It's a massive decision to try and own a property abroad. Choosing an area and learning the purchasing process can be daunting enough, but to then run a successful holiday let is too much for many.
We thought we'd share our story with you....
It all began in c.2007 when a friend of ours introduced us to the Western Algarve via his villa in what-was-then Parque da Floresta (now Golf Santo Antonio). Previously, we'd holidayed in the Algarve a fair amount - mostly in Vilamoura, Almancil and other more central locations.
Our first visit to Salema was after a round of golf and we were introduced to our now favourite bar, Aventura. We then had the five yard walk to Agua na Boca for a fantastic feed.
After dinner, it was hard not to stop at the front of the beach and take in the atmosphere and scenery. With that view and a satisfied belly. that was it ........we were hooked!
It's hard to not feel relaxed in Salema. It's family friendly but definitely grown-up. The beach attracts families and watersport enthusiasts in equal amounts. As a recent article in The Times said so eloquently of Salema;
This isn’t the Algarve I was expecting. There are no build ’em high, pack ’em in hotels with golf courses sandwiched in between, no tattooed hordes of British tourists slowly turning pinker in the midday sun. Instead, I’m in a charming fishing village on a secret slice of the wild, windswept western coast.
From 2007 to around 2011 (when our daughter was born) we started to compare every holiday to what you get in Salema (we hear this from a lot of people who've eventually bought a place in Salema!)
We'd grown tired of the First Choice or Thomson apartment holidays and the H.A.P.P.Y. crews encouraging you out of your crowded sunbathing area to play water polo, darts etc. and all the excursions making you feel like a herd of cows being exploited for all the cash they could extract from you.
Our mind was set! Comparing the package holiday experience to Salema was like 'chalk & cheese'.
When we're not eating amazing food or enjoying the bars, we love sitting on the beach front and just listening to Salema. There's no loud music, just the bustle of life and the crashing of the waves. It's our happy place and one that immediately draws a 'sigh' of contentment.
But the journey to purchasing the house was a long one!
It wasn't until May 2015 that we were in any kind of financial position to make this a reality. It took planning, a lot of research online and fair slice of luck to find a brilliant and highly skilled group of people who helped us to make this possible.
We we came out for a four-day trip (we organised this ourselves) to view a number of properties we'd seen on rightmove overseas. We were extremely lucky to get to know the estate agency team at B&P in nearby Lagos - and by a far greater degree of fortune we were to meet the best real estate agent ever, Dina Pereira!
We were smitten with property AY47 immediately. The views from the balcony, the proximity to the pool and the fact that it was in Salema meant that we weren't particularly covert in showing serious buying signals. I look back on that day and Dina must've thought that she was in for an easy sale.
(Little did Dina know that this 'sale' was going to take two and a half years!)
Why did it take so long?
There was lots of reasons - some of our careful financial planning initially came unstuck. The property was taken off the market for six months. When it came back on the price was out of our range - and then lastly, Brexit.....and the hit on exchange rate.
By early 2017 we'd nigh-on given up.
It took an email in June 2017 from Dina to highlight that the property was now within our price range. All the emotions started up again. It wasn't an easy negotiation and we rode our luck with the exchange rate, but we had Dina on our side and we eventually reached 'Promissory' (the point of no return in Portugal) in late 2017. It'd been a long journey and no-one could every accuse us of making a 'snap decision'!
I'm not sure what advice I would give people who're thinking of doing the same thing. The obvious piece of advice is to genuinely love the area that you're going to buy in. I see lots of people on TV going property hunting (overseas) in locations they've never stayed in before?!
Do your research. Rightmove overseas is a treasure-trove of information and data. I struggled to find good quality information about the rules and processes of buying in the Algarve online, so I was completely unashamed in writing to mortgage brokers, accountants and estate agents to draw on their expertise and help to build my own.
Finally, do your numbers. Assuming you need the property to be let out to pay it's way, what kind of occupancy do you need to break even? Is this realistic? What happens if you only achieve 60% of what you think you'll do? How will it affect your standard of living at home?
There are lots of websites out there that offer an insight into the cost of utilities etc. Use these to build a credible picture of where you money will need to go.
Once you've bought your property, the best thing you can do is find a brilliant property management company. They take all the stresses away and are worth every penny you spend with them. We look at Jean-Michel and Dominique at Arrobasagres as the most critical part of us making this work. If you decide to market the property via an agent, make sure you visit many and choose wisely.
Owning a property abroad was always an ambition for us. We weren't sure it was ever going to happen. Was it the smartest financial move we could ever have made? Probably not. It is more fun that being a landlord to a residential let in the UK? You bet.
Salema's our happy place and it's okay if it's yours too.
Steve, Rachael & Ava.....