translate. You can provide a certificate from a Portuguese bank with an extract from your impressive balance as proof of your solvency. You can give data on your website, company, and statements from foreign banks, and if you are the owner of a real working business, then all this evidence can be accepted by some owners.
If that doesn't work, the only way to prove you're financial reliability is to pay for many months upfront. How many months it will be will ultimately depend on the success of your negotiations. I know real cases when people signed a contract for a year and immediately paid for the whole year. Of course, this is the most beneficial for the homeowner (since his risks, in this case, are practically zero), but not everyone may have money to pay rent for the year. In this case, you need to bargain and negotiate, providing evidence of your solvency, and perhaps the landlord will make concessions and ask you to pay for only 3, 6 months, etc.
Actually, at least for such negotiations, it makes sense to resort to the help of real estate agents in Portugal, consultants, or accompanying who speak Portuguese and will work in your best interests.
Most often, the term of a standard contract is 1 year, but it may vary, so read the terms of the contract carefully.
It is essential to understand that if you have signed a contract for one year, you cannot move out of the apartment at any time because you are required to pay rent until the end of the contract. Some contracts may state that you can move out after 9 months (in the case of a 1 year contract) without additional fines, but in theory, special conditions may be stipulated in the contract.
I personally, an author of this article, always negotiated in such a way that the homeowners included in the contract a clause stating that I can move out at any time without fines, warning about this 1, 2 or 3 months in advance. So, yes, homeowners did not immediately and very reluctantly agree to this, but because I am fluent in Portuguese and have been learning negotiation techniques all my life, I have always been able to do this, which means the inclusion of this item is possible.
Nuances of long-term apartment rental in Portugal
If you have no idea what the real estate market for renting apartments in Portugal looks like, we will give a shortlist of the nuances adopted in this country.
- Furniture: most likely, it will be absent, and most of the advertisements for renting apartments are just painted naked walls, where there is no furniture, but only a kitchen (although it also happens that there is no refrigerator in the apartment and you have to buy everything yourself). Sometimes, the apartment may already be furnished, but most often, it is assumed that the tenant himself will buy all the necessary furniture. Even if the apartment does not have furniture, it is always worth talking to the owner, and most likely, he will have a sofa, tables, chairs, and other old furniture that he will be ready to provide. Just as I managed to beg for a whole set of dishes and kitchen appliances because I found out that the owner of my apartment has his own restaurant, so feel free to ask and practice your ability to negotiate. In a new country, this is really important.
- Public utilities: most likely, at the moment when you enter the apartment, there will be neither electricity nor gas (in some places, gas can only be bought in gas cylinders, this is inconvenient, but there are many places in Portugal where gas cylinders still heat the water in the apartment), no water. All this needs to be connected independently to the relevant authorities, and this process can take from several days to several weeks. So just be prepared that you will have to connect the utilities yourself in your name.
- Animals: not all apartments are ready to accept tenants with pets, so discuss this point before signing the lease.
- Pledge: when signing the rental agreement, you will also be asked to pay a deposit (caução in Port.). Its size can be different (from several hundred to several thousand euros), and it is needed to ensure that you do not spoil anything in the apartment (especially if the apartment is furnished and has expensive household appliances). For example, if you broke the microwave and your child painted the walls, then the deposit (in whole or part) would most likely not be returned to you because he will go to buy new things and repair them.
Can I rent an apartment in Portugal on my own?
Of course, yes, it's just that this process will be more complicated than if you turn to a specialized specialist for help. It is essential to consider the apartment's location, the area, the condition of the house, the presence of thermal insulation, air conditioning, high-quality windows, parking, and other points that can drastically affect how you feel while living in this apartment.
Even if you mistake renting a place that is not of excellent quality or in an area that you do not like and do not suit your future life, you can always move to another place after your lease expires. It is this characteristic that distinguishes renting a home from buying it.
Give yourself some time after immigrating, get comfortable in a new country, and only then decide to buy property in a particular city or area. We hope that with the help of this article, you have a clear understanding of how this process works in Portugal, and you will be able to rent an apartment on your own, guided by the tips above.