Buying property in Portugal as a foreigner from the UK [2023]

Gert Svaiko

With an attractive climate, beautiful coast and friendly communities, Portugal is a top destination for expats looking to relocate, either for work or retirement.

If you're planning on moving to Portugal from the UK, you'll need to find a place to live. Around 78% of people own their own homes in Portugal¹, which is higher than average homeownership rates in many other countries around the world. There are no restrictions to buying a house, a villa, or land in Portugal as a foreigner², and the real estate sector is well-developed.

Many foreigners have settled in Portugal, or invested in a second home there. If you’re thinking of doing the same, then you’ll need to know a bit about how to buy property in Portugal as a foreigner, and how the process typically works. Here’s a handy guide, covering everything you need to know.

And, if you want to manage your money easily in both Portugal and the UK, check out the Wise account. Wise lets you send, spend, receive, convert and manage your money in multiple currencies – including British pounds and euros – always at the mid-market exchange rate.

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Please see the Terms of Use for your region or visit Wise fees & pricing for the most up-to-date information on pricing and fees.

What’s the property market like in Portugal?

Portugal’s housing market has, like other nations worldwide, been affected by the COVID-19 health crisis. Before the pandemic, house prices were steadily climbing - with prices in Lisbon, Porto and the Algarve seeing the biggest increase. In fact, property prices in the Algarve shot up by 50% between 2016 and 2020.³

The property market in Portugal has not emerged unscathed from the pandemic, as prices have dropped slightly - by 3% in Lisbon in 2020, for example.³ But with the world opening up again and demand from foreign buyers increasing, the average house price has increased from 1,211 (euros/m2) in 2020 to 1,454 (euros/m2) in 2022, roughly a 17% price increase.⁴

How easy is it to buy property in Portugal as a foreigner?

There are no special requirements nor paperwork for foreigners wishing to buy property in Portugal, so you shouldn’t have any issues.⁵

You must have a fiscal number (Numero de Contribuinte) to purchase a property in Portugal.⁵ You can get this through the local tax office or it's issued when you open a local bank account.

Buying property in Portugal after Brexit

The good news for prospective property buyers is that Brits can still buy property in Portugal. This is because as we’ve mentioned, there are no restrictions on foreigners buying houses, apartments and land in Portugal.⁵

And as non-EU citizens, British expats may also be eligible to apply for Portugal’s Golden Visa scheme. We’ll look at how this works next.

Can I buy property in Portugal and get residency?

One of the reasons Portugal is such an attractive place for foreign buyers is its Golden Visa program.

If you buy a home in Portugal as a third country national (which is what UK citizens are after Brexit) and you spend at least €500,000², you might be entitled to a Golden Visa. This grants you up to five years residency, after which you may be entitled to permanent residence status.²

How much does it cost to buy property in Portugal?

If you’re thinking of buying a property in Portugal, the price you pay will be influenced significantly by where you want to live. The capital and the Algarve coastal areas are the most popular places for expats looking to settle in Portugal.

To give you an idea of property prices in Portugal, let’s take a look at costs per square metre to buy an apartment in a range of popular locations:

LocationApartment price per sq.m - in city centre⁶Apartment price per sq.m - outside city centre⁶
Cascais€5,375€3,370
Lisbon€5,362€3,042
Porto€3,433€1,958
Coimbra€2,225€1,462

And, if you’re arranging your property purchase in Portugal while still in the UK, you’ll need a safe, reliable and preferably low-cost way to send over fees, deposits and other payments.

The Wise account could be a great solution, with transparent, low fees, and the fair mid-market exchange rate to convert your pounds to euros. Wise is FCA regulated and uses sophisticated anti-fraud and other security measures to keep your money safe. You can even track your transfer to check it arrives safely.

Learn more about the Wise account

Please see the Terms of Use for your region or visit Wise fees & pricing for the most up-to-date information on pricing and fees.

