The Atlantic Ocean’s unruly waves crash against the rocky cliffs of Cabo da Roca, the westernmost point in Portugal and Europe, creating “the edge of the world,” as locals call it. This vista epitomizes Portugal’s visual personality. This country, the size of a small American state, boasts 837 kilometers, or 520 miles, of rugged coastline that includes some of the world’s top surfing beaches, luring vacationers and, increasingly, Americans who want to call Portugal home.
This sea-trimmed nation annually attracts thousands of starry-eyed newcomers seeking ocean breezes, clean air, warm winter days, delicious cuisine, affordability – and a visa if they qualify. Luis Horta e Costa, a longtime player in Portugal’s real estate investment space, is one of many experts who extol the country’s virtues. A native, Horta e Costa co-founded Square View, a real estate property developer and asset manager, in Lisbon in 2016.
“I love working with architects on building projects,” Horta e Costa says. “I love watching a project grow.”
Luis Horta e Costa Views the Statistics Favorably
Developers like Luis Horta e Costa realize that statistics are wildly in their favor. Americans seek solace from their country’s living and housing costs, a degrading environment – particularly on the West Coast – and a flawed healthcare system. According to an August 2022 report from the Portuguese Service of Foreign Immigration, Americans cited these reasons for leaving.
The report says Americans have become the number one nationality choosing to invest in Portugal in the 2nd quarter of 2022, overtaking the Chinese as the top source of visa applicants. The number of Americans investing in Portugal has more than tripled compared to 2021.
According to a recent article in the L.A. Times, “Welcome to Portugal, the New Expat Haven,” the population in Portugal has declined in the last decade while the number of foreigners has grown by 40 percent.
Places like Luis Horta e Costa’s Beloved Melides Remind Americans of Home
Willowy palm trees line Lisbon’s charming streets, where cobblestones inspired by Roman mosaics create a unique aesthetic born of tragedy. One November morning in 1755, an earthquake reaching a magnitude 8.5 to 9.0 on the Richter scale struck Lisbon. Along with the resulting tsunami, the catastrophic events killed an estimated 60,000 to 100,000 people and destroyed Lisbon’s city center.
The traditional Portuguese cobblestone pavement developed as Lisbon rebuilt, adding more attractive features that make Lisbon the most popular city in Portugal, followed by Loulé, Albufeira, Cascais, and Porto. Despite being a thoroughly cosmopolitan city, Lisbon offers less expensive real estate than other European capitals of similar sophistication.
Meanwhile, Lisbon’s distinctions comprise a significant list. Where else could the world’s biggest surfing waves be found near a city of 500,000? They’re in Ericeira, a mere half hour northeast of Lisbon.
Americans choose to buy real estate in Portugal for various reasons, including the resemblance of the West and East coasts of the U.S. On the hilly seaside town of Cascais, Portugal, waves crash into Big Sur-like cliffs. This familiar environment drew startup supporter Jamie Dixon and her family from California, as chronicled in the L.A. Times article “Welcome to Portugal, the New Expat Haven.”
Dixon says, “Things were just becoming too much back home, but I didn’t want to leave everything about L.A. behind. With Portugal, we could keep the parts we liked and leave the rest.”
Northern Portugal’s climate is more like that of San Francisco and San José, typically colder and overcast. Porto attracts American buyers, especially since it’s only a 30-minute drive to the Douro Valley, which resembles California’s Napa Valley. On the southern coast of Portugal, the Algarve resembles California’s Laguna Beach, with jaw-dropping cliffs and coves, luxury-lifestyle accommodations, and award-winning golf courses.
The Alentejo region lies between the Algarve and the Tagus River. There, charming towns surrounded by vast countryside and sea, such as Melides, have gained comparisons to the Long Island Hamptons, where barefoot luxury has long been the fashion.
“My family is building in Melides, which I think is beautiful,” says Luis Horta e Costa.
The USD to EUR Currency Exchange and Golden Visa Can Benefit Americans
For the first time in 20 years, the currencies of America and Europe have maintained parity, rendering euro purchases beneficial to Americans. For Americans who were already eyeing Portugal to buy a vacation home in or retire to, the near 1-to-1 ratio means they will wield greater spending power in the real estate market.
For now, immigrants to Portugal are still eligible for the Golden Visa Program by purchasing the country’s residential or commercial real estate – although Prime Minister António Costa recently hinted at ending the program. Its overwhelming popularity has resulted in restrictions that say new residents can only buy property in designated interior areas or the autonomous islands of Madeira and the Azores.
Even with the new restrictions, the Portuguese visa-for-investment program keeps growing. And American investors are the first in line.