Buying property is hard to do… (or the trouble with the deeds)

… and why I’m still “urban” for a little while longer.

Portugal is a lovely country: it has plenty of sunshine, the people are lovely and the coffee is great. And it has plenty of property to buy, especially if you look outside of the big cities like Lisbon or Porto. Sadly, much of the rural property is abandoned, often in dire need of repair and restoration. Which  is probably exactly why an increasing number of foreigners tend to buy these places and turn them into anything from B&B’s to workshops, farms, small holdings and palatial residences.

Yet, despite the abundance of empty property, actually buying a place is much less straightforward than you’d think. In fact, buying a place in the sun can turn out to be quite an adventure in itself. If you ever look around on the internet for purchasing advise, it seems it comes with a big “be aware and get advice” in blinking bright neon lighting all over it…. and for a reason!  While in the beginning I dismissed all the talk about the trials and tribulations of buying a place in the sun as something that happens to holiday makers who buy a flat from a ruthless developer, I soon learned that not all of the problems are because someone is trying to fool unsuspecting foreigners. But also, and this is probably especially true in the case of rural property, many problems are simply the result of the way business is done historically here, with no bad intentions at all…

In my case, the first hurdle was dealing with the real estate agents. This was somewhat unexpected, as in the UK, estate agents tend to be highly motivated folks, who are literally chasing after any potential buyer. In Portugal, my experience couldn’t have been different: I was lucky to get a reply to an email inquiry maybe 1 out of 10 times, and then mostly stating that all the information was on their website (even though I usually asked for information that was actually not on the website to begin with).

buying direct…

The solution came in the form of pureportugal, a website where most of the property is advertised by the owners. This meant that I could email questions to the people selling the properties – and usually got an answer really quickly. The downside of this though is that now I am dealing directly with the owner, rather than someone necessarily experienced in selling property, which explains the problems with the deeds that followed. That said, from countless stories on the internet, it seems even a slightly clueless but well-intentioned owner is better than a disinterested estate agent. So maybe this is a blessing in disguise.

of deeds, licenses and men…

So, here came hurdle number two: the trouble with the “deeds” and “licenses”.  This is probably the most complicated and confusing part of the property purchase to navigate. Basically (or rather as far as I understand by now….), the land is divided up into either rustic land or urban land. That means, rustic land is land that is used for agriculture and has no buildings on, like a field, olive grove etc… Urban land is land with a building on (or it could have a building on it).

The next problem then is what sort of building: buildings can either have a license to live in, a license to use the building for agricultural purposes (think shed), or to use it for touristic purposes (like a B&B). Seems fairly straightforward, but it is anything but… As you can imagine, many of the places in the countryside have never really changed hands, and therefore many deeds and licenses are hopelessly out of touch with what is actually “on the ground”. Some farmers may have build a shed on land that isn’t supposed to have one, while others may have constructed houses or annexes, or even swapped land with neighbours etc…

This isn’t really helped by a stifling and complicated bureaucracy, which means that many people just never caught up with having the right deeds and licenses in place. Or the deeds are entirely out of date, like missing out buildings altogether or showing much smaller buildings than the actual buildings are etc…

The problem, however, comes when the place is sold – as then the licenses and deeds should be correct, or otherwise, the purchase might end up having to correct all of this, including incurring fines and even potentially having to demolish buildings. And, of course, any alterations can’t be done before the correct licenses are awarded.

This entire subject area is so complicated, that just about everyone I ran into who bought property here had some sort of horror story to tell. In that sense, I think I am quite lucky to have a lawyer who seems to have checked all this out and insisted that all of the licenses and deeds are 100% correct before the final purchase. Of course, things were not quite correct, …

the choice

Basically, at that point, I had to make a choice: I either look for another place, or I stick with the place that I like and wait for the process to complete.  Reading how other people have literally ‘abandoned’ plans to purchase upwards of a dozen properties because of the problems with the deeds and licenses, I decided to try and stick with this property. After all, the property I have set my eyes on seems to offer everything that I wanted, and in a location that is amazing. Having made that decision, my lawyer suggested putting a time limit into the contract: so if the legalisation hasn’t happened within a year, I can pull out and look for another property. With this reassurance, I decided it was a gamble worth taking, and, fingers crossed, I won’t need to go to plan B, visit lots and lots of other properties and hope that they have the right paperwork…. and start everything all over again. As luck would have it, shortly after deciding to stick with plan A, I was also lucky enough to be offered another contract for work, which meant that I was stuck in Lisbon until the summer anyway. In that sense, it seemed like a good choice to hold on and wait. Which also explains why I’m still in the big city, rather than in the countryside.

