Archive for the ‘Property’ Category

It’s taken me a while to get chance to sit down and continue this A to Z. I’m starting to think that the entire alphabet is going to last more than a year. That’s something I never could have imagined at the start! Still, it’s a nice project to be getting on with and a bit of motivation to do more than just post photos on Facebook each time we do something fun!

Anyway, I’ve had my P topic for a while. Actually, I had several ideas for my P topic but lately which one to choose has become clearer.

P is for Priorities

In order to make our move to Portugal, we had to take a good look at our priorities.

Our life in England was comfortable. We had modest income (topped up with tax credits) to allow us to be self-employed and spend some time with our boys but we constantly felt restricted. There was little around us locally that inspired us, as a family and it’s no secret that we’d had itchy feet for a long time.

A move abroad, however, would come with huge sacrifices and definitely required us to look long and hard at our priorities.

In the UK, we could live comfortably in our own home and not have any real worries about money. We had our own 3 bed home with large garden in a pretty outlying village. We had a nice, smart, modern car. We could be in full control of our own business. We could visit family and friends whenever we felt like it. We would be in as much control of our lives as is possible to guarantee in this day and age.  Despite this, we weren’t settled.

In Portugal, there is always a concern that we won’t make ends meet. We work hard to ensure that our business makes enough money to cover our basic living expenses plus a little extra but, in order to do that, we have had to significantly change the way we work. We’ve had to sub-contract out various parts of our business and rely on others working with us. This is a scary position to be in, I can tell you.

We also now live in rental accommodation, something we’ve never done before. Our housing situation is also a little out of our hands as we are constantly aware that our landlady could decide to sell, if she so wanted (fortunately, she has other, empty properties she could sell first and that’d be difficult enough in a stagnant property market!) We had also had to take in tenants in our UK house and this puts another financial strain on our household. All well and good while the tenants are in but a huge burden should they decide to move on.

We own an old banger of a car. But not a cheap car. Oh no. There is no such thing as a cheap car here in Portugal. We now own the oldest car we’ve ever owned (it’s 15 years old) which cost us the most we’ve ever paid for a vehicle!

We’re now half a day or more from family and UK friends. The boys have lost contact with many of their school friends they grew up with and we’ve all had to find new friends in a foreign land.

Life here isn’t easy, by a long shot. It’s financially unstable and, at time, emotionally draining.

However, at the same time, it is beautiful and full of new opportunities.

Ponta de Piedade

Ponta de Piedade

Despite having less money, we are surrounded by things to do.

With the beach just a few minutes walk away, we can visit all year and enjoy the ever-changing scenery it presents us.

A trip to the beach in July

Meia Praia Beach in February!

The boys have both made new friends in school and Eliot, in particular, is happy to find friends where-ever he goes. He can be bossy in TWO languages now!

Boys playing with new friends at the Skate Park, Lagos

We have made some great friends ourselves and now get to spend quality time with them too, often enjoying outdoor visits, picnics, meals and new places together.

Our newly made good pals Dave and Aly (wave, guys!)

As well as making new friends, UK family and friends visit us here which is something that never happens in England!

My little sis on one of her (many!) visits

We get to learn about and share in a new Portuguese way of life, with it traditions and festivals.

Loulé Carnival 2012

And, as the Algarve typically has few weeks of bad weather per year, for 90+% of the year, all this happens in the sun, of course!

Sunrise on Meia Praia Beach

So, yes. We’ve made sacrifices with our move to Portugal.

We’ve sacrificed income, control, our own home, a nice car, ease of communication and having family on our doorstep.

In return, we have beautiful days, fabulous places, great friends and regular visitors.

A fair trade-off? I’d say so.

It’s all about priorities, innit?

It’s a hard life but someone’s gotta do it!


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As promised, I took some photos of Eliot’s recent bedroom makeover.

I mentioned before that our property is a rental so, as every rental home seems to, it has the obligatory “white walls all round”. This is great for making your home looks bright, airy and clean. Well, until you move a young boy into it, that is!

One of El's main walls before we attacked it.

