On my Portugal GV process so far

A few facts upfront

  1. I chose to go by the 500k € real estate purchase route, i.e. directly purchase from a person instead of going through one of those developments targeting GV.
  2. I chose not to use an intermediary agency, i.e. one of the full-service firms that take you from A to Z.

I want to share some of the learnings and tools that I used. I hope other people on the forum might find them helpful.

On Getting NIF
This is the first thing I did and this requiresd no attorneys whatsoever. I used NIF Online – Número de Identificação Fiscal em Portugal – NIF Online. It was super straightforward and I got it in a week. There is an alternative https://bordr.io/ which I think many others in this group have used. Both are legitimate.

On Selecting Attorneys
In parallel with the NIF process, I was casting a net for attorneys. I set up outreach emails and conference calls to vet each that replied to me. Through this process, I’ve not only gotten an idea of the range of calibers of the attorneys, but also some “free” information from them regarding the GV process. This information reinforced and corroborated my learnings from various websites and forums.

Then I entered into fee negotiation stage with quite a few firms. My only principle on professional fees (other than getting a competitive overall quote) is: I pay for services rendered and milestones achieved. This will necessitate a payment schedule over the lifetime of this GV project. Some firms won’t work under this paradigm so they drop off the list. These are usually larger firms that are not flexible on their billing model.

Next, I entered into the contract negotiation stage with the select few left, mostly small to medium-sized firms. Two things are important to me:

  1. Fixed overall fee with a payment schedule — Installment size is proportional to the effort needed to achieve a milestone, e.g. opening a bank account is less effort than property conveyance and therefore dictates a smaller payment.
  2. Fixed overall fee with no surprise fees — I am amenable to additional costs due to unforeseen circumstances. However, they need to be quoted at a fixed cost that are approved by me before they are incurred.

In the end, I signed with a medium-sized firm with a reasonable overall fee that checks both of the boxes above. In addition, such a firm gives me direct access to partners. In contrast, had I gone with a large firm, I might have been assigned an associate.

On Finding Real Estates to Buy
All the while, I have been getting an idea of the Lisbon market on https://www.idealista.pt/ and https://casa.sapo.pt/. I’ve never been there so it was a bit of a learning curve in the beginning to get to know the neighborhoods. Youtube was quite helpful at this stage to help me visualize the neighborhood.

Once I had some bearing on what’s available out there and their locations, I began to form my own criteria for a shortlist:

  1. Only completed apartments — No “under construction” or “soon to come” properties. I am buying in a foreign country sight unseen so I’d like this to be a clear money-for-house-now deal.
  2. Used and/or Renovated > New — This is a personal preference. I’d like an apartment with a bit of a heritage. I like high ceilings, large windows with lots of light, and hardwood floor. I haven’t found new developments that check those boxes.
  3. Quiet and accessible neighborhood.

Then came the unavoidable part which was actually spending hours and hours on the sites to form a shortlist and reaching out to the seller/listing agent for drawings and information. There is no shortcut here so prepare to spend some 1 to 2 months on this.

During this process, I was quite delighted to find out a few things specific to the PT market that can work in the buyer’s favor:

  1. Properties stay on the market for months — that means you don’t need to rush to make a decision
  2. Asking prices are always higher than transacted prices — that means you can haggle
  3. Buy-side agent is unnecessary — there’s usually a listing agent, but sometimes, if you are lucky, you can stumble upon listings that are directly listed by the seller. Those are the best deals from a value perspective. You can save some 30k € for a no middleman transaction (b/c the commission comes out of the proceeds the seller gets which is your money ultimately).

In comparison, where I am in the US, the property market is red hot. Houses go off the market in days sold with 10% to 20% above asking price all paid in cash. Decision made under that circumstance might not be rational.

On Analysing Shortlisted Properties
Unlike in the US where you can get transacted price on each property easily through redfin or other data providers, you can’t do that on idealista or casa sapo. Without comparables, it’s almost impossible to justify and negotiate an offer price.

Through some research, I realized that you could actually buy data of varying degrees of aggregation from certain companies. They are:

  1. www.idealista.com/data/ — they sell you an inexpensive auto-generated report for a particular listing. For data that’s not present there, you will have to ask them for a quote on a customized research report. They quoted me 250 € per customized report.
  2. casa sapo has a similar product call “Property Valuation Tool” — it’s also auto-generated but I found no ways to order customized datasets.
  3. www.confidencialimobiliario.com — I found them through a GV news article that quoted their research and data. The service is a subscription where you buy certain data sets of a particular city, in my case, time series transaction data set in Lisbon. I ended up using them with an annual sub cost of 1,500 €. When I approached them, I hadn’t narrowed down on a single property yet so I figured this would give me the flexibility I needed going into the negotiation phase on multiple properties.
  4. www.casafari.com — I found out about this service during one of my offer negotiations b/c the listing agent countered my offer with data from them. At this point, I already had confidencialimobiliario so I didn’t bother to approach them. From the look of the report they countered with, the quality of the research and data looked really decent.

On Funding the Purchase


It’s a long post and I will pause here for now as I am currently in the conveyance process. It will be completed by next Friday at which point, I will write about due diligence on properties.

Thanks for reading and please share your experience with everyone.

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Thank you for sharing this! I learned several new and useful tips from this, particularly about how to be an informed property buyer.

Also, the earlier advice about IB was superb as well–thank you! I signed up for IB two weeks ago based on this advice, and I’ve been very pleased with every facet of the experience so far. I turned dollars into Euros at a competitive rate and my 100€ SEPA test transfer is in progress. Moving money through SEPA at 1€ a pop is a lot nicer than paying $50 in intermediary fees, and spending two hours on the phone, to schedule an international wire transfer.

