After several trips/holidays to Portugal we absolutely fell in love with the country so decided we would love to buy a property in Central Portugal away from the tourist areas of the Algarve. We have enjoyed several holidays across the Algarve and like to explore different areas. On our last holiday we hired a car and visited the mountains of Monchique, Silves and Portimão. We love the peaceful countryside and after extensive research on estate agents websites and Rightmove we planned a trip to Portugal in October 2019 to view several properties. At this point we were not sure if we were going to buy a property as a holiday home or go for it and totally relocate. We booked to view 27 properties with several estate agents which took a lot of planning and emails back and forth.

Why now you may ask – well I think for myself I was at a point where I just needed a change and something for me. My children are grown up and with the last one heading off to university soon it just seemed like the right time. Also my mum passed away 5 years ago and we were super close and I am not that close with my remaining family so I had no real reason to stay in Bristol. With Brexit looming we thought we should start our search as the future after Brexit was unknown at the time. 

We wanted to keep our costs down so booked an amazing air b n b in Ansião which was a fantastic base to view the houses from each day. Property number 1 was great: a small 2 bed cottage with a price tag of 57,000 euros. We were amazed at what you can get for your money and to be honest wasn’t expecting much with only a budget up to 100,000 euros for everything but we were pleasantly surprised. £100,000 in Bristol would have bought us a 1 bed mobile home on the outskirts of Bristol (only one site takes our age group most you have to be 50+ and no children permitted) or a 1 bed flat in Weston Super Mare with a huge commute to work each day. The alternative would have been a deposit and a large mortgage and although I am reasonably healthy I do have a few health problems including a back condition (had coccyx removed), underactive thyroid, severe IBS, arthritis and OCD. I didn’t want to tie myself to a mortgage for the next 20+ years resulting in me having to work FT until retirement age and likely die before I had paid it off and had any fun. The warmer climate also helps several of my conditions.

Property number 1 in Dreia was perfect for the two of us but maybe a little too small for family guests. We fell in love with property number 2: a 3 bed house in the mountains in Vinhó, an old house but so much potential and fully furnished. To be honest I would have bought that house (made an offer) there and then but we felt we needed to explore the other properties before jumping in head first. Many people on the forums I read were quite negative and recommended that we viewed different areas and properties for a year or so. Although this would have been nice to do, it was impossible for us as we would have had to give up our jobs in the UK and use up a reasonable amount of our savings travelling around Portugal which would significantly eat into our total house budget. I knew it would be a long shot to find our perfect home in 1 week but it happened for us. I think we got lucky.

After viewing these 2 properties which we both loved we were thinking gosh what if all 27 houses are fantastic, how do we choose? Luckily this was not the case as over the next couple of days we met some great agents and owners (mostly Brits) and the houses were very different no 2 alike but most were dark, damp, small and dingy and some needed extensive renovation work. We viewed houses near Arganil, Miranda do Corvo, Penela, Lousa, Chapinheira, Alvorge, Castanheira de Pera, Serta, Pedrógão Grande and Vinhó. There seemed to be no concept in the price which ranged from 57,000 – 118,000 euros. 4 days into our property search we decided that we loved property number 2 and that we didn’t want to waste anymore time viewing the remaining properties which were in and around Castello Branco so rebooked a second viewing of our favourite house. It was as amazing as the first visit if not better and we decided to go away and have a heart to heart. The house had so much potential and I got such a good vibe. We put an offer in the next day (15,000 under the asking price) and it was accepted. The start of our epic journey began!

We met with a great solicitor from Góis who came with superb recommendations and only cost 500 euros but unfortunately she was also the solicitor for the sellers of the property so was acting on their behalf and their power of attorney as the sellers reside outside of Portugal. After a bit more research we managed to source a fantastic solicitor/lawyer from Tábua and the agent selling the house was such a great help to us. We had a few quotes for solicitor house conveyancing services and the prices ranged from 500 euros to 3000 euros!

We read many horror stories about avoiding Estate Agents which are franchises like REMAX, Century 21 and ERA. We found REMAX to be amazing and Lisa was fantastic and as she is originally from the UK but lived here over 18 years she was a tremendous help. As there was no chain or mortgage we managed to complete the sale in a 6 week time frame. We returned to Portugal early December and signed all paperwork at the Notary and received the keys to our property. All went to plan except for the flat tyre we had on our way to the Notary office! Although we had full insurance coverage with the hire car company they were pretty useless and told us we had to get to the nearest garage, buy a new tyre and then keep receipts to get reimbursed, they would not send out recovery or breakdown service as we were not in a major town/city. What hire car doesn’t have a spare tyre? The answer is a Fiat 500. Thank god for our estate agent who collected us and took us to Notary then accompanied us to a local garage to sort out the issue. It all ended well and we were about 30 mins late for the Notary. I did have a mini panic and cry at the heat of the moment!

I handed in my notice at work and we also handed in our tenancy notice on our little rented flat and the planning began. We had been saving our pennies and renting that flat for nearly 8 years! I don’t like to think of myself as a hoarder by any means but over the years you do accumulate a lot of stuff especially when you have children with all their old school work and baby boxes. Deciding whether to hire a removal company was an easy decision for us. Most of our furniture was second hand or Gumtree bargains so we sold all our furniture on Gumtree and met some great people along the way and a couple of complete weirdos! It’s a strange world out there indeed. We left the UK with 2 large suitcases, 2 large holdalls, 2 small carry on cases and hubby’s bike. I scanned and uploaded every photo I own to the icloud – this took ages! I then stored some photo albums and baby boxes at my dads house as too heavy to take with me. Trying to fit a lifetime into 2 cases was hard for me but very liberating. The new house is fully furnished so this made it easier for us.

The last 2 weeks of our life in Bristol was a lot of sitting on the floor and sleeping on air beds (don’t ever let your husband be in charge of inflating an air bed – he literally blew it up – pop bang!). All of this was endured through Christmas. We had an amazing Christmas day lunch at my son’s flat and I will treasure these family moments forever. To be honest, Christmas was sort of cancelled this year, I did try and make it as festive as possible but it was very tricky with no furniture and several boxes everywhere. I tried to take on board Marie Kondo’s attitude ‘Does this item bring me joy?’ and there were multiple trips to the charity shops and recycling centre. We sold our car bye bye Peachy. Top 3 things I missed during our last 2 weeks in the UK: Car, sofa & bed. I did not miss the TV as much as I thought I would. 

We have a very limited shoestring budget so are making do with most of the furniture and fittings that came with the house sale. We are also down to 1 of us working not 2 so need to be sensible with the little money we have left. We are being very frugal so our dream can continue for many future years here. It’s a beautiful country and a friend once told me if you can survive your first winter in Portugal you are sorted. Only time will tell but currently we are living the dream.

I always thought I was an expert in moving house as I have moved house over 20 times in my lifetime. Moving from a property to another one in Bristol or the UK is not the same as relocating to Portugal. Flights were booked for New Year’s eve 31st Dec. I had mixed feelings about leaving Bristol where I have lived almost all of my life except for a year in Essex. I do love Bristol as it is very central and multi cultural but I won’t miss the traffic! It is also a really expensive town to live in. Average rent costs £1000 per month for a 1 bed flat. The biggest change for me was always going to be giving up work. I have worked since the age of 16 so becoming a lady of leisure was always going to be strange. My husband works remotely Mon-Fri long hours and I kind of underestimated how many DIY jobs around the house need 2 people or are very demanding physical jobs which I would struggle with by myself. Saying that I have kept to my plan of doing a task a day which is a fantastic achievement.