After nearly 2 years, Eliot’s walls were covered in pen, stickers and even footprints! The horizontal dark patch on the wall is the area that was directly along his bed line and is a result, mostly, of a 7/8yr old’s grubby feet!

Eliot's bedroom, pre-makeover

Bedroom, pre-makeover

Eliot chose the new paint colour and we all agree that he made a perfect choice. The paint was on offer in Bricomarché at €17,99 for 2 tubs of 4 litres (each claiming approximately 10 sq mt of coverage) We weren’t entirely sure how much paint we’d need but, for the record, we used around 5 litres of it in total.

The same wall, after re-paint and switch-around!

This is the same wall! We moved his bedroom around, when we brought the furniture back in, as the different layout allowed us more free wall space for the new storage units. Eliot has a LOT of toys and needed much, much more storage space than he had previously. We picked up the 9-hole unit and the 5-shelf unit in Bricomarché in Portimão for €59,99 and €25,99 respectively . They both needed some modification to make them secure and Nik the bridged the gap between unit and bed to make a bedside table out of a divider that we didn’t use in the 9-hole unit (his original bedside table didn’t quite fit!)

You can also just about see his new mat, inside the balcony door. It’s actually about 2 meters long (which we didn’t realise) so has had to be tucked in underneath the shelf unit and a table the other side of the door. It was a good buy at €9,99 from DeBorla, at Portimão Retail Park, though.

DIY bedside table

His TV and Xbox unit was moved over  to near the wardrobe. This gives him a TV/Xbox “area” rather than having to sit on his bed.

New location for the TV/Xbox

You can also see El’s new curtain here. I say curtain, I mean curtain, singular. To be honest, our budget didn’t stretch to a pair and, as it’s in addition to window shutters anyway, one curtain is really enough (two would be nice though. I’ve suggested that Eliot requests a second one for his birthday!) He chose this multi-stripe affair from Aki at Portimão Retail Park. It was a bit pricier than we’d budgeted, at €22,99 for one curtain, but hey, we only really needed one anyway!

Lots of new storage for lots of toys!

As you can see, we now have lots of lovely open storage which, for Eliot, works best because it’s accessible both for getting to his toys and for putting them back (something he really is not good at!)

A place for everything and everything in its place - for now!

The storage boxes themselves are a complete mish-mash of whatever we had in the house. We still need to pick up a few more for some of the toys (both the K’Nex and the Meccano are in too-small containers right now) but those can wait. For now, the budget is exhausted!

Spiderman keeps an eye on the place while Eliot isn't around

We’re thrilled with how it has turned out. The colour is lovely. Not too pale and “baby-ish”, not too dark. It’s bright, clean and perfect. It came in at under €150, including the new units and we spent 2 days on it in total, clearing, cleaning, painting and buying/building new furniture. Money and time well spent, I think.

Eliot loves his new room too. And that’s the most important thing!

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E is for Emigration

Let’s face it, it had to be done, didn’t it?

I think everyone, at some point in their life, has itchy feet. The desire, or maybe even the need, to get away from it all. Start again. Somewhere new. Somewhere “better”. Somewhere…. warmer?

It’s perfectly normal. I think everybody has a sense of “the grass is greener” every once in a while. For most people, I think that passes and they go back to their normal lives without giving it much more thought.

For some, however, that feeling never goes away. That’s how Nik and I had felt for about as long as we can remember!  Since the very first time we flew abroad together, we’ve discussed, on and off, moving away, particularly overseas. When we had children, instead of going away, the feelings intensified greatly.

Because we’ve been self-employed and business owners for the majority of our parenting years, it’s meant that the usual places to move to, well, the English-speaking places to move to were pretty much out of the question for us. Shifting time zones isn’t good for running a UK business and we don’t have sufficiently desirable employable skills so both the USA and “Down Under” were pretty much ruled out.

It was, however, a trip to the latter, to visit family who emigrated in 2007 to Australia, that was the biggest trigger for us!  We spent 4 weeks in Australia, moving from Brisbane to Sydney to Melbourne (where Nik’s cousin and her family now live) and back to Brisbane again, over Christmas and New Year 2009/2010. Even though Australia wasn’t an option for us to move to, we returned from our Oz trip with 100% determination to find somewhere we could move to, outside of the UK.

