Wait! What? Why?!
We weren’t planning on moving, but it all came together really fast. The whole process was kind of crazy. Oh…and we’re not moving back to the US, just to the next town. Knowing that we like where we live, you might be wondering why we have decided to move. Good question.
We felt extremely lucky to have found our current place and have been very happy here. When we arrived in Portugal last year we wanted to get settled as quickly as possible. Our timing was tight, our wish list long, and our reservation at the AirBnB time-constrained. This all meant we needed to find a place to live – fast. While we didn’t get everything on our wish list, the apartment we chose met the majority of our needs and we felt we could deal with the things that were missing.
Fast forward to May of this year. Pandemic-related restrictions were easing and our friends all began to get vaccinated (including us) which meant we could accept invitations to their homes because they all have outdoor space. This was an eye-opening experience.
Our friends Jennifer and Mark’s place is built into a cliff above the water with stunning views up and down the coast from their enormous terrace – and it comes with a hook up for their Tesla! Our friends Mark and Tracey are tucked into a darling little bungalow in a nearby golf community. Their place comes with a working fireplace in addition to a breezy patio and grassy yard for their dog, River. Kirk and Joy live within a 10 minute walk of our home and have a really spacious apartment and a huge wrap-around terrace that includes a yard and a peek-a-boo view of blue water in the distance. Hmmm…we started to think about the possibility of moving. We have been craving a few things that are missing in our current place like private outdoor space with the ability to BBQ, dedicated parking, and air conditioning.
We evaluated our finances, talked about what we wanted (in addition to the above mentioned must-haves), knew that we would most likely NOT find another location with brand new, stylish furniture, which meant we would need to furnish it, and discussed at length where we would like to live. It started out innocently enough – mostly chatting and dreaming.
Even though we were in no real hurry, Won decided to take a look and see what was on the market. We did not connect with a real estate agent because at this point we were just curious and searched on our own mostly looking at http://www.idealista.pt.
I need to stop for a moment and share an interesting tidbit…
Portugal does not have an equivalent resource to the MLS (Multiple Listing Service). For those of you who are not familiar with the MLS, it is service organization in the US that provides real estate brokers access to an aggregate database of nearly all properties listed for sale or rent in the entire country. It is also used to establish contractual offers of cooperation and compensation between brokers and enables appraisals. While the MLS is not available to individuals outside the real estate industry, Zillow and Trulia pull much of their data from the MLS. Another difference between the US and Portugal is that in Portugal a property owner can work with multiple real estate agents so you might find the same property listed many times on a site like Idealista. There are also real estate sites like ReMax, Keller Williams and JLL, that list only their properties, but it seems as though Idealista is the best aggregate site most people use when searching.
Back to your regular programming…
We started by focusing on our current neighborhood because we like it. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much available in our price range. Won upped the budget a little and kept searching, but that didn’t yield much either. He then decided to expand the search area and kept increasing the rent amount to see what we could get for more money. Not the best idea…at one point I told him he was pushing the limit too far after his efforts resulted in a budget contortion exercise to see if we could handle a 4.000€ per month payment. We could, but I was losing my mind at the prospect of spending that much money and the impact it would have on our lifestyle. In the end we didn’t get anywhere close to that amount.
During this process, Won found a few places that were possibilities and set up time to see them. One was a quirky apartment on the top floor of a beautiful old building in Monte Estoril that was once the summer residence of some wealthy person. Parts of the unit were renovated, but not all (i.e. the kitchen). Distant views of the water and the charm of the building weren’t quite strong enough to overcome the quirkiness, like accessing the outside area through the master bedroom, and we both ruled it out.
He then found a newly renovated place also in Monte Estoril that was built into a down slope. Even though this unit had a shared pool and grassy area, it was semi-below grade, which made it dark. We were convinced we could do better.
Then there was a condominium for rent in a very large complex in Cascais with loads of amenities like an onsite gym, multiple swimming pools, and a guarded gate entrance where you could have deliveries accepted on your behalf. It was also a quick walk to the coastline – another big plus. Won liked it, and while it wasn’t bad, it just didn’t do it for me. I wasn’t into the shiny marble tile floors throughout and a kitchen that looked like it was probably very hip and cool about ten years ago, but now just looks dated and tired. In the end, we decided we aren’t big complex kind of people.
