I wrote yesterday about a region of Western Europe that I believe qualifies as the best place to live or retire in the Old World on a budget.
Heck, this is a pretty nice place to call home even if you’re not living on a budget.
Where am I talking about?
Recently, we spoke with our correspondent on the ground in the Algarve, Luis da Silva…
LIOS: In your opinion, Luis, what are the five key attractions for expats of the two regions in the Algarve that you’re recommending specifically, Silves and Lagoa?
Luis: Great weather, year-round. Existing expat community, with English spoken by many. Very competitive cost of living. Low or zero tax for those who qualify. And the cost of real estate, which is very competitive for Europe.
LIOS: When is the best time of year to make an exploratory visit… or, to put it another way, is there any time of the year when the weather would make it difficult to get out and explore?
Luis: There are no bad months… though we do have a winter here. January and February are a bit colder. My favorite months are September and October, when the summer crowds have gone but the weather and sea temperature are still glorious.
LIOS: How difficult is it for an American to get residency in Portugal?
Luis: Not difficult at all. In fact, the government has been working to make it easier all the time for foreign nationals to become legal residents. Today you have the Golden Visa program (which offers residency through investment)… as well as the straightforward minimum-income opportunity.
The minimum-income residency option requires you to show that you have a guaranteed source of income that amounts to at least two times the Portuguese minimum wage. Right now, that works out to US$1,200 per month.
LIOS: Resale apartments can be great value along the Algarve coast (from 100,000 euros), but it seems that houses and villas can be expensive, especially for a country that has suffered so much during the crisis and is still recovering. Are there any megadeals to be had?
Luis: Yes, there are some very good deals, though they’re less common than a year or two ago. One of the reasons is that Portugal did not have the level of overbuilding seen in Spain. Bottom line, it is still a buyer’s market. Distressed private sellers and bank repossessions provide the best bargain deals.
LIOS: What about a renovation?
Luis: Silves is a good municipality for renovations for two reasons. In Silves’ city center you have a range of wonderful old buildings, some of which have been abandoned. Outside the city are rural properties that have been left as owners moved to cities. A Silves city property could be a great project, especially if it’s located near the river. It could even be eligible for a government grant.
LIOS: Luis, you’ve mentioned that it’s easy to open a bank account in Portugal, even for U.S. citizens? Is this still the case?
Luis: Yes, it’s true… even for Americans.
LIOS: In some parts of the world, the costs for medical care can be so low that it can make more sense to pay as you go rather than investing in expensive health insurance. Could that be an option in Portugal?
Luis: Yes, absolutely, once you have the right to use the public system. Before then, insurance is advisable. In fact, the Golden Visa program, for example, requires that you prove you have insurance for the first year at least. However, you have very reasonable insurance options, including for less than 20 euros per person per month in some instances.
LIOS: Who would you say would most enjoy living in the Algarve?
Luis: Someone who likes to be active, who appreciates a tranquil location, who wants to be part of an expat community, but who also wants a chance to become part of a local community…
If you don’t like great weather, stay away.
If you want a very good cost of living for the quality of life on offer, then this part of Portugal is a great option, especially, right now, for Americans, thanks to the rate of exchange between the euro and the U.S. dollar.