Buying or Building

Insights into what is involved in buying, selling & living in Portugal

Buying versus Building or Converting a Property

Many people have the dream to convert their own cottage in Portugal. In the description these types of properties are often advertised as “Cottage for conversion”. However most of the time a better description would be “ruin given the possibility to reconstruct”.

Methods of construction, building materials and work practise are very different from UK and other countries. A century old cottage in England or France normally has a better structure basis compared to the properties offered especially in the Algarve. It will be very hard to find a property in the Algarve which is over 100 years old. One has to remember that farms in the old days - 40-60 years ago were e build is a very simple way using materials available and using a method of building which we call “Taipa”. Taipa is a method of building whereby the locals made a casing which was filled with a mixture of clay and stones. They let is dry and put another layer on top. After that the walls were rendered and white washed with chock. In the essence a very good way of building from isolation point of view. Normally the uses already a harder stone for the bases in order to avoid rising damp. Depending on the area on availability you will also see house build from rock, hold together with mud.

Even if a type of property you see and ik looks vaguely habitable, in the long term it is usual more economically sound to bulldoze it and start from scratch. Why? Because building regulations are now stricter and will force you to put in concrete pillars at each corner (that is exactly where the old house break) and also depending on the size with an interval of 4m. pillars will have to be integrated. A ring beam is requited to hold the roof structure which nowadays is much more solid than in the old days. If you want to knock a whole in the wall to put a window in the structure may collapse. Also you never get a water proof building anymore as the necessary damp proof course lacks. On top of that labour is now not cheap anymore and a job like thus has to be tackled with great care and could take longer to build than starting from scratch.

The other options obviously are to build new. It was already mentioned that the existence of a ruin could give you in general permission to reconstruct or if lucky to make it even bigger. In another article (building restrictions in the Algarve) this is described in more detail.

Building new also needs a lot of consideration before one decides this route. It takes time is sometimes frustrating and a smooth operations strongly depends on the people you involve. It is most of the time at the end of the day not cheaper than buying second hand but it will give you the freedom to design your own house and choose your own materials and finishing’s. A 15-20 year old property if not constantly up-dated by the present owners is in a way an old property. More and more you see people decide to buy a second hand property and to carry out large cosmetic alteration jobs, like new windows, new bathrooms and kitchen, new tiles and most of the time new plumbing and electricity. Most of the times the structure of these older building is very sound and the location is right and you will buy a mature garden with character.

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