One of the stipulations of the D2 and D7 visas is providing proof that you have secured long-term housing. While many people have found a home from overseas, waiting until you have reached Portugal to locate the right rental has its advantages.
You will have more time to view as many homes as possible.
You can inspect the property before making an informed decision.
You can research the housing market to have a better chance of paying a fair market rate.
The standard size of a Portuguese home is much smaller than the size standards of many American homes (except maybe if you have lived in New York City). The further you live outside the capital city of Lisbon (or the city centers of larger cities, in general), the more likely you will find roomier and more affordable accommodations. For example, some people look to other cities such as Porto, Faro, or Coimbra, or even small towns and villages a short drive away from the larger cities.
Here is a guide that will hopefully help you along with your search for rentals in Portugal.
Types of Rentals
Portuguese bedroom sizes for apartments run on a t-system and a v-system for houses. Upon your search, you will find apartments, condos, single and multi-family homes, mansions, farms, and more.
Homes in Portugal are labeled as follows:
T1 (1 bedroom)
T2 (2 bedroom)
T3 (3 bedroom), and so on.
At times you will find T7 apartments for rent, but be mindful that those apartments have shared spaces (where the landlord secures all the tenants) for short to long-term stays. Each tenant or couple will have their room, but the bathrooms (unless ensuite), kitchen, and other public areas are shared.
The differences between an unfurnished, equipped or furnished rental
For many visitors and apartment/house hunters, renting a furnished apartment gets you settled faster. The downside is that most of the furniture will not be yours, and it may not be to your exact taste. You will also have to take extreme care to receive your security deposit back at the end of your lease.
Renting a home is a fantastic option for those who do not wish to own in a hurry, move frequently, would like flatmates/roommates, or a no-fuss stay.
Equipped apartments, or flats, usually come unfurnished, but the amenities may include a refrigerator, stovetop (sometimes an oven, dishwasher, and washing machine).
Furnished apartments usually come with furniture in all rooms and a stocked kitchen. Your new home may or may not have a dishwasher or washing machines. Some homes include a dry or washer dryer combination. Since the weather is mild throughout Portugal, many families use drying racks, laundromats, and dry cleaning services.
Understanding fair pricing
Due to the popularity of Portugal, inflation, and other factors, rentals in Lisbon and Portugal in general, have skyrocketed in the past decade. You must research diligently to secure a rental at a fair price to keep market costs down and help to prevent locals from being forced out of their homes.
A studio apartment in the district of Lisbon can be as small as 28 square meters (m2) and cost as little as €500. In contrast, you may be able to find a 3-bedroom (T3) apartment for €650 in Coimbra. As of 2022, you can still find a fully furnished T1 for €800 or €1000 for a T2 outside the city center of Lisbon. Naturally, prices can vary based on amenities, location, and the season, and prices for a T1 can cost well over €1000 in the city center.
Where to Search for Rentals in Lisbon
If you are interested in finding a flatmate/roomate while living in Portugal, you may want to consider looking on Facebook Marketplace.
Best sites for short-term accommodation (30 days or less):
Short to Long-term
Mid to Long-term
Tips to aid your rental search
Take time to research the current Portugal rental market and compare prices. If you are searching for a rental during the high season (May-August), you can expect to pay a premium to compete with others.
When to start your search for rentals in Portugal
You should start your search about four to eight weeks before you apply for your Portuguese residency visa. Begin by searching reputable real estate websites to learn more about what is on offer and different neighborhoods.
Should you use a realtor or search independently?
Finding your dream home can be as frustrating as it can be exciting. It can be a competitive, time-consuming, and confusing process. While some folks opt to work with a realtor (or several), you can find most listings on your own. If you are pressed for time or have been trying to find a home for several months, to no avail, then working with a realtor may be the best route for you. If you have time, patience, and a bit of tenacity (when needed), you will need to contact private sellers unless they prefer to work with an agency.
How to find the right realtor?
Avoid overpaying by choosing the right realtor. Typically, the homeowner pays the realtor. You, as a tenant, are not responsible for paying the realtor. If you find yourself in this situation, you can mention it to the realtor or find someone with a more ethical practice.
- Meet with several or ask for referrals behind deciding on one or two to help you during your search.
- Have a list detailing your budget, wants, needs, deal-breakers, and what neighborhoods that interest you.
- Have a list of questions ready for your realtor(s), including terms you have difficulty understanding and what requirements you will need to secure a rental contract.
What to Look Out For
Check for insulation and mold
Due to the high cost of gas and electricity in Portugal, it is a great idea to plan for the winter (usually mild, with January being the coldest month) and the summer (hot, with August being the hottest month). That means having weather-appropriate clothing, linens, and sleepwear, adding insulation, or portable heating or air-conditioning. If you require heat or air-conditioning, plan for your utility costs to increase dramatically during those times.
Unless you choose a recently built home, many of the older homes in Portugal have little to no insulation. Walls can be thin, and windows covered in condensation during the colder months. Homes can reach very cold or hot temperatures during the seasonal changes.
Look for mold throughout the rental. Feel free to open cabinets, shower stalls, refrigerators, and dishwashers, and check the ceilings, walls, carpets, and windows.
Before you sign the rental agreement
Find out what is standard practices for rental contracts in Portugal. For example, most contracts will require an upfront payment of at least one month of rent, one months security deposit, and a fiador (co-signer). As a foreigner, you may not have anyone to cosign for you; some landlords will accept extra security payments instead of a fiador, or several months of rent in advance. It would be unwise to pay more than twp months worth of the security deposit or many months rent in advance just in case any issues with the rental, location, or landlord arise. There have been some cases where a tenant hired an attorney and filed a form complaint to have their payments returned.
Negotiating your lease
Unless something goes wrong, you are legally obligated to maintain your residence for about 30% of the lease. That means you commit to a full year before ending your three-year lease. Research your rights in Portugal and find a Portuguese-speaking person— ideally a friend or attorney—to review your contract before you sign it.
Your lease will most likely be written/typed in Portuguese, and some words or phrases may get lost in translation when converting to a different language. Understand what you are and are not responsible for and negotiate/resolve anything that seems unreasonable or unlawful. Too many stipulations are red flags that you can use to back out of a bad situation and continue looking for accommodations that are a better fit.
Finding a home in almost any country can be difficult— especially from a foreigner’s perspective. Due to the popularity of Portugal, inflation, and other factors, it is not surprising that the housing market has become increasingly competitive for locals and newcomers alike.
The earlier you can start looking, the better your opportunities to find the best accommodations for your lifestyle. Be relentless, quick, and courteous—not all real estate agents and landlords move with a sense of urgency. Do your best to research the current market, and hopefully, you will find the home of your dreams.