Some of the scenery that wowed us in Oz

The beach at Bribie Island, QLD.

Christmas Dinner in Oz 2009!

We debated several countries to move to. It wasn’t going to be somewhere English-speaking so we looked to southern Europe. Our shortlist became Italy, South of France or Portugal. Nik’s sister had been living in Portugal for about 8 years so we started there. I did a short recce mission at the end of January 2010 (yes, we really did work that quickly after our return from Oz!) and quickly decided that we could, with a bit of effort*, make Portugal work for us.

We returned, for a family visit, early February 2010 and, on that one trip, decided definitively on town and found an apartment to rent. One of few we had managed to view but we fell in love with both it and Lagos itself in that short week.

Lagos Town Centre February 2010

Praia de Vau beach. February 2010

View from Silves Castle. February 2010

It’s not difficult to see how and why we fell in love with the Algarve.

Family took our news pretty well really. I think everybody had a hint that we might decide to do something after returning from Oz. The boys weren’t too thrilled. Jake particularly. He was 10 and had friends he’d grown up with for 5 years at school. It’s no small thing to be moving a child away from his almost “life-long” friends. Eliot, who was 6, was quite excited about moving (oh, how the tide turned – with both of them – when reality set in!)

There’s so much to do when you’re planning to leave your home country and start afresh somewhere new. We own a house in the UK and had (still have) no intention of selling so one important thing we needed to do was de-clutter (BIG-time), redecorate and rent out! We’d struggle to live here if we didn’t have rent to cover our mortgage but we’re fortunate, we do have tenants (and those tenants always look worried, when Nik calls round, in case he’s going to tell them we’re moving back to England!)

We’d found our apartment to rent in Lagos and had to start the rental from May 2010, 2 whole months ahead of the date we could move over. This meant that we were able to do a child-less trip early May, to get some house stuff sorted, and family were able to come over for the week, to “house sit” prior to our move, which gave them a chance to see where we were moving to and enjoy the local area.

New river front Avenida in Lagos. I love this photo and I post it a lot!

Meia Praia, our local beach, Lagos. May 2010

The list of things we needed to do, both in the UK and in Portugal, was exhaustive but our trip over in May enabled us to start tackling the red tape early on – without children with us! – and we sorted bank accounts, school applications and tons more in that week**

On our return to England, we tackled more de-cluttering, donating and selling, more school paperwork and a seemingly endless list of “other stuff”

Our moving date was 12th July 2010. A day after Eliot’s 7th birthday. His birthday gave us the opportunity to have a “leaving BBQ/party” which was pretty cool. We arrived in Portugal, among tourists and holiday-makers, eager to start our new lives in the sun.

We’re still tackling the red tape here in Portugal. From Tax offices, social security, health centres and schools, it’s never-ending.

There’s one thing for sure though, it’s 100% worth it.

With winters like this, who needs summer?!

* “a bit of effort” is not to be under-estimated. Full integration requires a LOT of effort. Make no mistake!
 ** It’s interesting to note that the week was supposed to be 5 days but Portugal wanted us to stay longer by keeping the Iceland volcano, and its associated ash cloud, disrupting flights for just a little longer. This meant our return (to UK) flight was cancelled (ahh shame!) and we flew back a few days later instead

If you’re a blogger, why not join in the “Personal A-Z” posting?

More “E is for…” Portugal posts (at time of posting) below

Julie Dawn Fox. E is for Eucalyptus Trees

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We’ve had progress!

Having received our inventory (finally) and our revised contract (we re-worded a few clauses), we signed contracts on Tuesday! Ours has been emailed back and sent by registered by mail so our lawyer should receive it this week, along with a nice chunk of money!

Then we’ll just be waiting for the owner to sign and we’ll be sorted and I will finally feel confident enough to book those tempting “departing flights”!