Where is the cheapest place to buy property in Portugal?

buying-property-in-portugal-braga

The city of Braga and surrounding areas is one of the cheapest places to buy property in Portugal. The average price per m2 for properties in Braga was €1,336/m2 in 2021.⁷ This northern city is not only a great spot for a bargain home, but it’s also regularly voted Portugal’s happiest city.⁷

Thanks to its affordable real estate prices and many other attractive qualities, Braga is a good choice for young families and people looking to retire in Portugal, as well as those looking to start a business.

However, if you do want to live near one of the big cities like Lisbon or Porto - look just outside the city centre. As you can see from the table, property prices drop dramatically when you search outside the centre.

How can I find a property in Portugal?

Property agencies and agents

There are several avenues you can take to find a property in Portugal:

  • Through an estate agent (imobiliaria) - all agents should display a license number (Associacao de Mediadores Imobiliarios)
  • Through an online portal which puts sellers in touch with buyers directly
  • Through word of mouth

An estate agent, if used, generally works on behalf of the seller. The estate agent fees are likely to be between 3% and 5% plus 23% VAT of the price of the property, and will be covered by the seller

Property websites in Portugal

The best way to get a head start on finding a place to buy in Portugal is to look online. There are both national and smaller local agencies, so it's worth checking out local realtors too. Great national websites to find a house or apartment to buy include:

  • Century 21: this site has English language ads for properties, and can be accessed simply using their app
  • Rightmove: a UK based site offering property intended for the expat market - and the prices reflect this
  • ERA: search using the detailed form, and find your perfect home.

Buying property in Portugal - pitfalls to avoid

One of the main pitfalls to avoid when buying property in a foreign country is scams. Luckily, there are a number of things you can do to avoid them.

Firstly, make sure your chosen real estate agent is properly registered. All agents have to be registered with the proper body (known as the Associacao de Mediadores Imobiliarios) and hold a licence number. Check out your agent’s credentials by talking to the Instituto da Construção e do Imobiliario (the body responsible for construction and realty).

When it comes to finding your own independent solicitor, it’s also important to do your research carefully. You should know that there are both professionals known as a solicitador and an advogado in Portugal. A solicitador is a conveying specialist, and an advogado is a qualified lawyer.

In most cases, an advogado, although more expensive, will be the better choice when arranging your house purchase. Don’t feel you have to take the recommendation of your broker or the seller - your lawyer will work for you, so you must find someone who you’re comfortable with.

How do I choose the right property?

You'll have a wide choice of flats, houses, villas, or even land if you want to build your dream home in Portugal yourself. Naturally, you'll find more flats available in built-up areas and cities, with houses and villas more readily available in newer developments in the suburbs, and in towns and villages.

Following an increase in new construction in the cities and the coastal areas, along with Algarve in particular, you'll find a good mix of older properties and new-build condos here.

Condition of the property

It’s a smart idea, though not required by law, to get a survey done on any property you choose, before you commit to buying it.⁸ Older houses in particular can have hidden problems which are costly to fix. Your solicitor can help you find a registered surveyor.

What are the steps to buying a property in Portugal as a foreigner?

Buying a house, villa, or land in Portugal isn’t too dissimilar to buying a home elsewhere in Europe or North America.

Here’s what you’ll need to do:²

  1. Decide on the funding – either use your savings or look for mortgages that might suit you, and get an offer in principle, so you have a budget in mind
  2. Find the property you want to buy
  3. Engage an independent solicitor to help check contracts and make sure the property is surveyed
  4. Make an offer the seller agrees to
  5. If you go for a mortgage, go back to the bank and finalise the mortgage
  6. Sign the sales contract (Contrato de Promessa de Compra e Venda) with the notary
  7. Pay your deposit and agree a completion date with the seller
  8. Pay the property transfer tax (Imposto Municipal sobre Transmissões) known as IMT. The amount you pay depends on the price of the property and your circumstances.
  9. Sign the Deed of Purchase and Sale (Escritura Publica de Compra e Venda) and have the property registered in your name.

What are the legal requirements to buying a property in Portugal?

One of the most important legal requirements for buying property in Portugal is to use a notary

The notary is different to your independent solicitor, as they work as a middleman on behalf of the state, taking responsibility for things like checking the Land Registry (Conservatória de Registo Predial) and Inland Revenue (Repartição de Finanças) to make sure the property can be legally sold and check for any restrictions on its use.² You'll then sign the contracts with the seller, witnessed by the notary.