Unfortunately though, the process of legalising an existing property is indeed fairly exhausting – and time consuming.  My place as a buyer is very much that of a spectator in this steeplechase, but I really feel for what the vendor is going through. He has faced any possible hurdle that I could imagine: from the dossier being sent to the wrong department, forgotten to a barrage of visits, questions and requests, and the authorities are definitely not making this process any easier.

The side effect of this is, however, that the vendor and I have now become pretty close friends: Over the last few months, we have regular meetings for lunch, going on excursions together and having small updates about the trials and tribulations of the legalisation process. I have also learned lots about the local area, as the vendor loves to talk about traditions, hidden places and other trivia from the area. In that sense again, I’m quite glad I actually know whom I am dealing with, and not dealing with an anonymous other through an estate agent. I can only imagine how much more frustrating and complicated that would be!

Of course, when I started this ‘adventure’, I hoped to avoid all of this legalisation madness… but, it seems it simply is, more often than not, part and parcel of buying property here. You can be lucky and find the one with the right deeds and licenses, but it seems 9 out of 10 have some sort of problem with this. Or, as my fellow sojourners said: it’s just the way it is. Luckily, after several twists and turns over the last eight months or so, we are hopefully on the home stretch with all the paperwork. So at the moment, I’m keeping my fingers crossed… and stay tuned for updates 😉  …

5 ways to have a #GayAutumn in #GayLisbon

It is the sad fact of summer that soon it will come to an end… but that doesn’t mean your autumn has to be boring! On the contrary, there are plenty of great options to make this the most fun autumn ever in #GayLisbon

1. Get cultured…
The iconic gay and a bit else film festival QueerLisboa returns from 15-23 September, jam-packed with great films to watch.

2. Party, party, party…
Downside of August? No parties. So check out Conga, Spit N Polish and Maria Lisboa for the party schedule in autumn.

3. Get social…
Films, parties, concerts, dinners… Add some social events to your life with the Meetup.com LGBT Social Group.

4. Get active…
It is never to late to join BJWHF for some gay rugby and co… or why not join the HikingGays for some walks?

5. Get naked…
Why not show off your sexy tan-lines (or lack of them) at the Hanging Out Nude Portugal group for gay men and make some new friends.

Above all: have a great Autumn!

Mountains, Beaches and Hippies

A guest post by Anike Marberg

Unbeknown by many people, Portugal has long been a destination for hippies, misfits and those that want to live a different life than the one so often found in many “Western” societies. During the 1970s and 80s, many hippies from Northern Europe, disillusioned by the political and cultural systems and the decline of their movement came to seek an alternative to joining the rat race in their home countries.

Almost secretly, this often overlooked country on the edge of Europe became the new hideaway for those seeking a different life.

Inspired by the beautiful beaches of the Algarve, the rocky mountains of inner Portugal and the near year-round sunshine, many made the trip south, including my parents. Many acquired small farms and lived as self-sufficient farmers, others in small communes while others established small businesses, restaurants and even entire eco-villages.

After living for years in communes in Germany and faced with having to make a choice between taking up ‘proper’ jobs or moving, they set out together for a better life in the sun in 1982. Establishing themselves in the mountains of the West-Algarve, they brought with them not much else but their two kids, a camper van and many ideals and just enough money to buy a small plot of land.

For us kids, living in the sun was a total difference to life in grim and grey Germany. Although the community in the Algarve was much smaller than the community we left behind, it was far more colourful, fun and enjoyable than anything we experienced in Germany. We first lived in a small commune in the western region of the Algarve, were the kids came form all over Europe and even some from Brazil. Playing and being outside became a new way of life. And we explored in amazement our new terrain, the freedom and the wilderness that now became home.

While many Portuguese looked on in puzzled amazement what these foreigners got up to, the welcome was warm and friendly. Curious at times, distant at others, but always in a manner that was pleasant, welcoming and friendly. We soon became friends with some local kids, which meant navigating linguistic, cultural and attitude differences. I still remember trying to explain to a local friend what my parents were doing in this country and why we were not allowed to eat meat. To this day, I’m sure, the now grown up hasn’t quite understood what those strange people did here. But as long as it was fun, it was good enough.