Awesome post, thank you!
Let me share one more property aggregator that I used during my own search: www.imovirtual.com

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I am so glad you are trying it. When I discovered it, it was almost too good to be true. I reached out to their support just to make sure the commission was actually what was documented.

Now they’ve gotten rid of the monthly maintenance fee which makes it even more attractive. I think they mainly make money by moving trade volume. That’s probably how they can offer this competitive rate.

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It does sound like a very attractive option. Since the SEPA transfer is an intra-EU transfer mechanism, does SEF in Portugal recognize it as “new” money introduced into the country from outside the EU with that transfer mechanism for Golden Visa purposes? Or asked differently, have you been pre-approved yet to know that this mechanism is kosher with respect to what they are looking for?

I have not been pre-approved yet, but SEPA is the only way I can transfer money into Portugal as I cannot take my country out of SEPA :smiley:
It is still an international transfer for the GV purposes.

Today I confirmed that my SEPA transfer from IB to Bison competed in 1 day, without a hitch, and there were no intermediary fees. The overall cost and timeline was:

  • from my bank to IB: free via ACH transfer or bill payment (arrived in ~2 days)
  • 0.2% margin, no fee for FX conversion (lower spread if > $1 million) (cleared in 2 days)
  • 1 Euro SEPA transfer fee, waived for the first transfer each month (arrived in 1 day)

I am pleased with IB’s site usability. I commend their two factor authentication strategy that uses push notifications to the mobile app.

really? I think the trading app is horrible and I hate the redesign of the account management interface. it’s just that it’s like BBG, we’re all so used to the crappy that the crappy Java interface is burned in our brain much as BBG function keys are and changing would be so painful that no one will ever countenance it, and IB is simply the finest universal brokerage in the world in terms of breadth depth and execution quality. (helps that they make money the old fashioned way, by charging fees for services rendered in a clear and transparent fashion.)

I don’t think it’s 0.2%, but rather 0.2 basis points = 0.002%. Well technically that is the commission, not the spread. However the spread is typically just 0.1 basis points (for USD → EUR).

There’s a minimum commission of 2 USD per transaction, which is exactly what it’ll cost you for a $100,000 conversion (plus then about $1 lost due to the spread). That works out well, since ideally you’d convert less than €100,000 at a time since that’s the max you can keep in EUR with IB before they start applying negative interest.

So convert 100K, then transfer to PT bank, then convert another 100K, and so on.

Depending on what your US bank charge for the initial wire transfer you can convert and transfer €350,000 for a cost of just over €15. Or €500K for about €20-25. It’s crazy cheap.

I still personally use Wise for smaller transfers (for the added convenience and time savings), but if you’re exchanging €350,000 that’s almost $1,500 saved by using IB instead of Wise. Or almost $2,000 for a €500,000 transfer.

And I don’t even want to think about how much these transfers would cost you if you just do a standard international SWIFT transfer where you let your US bank do the conversion…

How do these costs compare to the USD wire to Bison Bank and having them change the currency - I understand they have a very small commission for the exchange as well?

My main question remains if this a kosher way to transfer for a Golden Visa transfer where the funds are supposed to come from outside the EU, and SEPA transfers are primarily from EU countries (with some exceptions), meaning IB is somehow able to plug into SEPA probably by having the funds go out of a SEPA bank, most of which are in the EU.

UK transfers should be ok as they are no longer part of the EU, but have SEPA banks.

Avoiding the wire transfer is a big win period. An international wire transfer to Bison is complicated enough that it has spawned endless discussion in its own right. You’re looking at ~$50 in correspondent bank fees from CGD for a USD wire transfer to Bison–and days of nail-biting worry about the creaky complexity of the process–vs 1€ and overnight delivery for a SEPA transfer. SWIFT is breathtakingly antiquated and cryptic.

I think that the currency conversion costs are reasonable either way. I don’t care about $2 vs $20 in currency exchange fees, and I think that IB wins that competition regardless. Convenience and security are my dominant considerations at that price point, and you can’t beat the price, safety, and convenience of the IB process.

FWIW, the IBKR SEPA transfer came out of their UK account, at least for the few that I did.

Incredibly helpful thank you

aloha, this is Carole from Maui. Could you say where you started to cast your net for lawyers? I am so confused and overwhelmed and basically going round in circles. It’s especially difficult because I am very very unskilled at all things computer. ANY advise welcome!!

I just googled.

Most of the attorneys/firms that offer this service handle immigration as well. So google

  • “law firm portugal golden visa”
  • “law firm portugal immigration”
    those should yield plenty of choices.

Then you just need to email, set up calls and vet them.

I reached out to some from this site. There is a Google doc spreadsheet somewhere on here with lawyers listed, I PM’d a couple of people as well who had mentioned having lawyers.

I think this is the post with the spreadsheet:

Keep asking questions Carole, there is a lot of help here.

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Thank you Xraydelta for the valuable details. It’s obvious that you’re very organized person whose take care of all details. Surely, your post will be helpful and handy for all. The real estate websites that you mentioned are the best and found them more helpful than others.
Good luck with your house hunt and please tell us what will you end up with :+1:t2:

@xraydelta would you mind sharing with me the top law firms you thought based on your criteria you listed? I’m trying to look at a real estate option (and short on time) and would love your recommendations if you’d be willing to share. xoxoxo

Hi Xraydelta,

Your post on GV process is extremely helpful! Thank you so much for sharing.
If you don’t mind me asking a few more details about your post, your insights would be appreciated:

  • Could you share the name of the law firm you end up going with? I’m also in the process of selecting lawyers.
  • Could you share the neighborhoods you end up picking or have found suitable so far? I have been looking around neighborhoods as well and have short listed Avenida Nova and the area around Marquês de Pombal.
    Thanks again and looking forward to your reply and next post!