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Buying in Lisbon

It has often been said that the Portuguese capital oozes with charm and offers some exceptional real estate, and as a result prices have rocketed! There is still time to invest, but time is of the essence... By Eric Jansen

For decades Lisbon seemed like a slightly faded city forgotten by the modern world, much like the trams that trundle along its cobblestone streets, its authentic buildings (often a little too authentic), and its churches and palaces decked with “azulejo” glazed ceramic tiles. A perfect destination for a romantic weekend no doubt, but a place to live? Surely not… However in 2013, a new government measure was applied allowing European citizens tax exemption on their income from abroad for 10 years, on the condition that they live in Portugal for at least six months a year.

The effect was immediate and probably far exceeded the government’s expectations. Suddenly, the appeal of Lisbon rocketed. Just a two-hour flight from Paris, the offer was too tempting to resist and many took the plunge. It must be said that some true gems were available for just 2000 euro/ sqm (with significant renovation required nonetheless). The more adventurous even offered themselves a palace! At the same time, the popularity of Airbnb was more or less transforming the city into a huge hotel, and investors queued up to undertake restoration work. So how do things stand today? Those who loved the city’s once sleepy atmosphere will find that things have changed. Tourists have invaded Lisbon and many French speakers mingle with the crowds ... Prices have more than doubled, but at 6000 euro/sqm there are still a few interesting properties on the market. For those still dreaming of a palace, Christie’s Porta da Frente agency is currently marketing one for 15 million euro. Offering over 1000 sqm of living space, this delightful property boasts a charming apricot-coloured facade and a turret to admire the Tagus... The agency’s portfolio however includes many other properties at more accessible prices. The city comprises a succession of neighbourhoods each with their own particular appeal.

To the west, the residential Estrela area is still cheap with apartments at 3500 euro/sqm (with work required). There are a number of embassies in this neighbourhood, and in their immediate vicinity prices can reach 5000 euro/sqm. Count twice this for a house oozing with charm, such as this 769 sqm private mansion with a garden, swimming pool and caretaker's house located in the city’s Lapa neighbourhood. It is for sale for 7 million euro. Properties in the 5000 to 8000 euro price range are to be found in the Bairro Alto and Chiado neighborhoods, very popular for their bohemian atmosphere and numerous theatres, restaurants and bars. To the north, the more tranquil Santo Antonio area attracts a wealthy family clientele. Many properties are in the process of renovation around Avenida Liberdade, Lisbon’s Champs-Elysees. Count 10.000 euro/sqm.

Those seeking total peace and authenticity head for the Principe Real and Santa Catarina neighbourhoods, or further east towards Saint-Georges chateau and Santa Maria Maior Cathedral. In the Alfama district, the oldest in Lisbon, upmarket apartments command magnificent views. For example this luxurious and entirely renovated 420 sqm duplex apartment in a 16th century building. Contemporary comfort and decoration allying perfectly with period authenticity, and sold with a priceless asset in Lisbon: a parking space. The charm of the city’s winding streets has its limits...

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