How do I get a bank loan/mortgage in Portugal?

buying-property-in-portugal-mortgage

Portugal has a sophisticated banking system with plenty of choice in local and international banks. The largest banks include Santander, Novo Banco, BBVA and Bankinter. You might recognise the brands as many have a global presence.

For example, global banking giant Santander has a Portuguese operation, offering many of the same accounts and deals that you can get elsewhere in the world. If you have an account with them already, you may find it easier to switch to their local business in Portugal. But, if you don’t have a Portuguese address yet, you may be limited to non-resident bank accounts when opening a new account in Portugal, and can have more restrictions.

In general, Portuguese banks usually only offer loans between 65% and 75% of the purchase price or the value of the property, one that is lower, to non-residents.⁹

When you’ve chosen the mortgage product that works best for you, you’ll need to make your application. As in most places, this’ll mean that you have to arrange a stack of paperwork and visit the bank in person to get approval.

In many cases, you may have to pay a hefty application or ‘commitment’ fee (in the region of €600 or more⁹) to secure your mortgage – and it’s non-refundable. Each bank will operate slightly differently, so call your local branch to get the details. You should also check if there’s an English-speaking staff member who can help you, as this isn’t always the case.

It’s worth getting a mortgage agreement in principle before you go on too far with your property search, as this will give you a more solid idea of what you can afford and finance through a loan.

How do deposits and down payments work?

You’ll pay a deposit of at least 20% of the sale price² at the point of signing the initial agreement to purchase your new home (Contrato de Promessa de Compra e Venda). This agreement must also be notarised before you can move on with the process.

If you’re not yet in Portugal, you might have to pay your deposit from abroad. This might mean making a large international money transfer to cover the deposit amount. If you’re transferring a considerable amount of money across currencies, it’s important you get the best deal available – both in terms of transfer fees and exchange rates.

One smart option is to get a Wise account. With this, you can send, receive, and hold multiple currencies all in one account (including GBP and EUR). You can use it as an alternative to traditional bank accounts and get the Wise card to pay like a local, wherever you need it.

Register with Wise today

Please see the Terms of Use for your region or visit Wise fees & pricing for the most up-to-date information on pricing and fees.

What kind of taxes and fees will I need to pay?

Although you're liable to fees as a buyer, these vary according to the circumstances. The main cost is IMT transfer tax, which is scaled according to the purchase price of the property. However, you won’t need to pay IMT on the first €92,407 if the property will be your main residence.² Talk to your solicitor about the costs likely to be levied in your circumstances.

Fees and taxes include:

  • Stamp duty: 0.8% the sales price of the property²
  • Property transfer tax: Imposto Municipal sobre Transmissões (IMT): This is calculated on a sliding scale depending on the cost of the home, from 2-8%². A higher tax is payable if the property is a second home.
  • Notary and land registry fees: These are usually combined and come in at around 0.2% to 1.2% of the property cost.¹⁰
  • Immovable property tax: after becoming an owner of a property, you’ll need to start paying a property tax (IMI) to the local municipality. The rate is around 0.3%-0.45% depending on the municipal.¹⁰

Estate agents fees are usually paid by the seller.


Buying a property is a big and exciting step, but navigating the system in a new country can be a challenge. Luckily, buying your dream home in Portugal should be fairly straightforward if you follow the tips and info in our handy guide, and source the right local help if you need it.

Good luck with finding, buying and settling into your new home in Portugal.


Sources used for this article:

  1. Trading Economics - homeownership rate
  2. Expatica - buying property in Portugal
  3. IMI Daily - Portugal’s real estate market during Covid-19
  4. Idealista - Portugal house prices 2022
  5. Proper Star - how to buy property as foreigner
  6. Numbeo - property prices in Portugal
  7. Idealista - living in Braga
  8. Total Buying Abroad - surveyors
  9. Expatica - mortgages in Portugal
  10. Get Golden Visa - why buy property in Portugal

Sources checked on 21-Dec-2022.


This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from TransferWise Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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