We’ve also been in contact with our mortgage lenders to get their consent to let our UK home, while we’re away. I wasn’t sure if they’d insist on changing our mortgage over to a ‘buy to let’ mortgage but they were fine about it. Obviously, they’re charging a fee for the privilidge but it’s a one-off fee for consent to let and a HUGE weight off my mind!

Now we just need to find a tenant because it looks like the person we had lined up for it is backing out. We’re preparing the house to go on with a letting agency instead, which involves probably removing all the furniture, but it’s fine.  It’s more important to get it rented at ALL than to cut out the middle man!

Anyway, I promised photos! I was generally googling the other day, as you do, and came across an estate agent selling an apartment in the same row as ours. There were outside photos of the block (albeit the other end to our apartment) and, even more exciting, a FLOORPLAN! It’s not even the floorplan for the apartment for sale either (which is a mirror image of ours) it’s a floorplan of OUR apartment!

Our apartment floorplan

Our apartment floorplan

Outside of apartment block (although ours is the other end of this block)

View from balcony

I was pretty excited to find these photos! It made it all seem very real again when it feels SOOOOOOO far away (both in distance and in time) until we go.

And some photos of OUR apartment

Lounge/Diner (ours!) It's actually about twice this size as you can't see the dining half!

Our Eat-in kitchen

It’s a good thing that we still have 94 days until we leave because we have SO much stuff to sort out in the meantime. It is only 33 days until Nik and I go over for a week though so that’s something more imminent to look forwards to!

We’re digging out all the camping gear this weekend (weather permitting!) to get it prepped and checked ready for camping season. Hopefully, it’ll all be ok as we’re hoping to get away for what will be our ONLY UK camping break at May half term before packing it away for its journey to Portugal in July! We’re having the whole trailer, roofbox and caboodle taken over in the shipping container with the motorbike and other stuff and you can guarantee we’ll get more chance to use it in Portugal than we ever have in the UK!

Last summer’s camping season was truly a washout!! It’s another thing to be excited about. Not only decent weather for biking and beach..but camping too!

It’s all very exciting.. can you tell? 🙂

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Doesn’t time fly when you’re waiting for something to happen?

Well, actually, NO! It doesn’t!! It’s nearly 2 weeks since I last posted and what have we achieved?

Nothing. Nil. Nada!

Actually, that’s unfair. We’re got rid of more ‘stuff’. You know, the ‘stuff’ that accumulates when you don’t HAVE to get rid of it? Years of “we might need this” and “don’t throw that away”s!

Well, now we’re being ruthless and absolutely HEAPS of this ‘stuff’ has gone to charity, ebay and the tip!

I’m happy to charity pretty much anything, to be honest. Most of it is what I would call “one man’s trash”. It’s good stuff but not sellable stuff. Not eBay sellable anyway. Most definitely charity sellable (as opposed to skippable!) so at least someone is making good out of it. 2 parties, in fact. The charity and the buyer! I’d say that counts as brownie points for us, anyway.

Nik is making headway in the garage. Now, bear in mind we have a 4 car (maybe bigger!) that has NEVER seen a car because it’s always been floor-to-ceiling with motorcycle-related products. Clearing all this stuff out is no mean feat, for sure. He’s been eBaying madly and this has done quite well. There’s a place nearby (one of our main suppliers, as it happens) that has started a weekly motor-related auction too. This has been a great way for Nik to get rid of some boxes of miscellaneous “other man’s treasure”. Unfortunately, this hasn’t turned out to be a money making exercise though because he’s been spending more money than he’s made at these auctions, bringing back no end of “bargains we can make good money on” from aforementioned supplier!

He’s right, of course. There is good money to be made on selling this stuff on. It does kinda defeat the object in some ways but we have to look at it as a slightly longer term money making scheme also, I guess!

That’s about all the news we have this end. Not very interesting really!

The other end has also been crawling somewhat. We ironed out a few of the clauses, in the contract, with our lawyer in Portugal and today we finally received our inventory.

Well, I say “inventory” but it’s not quite what I was expecting. I was expecting “one tin opener, 6 knives, 6 spoons, 1 frying pan” type inventory.