In my early twenties I left to explore the other side of my identity. But after a few years in Germany, I quickly realised that visiting my parents meant more to me than just holidays in the sun. Every time I was back in Munich, I missed the sun, the mountains, the friendly smiles and the happy vibes that made Portugal feel more home than the country where I was born.

When I moved back here in my thirties, it felt like coming home, too. Although I my way of life is different then the way my parents live: I live with a husband, in a comfortable house and with two dogs. Nevertheless, the welcome I received was just the same as the welcome my parents had some twenty years earlier. And I’m loving living here every single day. Even on the rare days where it rains, I’m grateful that my parents made the choice for Portugal – a place I missed so much when I was away.

Agenda for Pride month June in GayLisbon

It’s here! A month of pride! Bear Pride! Lisbon Pride! With the hottest party coming up right on Terreiro do Paço/Praça do Comércio as part of Lisbon Pride. Dance a full 12 hours on Europe’s most iconic square (Yes, it’s the one above!)… Party with the sexy residents of Lisbon until the sunrise over the Tagus… There is no pride in the world quite like it! Can you miss it?

So here are all the parties for the month:

Lisbon Bear Pride
Tr3s bar’s sexy, cuddly, hairy festival!
31 May – 5 June 2017 Lisbon Bear Pride

Lisbon Pride:
Pride March:
17 June: Pride March Lisbon – the march!

24 June: Arraial Lisboa Pride – Pride festival on the Terreiro do Paço/Praça do Comércio – 12 hours party on Europe’s most iconic square. Don’t miss it!

Conga Club:
Tensnake – Queen of the Desert
8 July
@TimeOut Market– check their Facebook or Instagram Page for details

Maria Lisboa
TBC
Check their Facebook page for details

Spit ’n Polish:
Silver
17 June
@ Ministerium Club – check their Instagram page for more details

MeetupGroups
International LGBT Network Lisbon
Cusek Bar LGBT Evenings

Sports in Lisbon
Check this post

Centro LGBT:
More details on their Facebook page (in Portuguese)

For an annual overview of events, see annual LGBTQ+ events in Lisbon (useful if you are planning a trip to Lisbon!). To make sure you receive next months list – and all the blog posts in a neat and easy to read format – sign up to my newsletter here (it’s free… and I won’t ever sell your address! Promised!).

For the regulars and a guide to bars, like Finalmente, Trumps, Construction and Co: check Patroc here, or the listing of the best gay bars/clubs in TimeOut Lisboa (in Portuguese).

Got an addition? Get in touch!

May Agenda … for #GayLisbon

It’s almost summer… all the heat, minus the family visiting from the North Pole – what’s not to like?!! So, with ❤️ from Lisbon: Here are the dates for your GayLisbon diary in May 2017.
The must-be seen at party of the month: Lesboa Party… because they are bringing over Brazilian superstar Inês Brazil… who is famous for…. well, just see her introduction video here.

Conga Club:
Fonda: Touchdown
6 May
– check their Facebook or Instagram Page for details

Maria Lisboa
Bootcamp
5 May
Check their Facebook page for details

Spit ’n Polish:
Silver
13 May
@ Ministerium Club – check their Instagram page for more details

Lesboa Party
Silver
27 May
@ Ministerium Club – check their Facebook page for more details

MeetupGroups
International LGBT Network Lisbon
Cusek Bar LGBT Evenings

Sports in Lisbon
Check this post

Centro LGBT:
More details on their Facebook page (in Portuguese)

For an annual overview of events, see annual LGBTQ+ events in Lisbon (useful if you are planning a trip to Lisbon!). To make sure you receive next months list – and all the blog posts in a neat and easy to read format – sign up to my newsletter here (it’s free… and I won’t ever sell your address! Promised!).

For the regulars and a guide to bars, like Finalmente, Trumps, Construction and Co: check Patroc here, or the listing of the best gay bars/clubs in TimeOut Lisboa (in Portuguese).

Got an addition? Get in touch!

April in GayLisbon … Eggs and chocolate please!

Getting ready to have eggs and chocolate?  Here are the dates for your GayLisbon diary in April 2017 as far as I could find them. The recommended party of the month: Conga Club… because it is all about getting fit for summer!

