Overseas property: Plant one foot in the Algarve

A good choice of properties remains in this ever-popular region of Portugal if you are prepared to look a little inland and reap the benefits of a quieter lifestyle
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The Independent Online

Portugal has been a favourite destination for British buyers for many years with the bulk of them buying in central Algarve locations. Prices have risen correspondingly, with increases of 15 per cent annually over the last five years, but buyers who search further afield may be surprised to find a choice of properties at affordable prices.

Yet you might not think so from recent media speculation. Quadrant Overseas Properties' Connie Vitto was dismayed by recent reports suggesting that a typical property on the Algarve cannot be bought for less than £400,000-£500,000. "This would probably put off around 90 per cent of buyers and it's simply not true," says Vitto who has watched prices creep up over the years, particularly in central Algarve locations, but who still believes that there are many areas, even on the Algarve, which remain affordable. "People think that you have to go miles out to find affordable properties but even just a few minutes away from the popular resorts you can find some great bargains."

Quadrant are currently selling apartments in the village of Ferreiras, a little inland from the coast, but still only an eight-minute drive to the beach. Prices start from £108,000 but would be double if the development had a frontline coastal position. A new development of three-bedroomed townhouses, again set a few minutes back from the coastline yet still within central Algarve, is for sale at £150,000. Head towards the eastern stretch of the coastline says Vitto and you'll find even more for your money although perhaps not for much longer. A new golf course, Monte Rei, is currently under construction, which looks set to boost prices throughout this region. "You can still do well if you buy now, although large plots are much more difficult to find than they were last year," says Vitto.

The east coast, particularly around Tavira toward Spain, is becoming more popular but so are the western stretches up to Aljezur on the Atlantic coast where prices are cheaper. Casos do Barlavento currently have a range of plots for sale in the area costing as little as £49,000, while £124,000 buys a smart two- bedroomed villa. Mike Sweeney at escapes2.com finds that there are many reasons for opting to look a little further afield: "You get more land for your money, average plots are often larger, which means that most country properties come with lovely views and peace and quiet. You also get more property for your money and benefit from a cheaper cost of living."

Buyers in more remote areas often cite the fact that they can enjoy the best of both worlds: traditional Portugal for a relaxing and quiet life; and big empty beaches with great surfing, restaurants, bars and nightclubs which are usually within half an hour's drive. Integration can often be easier as well. "They benefit from beautiful countryside, traditional villages, and a good mixture of locals and foreigners living there year round," adds Sweeney."

The Alentejo region, just above the Algarve, is an area that is starting to attract growing numbers of buyers who want access to the coast yet the benefits of being based inland. Escapes2 are currently selling a four-bedroom house with swimming pool set on an estate of 15 acres surrounded by fields and cork trees, which provide a small income, and the grounds include a large barn. Just one kilometre from the local village and 30 minutes from the coast, the house is for sale at £449,084.

Agent Kirstin Honeywill is based in Alentejo and points out that costs are far below the Algarve and the area is still unspoiled: "You certainly get more for your money. A client of mine is in the process of buying 100 acres with a large house to restore for €180,000 (£127,000). Planning is quite strictly regulated here to maintain the traditional feel of the area and prevent the overdevelopment we have seen in the Algarve. The cost of living is a lot cheaper, too."

And it's not hard to find unspoiled areas of Portugal. Eighteen months ago, Sam Lee from Bradford came across Coimbra in the north of Portugal after searching the internet. She found an unrenovated rural property, complete with outbuildings and set on a large plot in a remote area, which cost under £30,000, where she lives permanently. Lee now works for Bosch Estates selling property to the growing numbers of British buyers who are fast catching onto the charms of this traditional area. "It's only around one hour from the coast, very remote but easy to get to from Lisbon or Porto, " says Lee. Coimbra lies within the Beiras region famed for its mountainous terrain and unspoiled coast. Bosh Estates are currently selling a house and small stone barn ripe for renovation in an abandoned village in the beautiful protected area of the Serra da Espinhal for €19,000 (£13,000). Buyers who don't want to be too remote may prefer a beautiful large stone house set on three storeys in the village of Vila Facaia near Pedrógão Grande. It is for sale at £91,000 but needs total renovation.

Further south of Coimbra, Andrea Woodwarde from Kent is in the process of buying a large detached country house in the Ribatejo region for under £150,000: "For the price of an apartment on the Algarve I'm getting an enormous five-bedroomed house plus outbuildings and large plot of land." Woodwarde intends turning the property into a small guesthouse and believes that this area is set to become more popular with British visitors: "In recent years more people have started visiting and buying in this region and, now that EasyJet flights have started to Lisbon, I think that this whole area really looks set to boom."


Quadrant Overseas Property (01276 507513; www.quadrant-property.com)

Casas do Barlavento (0871 218 0087; www.casasdobarlavento.com)

Escapes2.com (0161 351 2160; www.escapes2.com)

Bosch Real Estate (00 351 96 245 5380; www.boschrealestate.co.uk)

British Airways flies to Faro from London Gatwick. Book at www.ba.com