Portugal,  Portuguese Landscape and Locations

What Are Our Housing Choices in Coimbra?

Housing in Coimbra has been on my mind.  What types of places are available for us?  I’ve been keeping an eye on the types of housing available in Coimbra for us to rent when we get there.  There is a lot to consider.

Size Matters

Because we are going to be a family of five people, we need a rather large place.  Four bedrooms are the minimum, but I am also looking at five-bedroom places.  We want to be able to host friends and family when people come to visit.

Coimbra is a university city so there are lots of apartments to rent. However, the apartments tend to be one or two bedrooms.  There aren’t as many four- or five-bedroom places available online.  However, I already have a real estate buyer’s/renter’s agent in mind to help us find a good place.  

The buyer’s agent is paid for by the seller/landlord, so it will cost nothing for us to use one.  This is important because we don’t know the rental laws of Portugal.  Also, I’ve heard that many landlords will jack up prices for expats.  Using a buyer’s agent should help level the playing field.

Specifically, we will need to be within walking distance of public transportation.  We hope to be within walking distance of shops, cafes, restaurants, and grocery shopping.  We want to explore the immediate area at will without having to get on a bus to do it.

Luckily, public transportation is widely available in Portugal. Not only are the cities well-served by busses, but the intercity train system is fantastic.  Coimbra is a major hub for the trains and express busses, so it will be easy to get to Porto or Lisbon as needed.

Dan and Angie have a dog, so we would need to either have a yard or be near a park or other green space.  I should be able to find someplace acceptable as long as it isn’t in the middle of the main part of the city.

Energy Efficiency

Housing in Portugal prior to the 1990s was not made to energy-efficient standards.  People built houses to be cooler in the summer.  The temperatures can get pretty high, especially in the interior sections.  However, not as much care was given for the winter season.  

Luckily, the temperature rarely gets below freezing in most of the country.  But with the high humidity during the rainy season (winter), the cold is a damp cold.  Many people have to wear gloves, hats, scarves, and coats indoors.  Indoors is often colder than outdoors.  

Personally, I don’t mind the cold so much – it’s the damp cold that bothers me.  However, my brother and sister-in-law are from the South.  They are much more used to warmer winters.  Coimbra may wind up being too cold for comfort. We won’t know that until we spend our first winter there. 

Oftentimes, the humidity indoors causes mold to grow on the walls.  This can obviously cause respiratory problems.  Since I certainly don’t want to spend half my time on ladders scrubbing the ceiling and walls with bleach, I’ll am looking for a place with good insulation.

Many of the homes listed online have Energy Certificates.  They are rated from A (the most efficient) to F (the least efficient).  I hope to find places with an A or B rating, but a C rating might also work.  

Housing Options in Coimbra

One of the websites I have been looking at for housing is idealista.pt. I entered the number of bedrooms I want in the filter so I only see those which are large enough.  There are other filters like apartment vs house, the number of bathrooms, new or used construction, air conditioning, parking, size (in square meters), etc.  

Other websites I’ve been checking are imovirtual.com and casa.sapo.pt.  Sometimes I find the same listing on all three sites, and occasionally I find one listing several times on one site.  For instance, there is one duplex that has been listed three or four times on idealista at the same time often with different thumbnail photos.  It’s been listed there for months so it makes me wonder what is wrong with it.

I’ve seen a couple of villas for rent, large ones.  Like, ones with 8 and 11 bedrooms.  Those would be awesome to live in and definitely have plenty of room to spread out. We could invite all of our friends at one time!  But they are way too expensive, along the lines of 3,500 Euros a month ($4,241 U.S.).  It’s nice to dream though.

Of course, the larger the home, the more space we will have to spread out.  My daughter Kellie is an only child.  She has lived with only me and our cats since 2012 when her father died.  She will need plenty of time to get used to living with other people, so the more room we have to spread out, the better.

If we get an apartment, I don’t want one above the first floor (that’s the 2nd floor in U.S. terms) unless there is an elevator.  We want a large balcony so we can relax outside even in the rain.  A large kitchen is a major plus because we plan on cooking many healthy meals.

Cost of Coimbra Housing

Obviously, housing with four or five bedrooms is going to cost more than a place with two or three bedrooms.  That’s a given.  If we were to look for housing in Lisbon or Porto, I don’t think we would be able to afford it.  But housing in Coimbra is fairly affordable, by U.S. standards anyway.  

Not only do I have to consider the rental cost, but I also have to keep the exchange rate in mind as well.  Presently, $1 US is equal to 1.21 Euros. To be on the safe side, I’m using a $1 to 1.25 Euros comparison when figuring rents.  For instance, a place that is listed for 1,200 Euros is equivalent to $1,455 U.S.  When I first began checking for housing last year, a 1,200 Euro place was equivalent to $1,300 U.S.

Hopefully, with the stability of the new U.S. Administration, the exchange rate will improve.  However, we can’t count on that.  So as much as I may like the looks of a huge place, I have to keep finances in mind.

Another thing I need to keep in mind is that places there are listed in square meters, not square feet.  For a four- or five-bedroom apartment, I need to look for someplace with enough room to spread out.  Our current two-bedroom with den is 1,050 square feet (97.5 square meters).  I think we should have enough space for 4 adults, a child, a dog, and one or two cats if we had a 1,500 square foot place (149 square meters).

Speaking of animals, landlords cannot discriminate against pets in Portugal.  They are considered members of the family.  That will make it easier to find a pet-friendly place to live.

Planning a Pre-Move Visit to Find Housing in Coimbra

Next year, probably in May, Dan, Angie, and I will make a trip to Coimbra to find a place to live.  We’ll need to set get our NIF numbers first.  The NIF number is kinda like a Social Security number.  You cannot do anything there without one.  It’s needed to open a bank account, rent a place to live, buy a car, get a loan, set up a phone service, set up utilities for housing, etc.  

Merchants are supposed to ask for it when you purchase things but oftentimes don’t.  It’s to help track taxes due on a purchase.  If they don’t ask for it, you can request they take it.  It will make it easier for you to file your taxes there as the deductions are automatically applied if all of your purchases are recorded.

Once we get our NIF numbers, we can meet with the buyer’s agent and start touring housing.  I’d like us to settle on a place with a one-year contract.  In Portugal, you can legally break a lease after you spend at least one-third of the amount of time of the lease, with a 2-month notice.  So, if we don’t like the place after two months, we can notify the landlord and move out after four months of the lease.  

We plan to spend that first year exploring the other places in Portugal to find the perfect place for us to live.  Coimbra is just the starting point.  Who knows?  Maybe it will be the place we love best.  But there are so many options of where to live in Portugal.  Inland, the coast, the north, the south, big city, small town or village, an apartment, a house with land, so many options.  Maybe we’ll have to live in each area for six months at a time.

The possibilities are endless!


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