In Part 1 of this article, we looked at what to expect from a listing, putting in an offer, and contract length.
Follow the Market
Apartment hunting in Lisbon is a seasonal activity, some parts of the year are better than others. In the summer, there can be a lot of openings and availabilities, but this is the high season for students going back to school and tourists looking to spend a few months abroad. The result is high demand and apartments that are either increased in price beyond their value, or ones that come and go within a few days. You must have a sharp eye on the market during this time of year.
In contrast, many people moving abroad to Lisbon find that apartment hunting in the winter months can provide the best opportunity. The city is quieter during this time and many leases end around the New Year, leading to a higher availability and less competition. This is often when you’ll find your best price as well.
It will be difficult to find a long-term apartment in Lisbon without actually moving abroad first, so you’ll likely have to book your flight and visit the country without having a permanent residence. The process of finding the right place can take a while, so you may have to commit some serious time in-country.
The best way to tackle this endeavor is to book some cheap temporary accommodations during your apartment hunt. Hotels are much too expensive of an option for this process, which could take up to a month or longer. Instead, look at long-term sublet deals on Airbnb, Uniplaces, or even at hostels. These can be great resources for buying time affordably in Lisbon while you look for apartments.
Choosing a Neighborhood
Another benefit of staying in a sublet or hostel for a month or so is to familiarize yourself with the city before you commit to signing a lease. The neighborhoods in Lisbon are incredibly diverse, and a ten-minute walk in any direction could lead you to an entirely different atmosphere.
Prices obviously vary by popularity of neighborhood, but there are good values to be had all over the city. It just takes a little bit of patience and good timing. The most popular neighborhoods in the city for expats moving abroad are Baixo, Bairro Alto, Principe Real, Alfama, anything along Avenue da Liberdade, and the quirky LX Factory/Belem. While these neighborhoods can be pricey at times, everything in central Lisbon is in close proximity, so just deviating a few blocks from these prime areas can lend you great deals in striking distance of the best neighborhoods.
Insider Tip: Lisbon is built on seven major hills, with a valley in the center along Avenue da Liberdade and Baixo by the river. While this leads to incredible views all over the city, sometimes walking can be a bit strenuous if you don’t choose the most efficient path. For this reason, some people choose to live in flatter neighborhoods or on blocks where all the amenities they need (restaurants, shopping, laundry, groceries) are on a similar altitude. Just remember, Uber is cheap in Lisbon, and there are plenty of great metro lines and trolley cars to help you get where you’re trying to go without breaking a sweat.
Cost of Living
One of the major draws of living abroad in Lisbon, and Portugal in general, is the affordability of the area compared to other western and central European countries. A quick search into price comparisons and apartment costs in Portugal will yield you some amazing results. You might be convinced to book your flight to Lisbon the following day. In reality, the cost of living in Lisbon is significantly more expensive than the rest of the country, but with a little know-how, you can still live way below your budget in other major cities in the U.S. and Canada.
With this mindset that Portugal is so affordable, you might be shell-shocked when you move there and find that you are spending large chunks of money immediately. Think about things like moving and housing costs:
- Flights to Portugal
- Realtor Fees (usually one month’s rent)
- Apartment Rent (up to 3 months in advance)
- With a little due diligence, you can expect to find a two-bedroom, furnished apartment in central Lisbon for around 950 euros)
- Security Deposits
- Setting Up Utilities (internet/cable, gas, electricity, hot water)
- Furnishing Your Apartment and Equipping Your Kitchen (if unfurnished)
When all is said and done, you might feel like you’re blowing through your annual budget – was moving abroad to Lisbon the wrong choice? It’s important to keep a cool head and remember that these kind of spending surges happen every time you move somewhere new, regardless of location in the world. This is the absolute peak of your spending and you are setting yourself up for affordable living in the long-term.
Why it’s Worth it
Moving abroad is never easy. There are long flights, language barriers, conversion rates, new rules and regulations, and a seemingly endless list of doubts about making the right decision. In the end, you can’t let this fear of the unknown handicap your personal growth and desire to see the world. If you’re considering moving abroad to Portugal, hopefully this information will ease some of your stress and prepare you for the process of renting an apartment in Lisbon. Knowledge is power.
Tyler Sorce is an American writer living in Lisbon, Portugal. Follow him on Instagram to see where he’s traveling to next!
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