Conga Club:
Freedom feels Good
1 April
– check their Facebook or Instagram Page for details

Maria Lisboa
10 Anniversary
7 April
Check their Facebook page for details

Spit ’n Polish:
Silver
8 April
@ Ministerium Club – check their Instagram page for more details

MeetupGroups
International LGBT Network Lisbon
Cusek Bar LGBT Evenings

Sports in Lisbon
Check this post

Centro LGBT:
More details on their Facebook page (in Portuguese)

For an annual overview of events, see annual LGBTQ+ events in Lisbon (useful if you are planning a trip to Lisbon!). To make sure you receive next months list – and all the blog posts in a neat and easy to read format – sign up to my newsletter here (it’s free… and I won’t ever sell your address! Promised!).

For the regulars and a guide to bars, like Finalmente, Trumps, Construction and Co: check Patroc here, or the listing of the best gay bars/clubs in TimeOut Lisboa (in Portuguese).

Got an addition? Get in touch!

Bacalhau – powering GayPortugal for 500 years

Love it or love it… there is no way you’ll escape Bacalhau in Portugal (yes, even if you go vegan, you can still get Bacalhau à Bras – in vegan form!). Agreed, the dried stuff you find in supermarkets and shops is probably not the most appealing in the unprepared form… it is a little smelly, hard and just not exactly great to look at. However, once gently brought back to life… things are different. It come to life in so many forms that it is virtually impossible not to love one, two or all of them. But even better than a nicely prepared bacalhau, it is a thoroughly healthy ingredient, too. Bacalhau is high on B-vitamins (especially B-6 and B12), niacin, omega-3 fatty acids… and protein. Quite a power pack!

To prepare it, you first need to water it for 24-36 hours. Change the water a few times during this time – and don’t smell the water (yes, I made a friend smell it … and she was very skeptical about what on earth I was trying to feed her. Bad start!). Once, it is de-salted you can use it in many different ways – essentially like fresh fish, just with a bit more taste.

Over Christmas, I made Bacalhau Com Natas for some friends, which is essentially bacalhau cooked in cream. I actually exchanged the cream for simple milk – and the result was much “lighter” and equally nice. This is a fairly simple recipe to follow if you want to try it. Remember, you don’t really need to go overboard with the cream if you are trying to recover from the Christmas period!

If you prefer your Bacalhau a little more “mediterranean” (with olive oil and olives), give Bacalhau à Bras a try… A simple and delicious recipe is this one. One trick with it: rather than spending lots of time cutting potatoes into little matchsticks and frying them, if you are in Portugal, buy “Batata Frita Palha”, ready-made fried matchstick potatoes. If you can’t get them and you still want to save yourself the trouble of over-chopping, simply use matchstick crisps (ready salted) or similar. The effect will be pretty much the same.

Other recipes to try: Nelson Carvalheiro’s Bacalhau, Croquettes from Bacalhau, … and a bunch more.

Bom apetite!

 

So… what are Portuguese guys like?

“Now that you are in Lisbon… what are the guys like?” seems to be the popular first question I get asked a lot by friends… let’s see if I can cobble together some very unscientific, personal, tongue-in-cheek and totally non-generalisable answers based on my first few months here… Continue reading “So… what are Portuguese guys like?”

Looking to meet new people? Try Meetup.com

If you haven’t tried it yet, Meetup.com is a great platform to meet all sorts of interesting people (gay, straight and all). It is a pretty popular platform in London, where you can join (I’m focusing on the gay/LGBTQ+-groups here) anything from naked yoga groups to learning to speak French.

Sadly, in Lisbon it isn’t quite as big and varied… but it is still a great, free resource to connect with others in town (not just LGBTQ+ folks). On the “comunity” side, there are at the moment basically two main groups:

The Comunidade Queer & Friends-LGBTQIA Portugal is a VERY active group that combines many events, not all of them LGBT-events. The group offers you the chance to connect to many people from all across the LGBT spectrum in Lisbon – and many events are arty and cultural in nature – and really showcase queer life in the city. Don’t be afraid if you don’t speak Portuguese – most of the events are more than happy to welcome non-Portuguese-speakers.

For alternative, arts and community LGBTQ+ events in Lisbon check out this meetup:… Click To Tweet

Lisbon LGBT Social Meetup Group has been a little dormant recently, but the new organiser (cough, cough, yours truly) is trying to revive the group at the moment. The idea for that group is to be more social and international, so doing things like bar crawls, brunches and regular drinks.

For drinks and socials in #gayLisbon with an international touch, check out… Click To Tweet

Please bear in mind that you don’t really to choose between the two groups: membership to meetup.com is free for people joining one, two or twenty groups – so you can simply join both. So, whether you’re visiting Lisbon – or staying here for good … remember to come along and make some new friends 🙂 !