What we got was “cutlery, crockery, cooking pans”


Ah well, the contents themselves actually weren’t the point. Our contract stipulates that we agree to the contract AND the inventory so, without some form of inventory, it would be foolish to sign. It could have led us to being duped and arriving at an empty apartment if we didn’t have SOMETHING on paper before signing (even if it was handwritten and rather vague LOL)

Still, it’s a definite step in the right direction. It’s one more point we had to iron out. There is one more thing but I’m confident it’ll be quickly resolved also. Typically, of course, it’s too soon the Easter holiday weekend so this’ll probably drag on for another week yet but it’s still very close.

I’ve passed my time by trawling the internet for images of the area. I found some stunning ones of the marina and beach that include our apartment.

Hopefully they’ll display ok (red arrows point to apartment, obviously) although you may need to click to enlarge.

Lagos Marina/Meia Praia Apartment

The more I see these photos, the more uncontrollably excited I get. I go through phases of being hugely excited and then being hugely doubtful.

I still have times when I completely doubt what we’re doing and I worry enormously about the effect it’ll have on the boys, especially Jake. He’s so advanced at school and I’m very anxious about what effect moving him, into a Portuguese school, will have. I know he’s bright and he will (hopefully!) pick up the language in no time but it’s still going to be incredibly difficult for him being “thrown in at the deep end” into a completely alien environment.

I take small comfort in the fact that he’ll be advanced, educationally, compared to his peers because he’s been at school 2 years longer so his only real hurdle will be the language itself rather than battling with subject matter as well. It’s still going to be such an adjustment for him and I truly hope and pray that we get past the short term trauma without any longer term damage.

It gives me many, many sleepless nights….and I guess it will do for many, many months yet….

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I just felt the need to update…however, I don’t actually have very much to update!

We’ve been in contact with our Portuguese lawyer (ooh, get us!) and she’s sorted out our Fiscal Numbers, which is great.

She’s also in charge of our rental contract and there’s been much email to-ing and fro-ing on that subject over the last couple of weeks.

There were a few errors in the contract (typos mostly) and a couple of clauses that we weren’t happy with the wording on so she’s clarifying and changing those.

Also, there’s no inventory available so, until there is, we are not signing the contract. Don’t get me wrong, the contract isn’t dependant on the contents of the inventory per se, I’m fully expecting to receive a fully equipped inventory, when it does arrive, it’s just that, if we DO sign without having it, we are open to being conned!

The contract itself is an agreement based on the contents of the inventory as well as the contents of the lease terms so to sign without seeing that inventory could be disastrous. We could find ourselves taken advantage of with an inventory of nothing. Not that I’m expecting that at all but it’d be unwise to assume any different.

So, we’re waiting for the apartment owner (who, ironically, is English and lives in the UK!) to next visit Portugal to do the full inventory so we can sign our contracts. Dunno when that’ll be. All we know is ‘before May’ (which is a good job seeing as our rental contract is supposed to start on 1st May!)

I’m not too worried about it. Everything is generally going to plan..that said, I’m not so confident that I’ve booked our leaving flights yet. Much as our date of 12th July is relatively firmly set, it’s one thing I’m not going to book until I have those apartment keys in my possession.

The whole ‘selling off’ thing is going slow. Most of our stuff is being given to charity with only a few ‘worthwhile’ things going on Ebay. Even most of those are only being eBayed once and then I’ll donate. I have neither the time or the inclination to spend the time listing for menial return. I have work to do!

Anything REALLY worthwhile will be sold or taken with us (or, perhaps, stored). Still HUGE amounts of stuff to sort and clear out though. I need to get my finger out and do more really (*makes note to self*)

Nik’s garage clearance is going pretty well, which is good. Not only because it’s a clearing stuff but it’s making money too! The taxman really will be rubbing his hands in glee, huh?