Then, the next day, a listing popped up in the historic center of Cascais (the marker below shows the general area, not the property location).
This place was slightly bigger than our current apartment and came with two bedrooms, each with an on suite bath, as well as a guest 1/2 bath. The building had been built in 2019 so it was practically new. It came with central air conditioning and heat, wide-plank wood floors, Bosch kitchen appliances, a massive kitchen island, two underground parking spaces, a washer/dryer combo, really spacious balcony, and it was an open floor plan. This one was promising.
The images of the unit that were posted online were really impressive, but there was one little oddity. It’s always something, right? In this case, it was the way the bathrooms and bedrooms were configured. The back wall of the shower was shared with the bedroom. Not so bad, right? Not unless the floor to ceiling wall is made of clear glass! This means whomever is showering can see directly into the bedroom and vice versa. Hello world!! I suspect this design choice was done to bring natural light into the bathroom. Thankfully, the toilet is in its own little room with a wall and door made of frosted glass for privacy. I wasn’t sure I could get past the glass wall and nearly told Won I wasn’t interested, but decided to see it anyway. We sent a note to the listing agent to schedule a viewing.
I’m glad I didn’t pass on it because the minute I walked through the front door and into the bright, large open living/dining/kitchen area, I was wowed. My eye was immediately drawn to the wall of fully retractable floor to ceiling, glass doors leading out to the spacious balcony. I loved the 2.75m (9′) ceilings and the “intelligent” front door that uses a key fob to automatically open and close it! Then I walked out on to the balcony and could see across the tops of the houses and trees all the way to the historic downtown where the Ferris wheel is located (click here to see what I’m talking about). My heart started to flutter.
Once we tore ourselves away from the balcony and toured the rest of the unit, we were both thinking that this place might be the one. The bedrooms were reasonably sized and had ample built-in closet space that included drawers. I started to think about how to deal with those glass walls. I mean really…who thought a totally clear glass wall between the shower and bedroom was a good idea?? Putting the whole privacy issue aside for a moment, I will admit that it looks stylish when you can see nothing in the shower but chrome fixtures and marble walls, but once you bring in shampoo, conditioner, a razor, mouthwash, body wash, etc, that stunning architectural feature becomes an eyesore. And, no they didn’t put in a recessed shower niche to help hide those necessities.
Because property addresses are never provided on a listing (you’re lucky if there is a street name), we didn’t initially know that the building is situated in an old, established neighborhood with elegant homes and just a few minute’s walk to numerous wonderful restaurants. Plus, it’s an easy three to five minute walk to a nearby park where we could take Sweet Pea daily and the Parque Marechal Carmona (a huge park), where a weekly organic farmer’s market is held. A sandy beach and the stunning coastline are easy to walk to, as well as the Cascais hippodrome where annual jazz festivals and music events take place.
We told the agent we were interested and then headed home to talk at length. We learned the current tenants were staying until the end of July, which would be fine with us. Even though we weren’t planning on moving right now, this place just felt right so we decided to take action. The next day we confirmed that having a dog wouldn’t be an issue and made an offer that was slightly lower than the listed price. Since moving here we have learned that it is acceptable to offer 100€ to 200€, and sometimes up to 500€, less than the list price. The owner may reject it, but it’s worth a try (keep in mind that with rare, highly desirable properties, you may be offering more in a competitive bidding situation). Our offer was accepted. We notified our current landlord and signed a two-year lease agreement that includes an additional one year option (for a total of three years). We get the key – fob, that is – on August 1.
On Monday of this week we went back to measure the rooms so I could do some space planning. We will need to buy everything except a table lamp, desk and a desk chair. I love this part of the process and have been in shopping heaven since that time. I promise to post pictures of the apartment after we’ve moved in and finished decorating.
In the space of two short weeks we went from, ‘Hey, let’s consider moving late this year or early next year’ to signing a lease agreement. What??!! Who knew that when I posted the blog on Cascais on May 28, we would end up choosing to live there one week later!?
I told you it was crazy.
Until next time, please stay safe, stay healthy, and stay in touch!
From Portugal with love,