This retired couple left the United States and bought a house in Portugal for $534,000. Here is a glimpse of the interior
In 2015, my wife Noki, my daughter Evie and I took a vacation to Lisbon, Portugal. We immediately fell in love with the beautiful weather, the noise of the cable cars and the friendliest people we have ever met while travelling.
At the time we were living near Washington DC, I had retired in my early 40s from a legal career, and while Noki worked as a nurse, we also had an investment portfolio that paid enough dividends to live on.
It meant we could afford to take a sabbatical – and Lisbon seemed like a promising possibility.
How we found our apartment in Lisbon, Portugal
Just two days into our vacation, we started planning our move. Our Airbnb owner connected us with a real estate agent and we booked a few apartments to visit on our trip.
After looking at a few spaces, we decided we wanted a fixer-upper to get more square footage for our money. We only planned to live in Portugal for about two years, so finding the “perfect” home wasn’t that important to us.
We must have looked at over 100 apartments online. When Noki and Evie returned to the States, I stayed to see more places in person.
The search ultimately ended with a 1,300 square foot two-bedroom apartment in Barrio Alto, an area known for its vibrant nightlife. As I left the place, I noticed a tile on the wall with an engraved quote from Fernando Pessoa, a Portuguese poet, which read: “I don’t know what tomorrow will bring”.
These words felt like an invitation to welcome me and my family with open arms for a new adventure.
My real estate agent and I sat down at a cafe and negotiated back and forth with the landlord over text. When the deal closed, we landed on a purchase price of $533,554 (excluding brokerage commission and taxes).
We wired the first 10% deposit to the owner, which was a little confusing as there was no credit check and limited due diligence. Everything was agreed by handshake.
We took out a new loan on our house in Washington, DC which gave us $600,000, and paid the rest of the Lisbon apartment in cash.
We kept our American home fully furnished and rented it out to subsidize our housing costs in both countries. And after Evie finished college in 2015, we moved to Portugal with six checked bags and a blank slate.
Currently, our monthly accommodation costs in Lisbon are:
- Property taxes: $50
- Maintenance fees: $400
- Electricity: $225
- Water: $23
- Wi-Fi and cell phones: $91
Our apartment is located in one of the oldest intact buildings in Lisbon: the Convento dos Inglesinhos, an enclosed complex of converted gardens, church and cloisters.
Inside the 400-year-old building are common areas covered in historic blue and white tiles dating back 100 years.
When you walk into our apartment, you can immediately understand why our building was able to survive the great Lisbon earthquake of 1755. The solid stone walls are almost four feet thick in some places!
The loft-like living and dining room is where we spend most of our time drinking coffee, taking online classes, and eating together. The windows overlook an enclosed courtyard with olive trees.
We keep the space little finished. After moving from a big house to an apartment, we found that we only needed a small amount of furniture to feel comfortable.
At one end of the main room is the kitchen, which we remodeled in 2017 to add cabinetry and a push-door refrigerator that our two 20-pound cats couldn’t open. Along the entire length of our kitchen wall is a long spice rack, which helps us cook in different kitchens.
We’ve spent about $200,000 over the past seven years on renovations, redoing our floors, and installing cabinets and closets throughout the apartment.
At the other end of the apartment is our bedroom. We share the bathroom down the hall, which has a washer and dryer, with our daughter Evie.
And further on is his bedroom.
On paper, this apartment would not have been my first choice. I didn’t know the country or the neighborhood well, and refinancing our home in the United States to buy an apartment in a foreign country was a risky step for us.
But I’ve learned that jumping into something that brings you joy, even if it feels uncertain, is worth it.
My father and my mother-in-law died during my first year of law school.
Since then, I’ve always tried to recognize how sometimes life throws wonderful opportunities in your path and that it’s good to keep an open mind, especially because we often don’t get a second chance in life. life.
What I love most about Portugal is its welcoming and gentle culture. Every evening, Noki and I head to the common garden for a glass of wine with our neighbors. As we enjoy the cool breeze and watch the sun go down, I remember how blessed and lucky we are.
Now that we have obtained dual Portuguese nationality, we have no intention of leaving.
*Prices in this story are calculated based on conversion rates between US Dollars and Euros.
Alex Trias is a retired lawyer. He and his wife and daughter have lived in Portugal since 2015. He is the author of the “Investment Pancake” series on SeekingAlpha.comwhere he writes about tax planning, investing, early retirement and where to find the best meals in Lisbon.