Have visited our accountant and let her know all the details of our plans. Aside from hating us out of envy, she’s confident that our tax arrangements won’t differ for the time being, as we thought. We’ve set procedures in place to deal with various aspects of ‘remote working’. We have a ‘shipper’ handling our export and small item orders. That’s early days but he’s enthusiastic and it’s giving a decent trial period so we can get him up to speed with how it works and iron out any problems that might arise well before we go.

It’s also freeing up more time for Nik to clear stock from the garage (which is really no mean feat!)

So, the wheels are turning, albeit slowly. Every day is one day closer, eh?

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OK, so I’ve not been very good at updating this since my first post but, in all honesty, I’ve been too busy to even blog (and that’s saying something LOL)

Where were we? Oh yes, a family trip to Portugal!

Luckily for us, we didn’t go for the weather over half term because it was, for the most part, pretty dismal! The nice days were lovely but, unfortunately, there weren’t many of them and the rest of the time it rained. It didn’t dampen our spirits though and we got a lot done.

Visited 2 schools in Lagos and absolutely fell in LOVE with the city! Even Jake, our doubting Thomas, came around to the idea of living there and that’s saying something.

The first Lagos school we visited, we weren’t overly impressed with but the second school was amazing. The staff couldn’t have been more helpful and they were wonderfully reassuring about how our boys would get on. It was the second/third stage school we visited and it’s lovely. Modern, clean and inviting. What’s even better is that the associated local 1st stage school (where Eliot would go) is practically on the beach! It faces out over sand and sea and is a fabulous place to imagine going to school!

Our dilemma here, however, was that by choosing these schools as our preference, we placed ourselves in the most expensive area out of our shortlist! The Marina and Meia Praia area of Lagos has very little in the way of long-term let and, what is available, isn’t cheap.

That was confirmed by visits to dozens of estate agents in the area over the course of the following days. One of them did have 2 properties owned by a British lady but they were for sale. She did know that the lady would consider a long-term let though so we paid the apartments a visit.

One was a 3 bed, one a 2 bed. Well, canny folk these estate agents because they showed us the (HUGE!) 3 bed property first and we absolutely fell in love with it. 3 big bedrooms, a well equipped eat-in kitchen with store-room/utility, 2 bathrooms and a humongous lounge/diner with balcony facing onto the marina and beach!

The 2 bed one was never going to happen after that! Ok so it’s cheaper (although still top of our budget) and the 3 bed one is over budget BUT it has EVERYTHING we wanted in a property and MORE.

We expected to be finding something in a big apartment block but this is a block of 4.  4-apartment sharing garage (HUGE space per apartment) underneath on the ground floor, 2 apartments on 1st floor (including ours) and 2 on second floor.

It’s on the outskirts of the built up area and looks onto the Marina so we get views we didn’t expect (and weren’t on our wish list!) and walking distance to beach (also not on our wish list!) as well as the most perfect apartment. Of course, perfection comes at a price…and this place is 75€ a month over our TOP budget which is a very significant amount for us. We certainly didn’t take the decision lightly.

After much thought, however, we accepted the property. We’ve had to take it from 1st May so the vendor takes it off the market for us (we could have chanced later but she could have sold it in the meantime) but we’re ok with that. We’re paying it a visit ourselves (without kids) in May and my Mum and her partner are visiting in June for a holiday.

We’re planning to make our final ‘leap’ in early July.

So..wheels are in motion. We’re in the process of sorting out our fiscal numbers (like a tax number) and the rental agreement (well, I lie, our Portuguese lawyer is!) and hopefully our rental will be sorted starting 1st May.

We also have, quite by chance, found someone who is very interested in renting our house from us for our trial period. So that’s something of a bonus too. It suits him and it suits us because he wants it partly furnished so we don’t have to empty the house completely and store everything which would have been a major nightmare!

Hopefully, that will come off because selling everything we don’t need is long and slow work! It’s happening but it’s very gradual.

We also have to re-jig the way parts of our business work so we’re setting that in motion too now. Giving ourselves plenty of time to trial things out and make sure they work the way we plan them too.

So, we’ve found perfect schools, a perfect town and a perfect apartment that ticks ALL our boxes and more.

I’ll just whisper the fact that I’m just waiting for something to go wrong….

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