Working in paradise
With ample space at a premium in today’s post-Covid property market, there are acres of opportunities in Portugal’s sleepy Alentejo district with its vineyards, castles and rolling landscape of cork trees argues Alexandra Sampaio Viveiros, property consultant for the Remax Collection.
When the State of Emergency was announced by the Portuguese Government as a result of Covid-19, real estate agent Alexandra Viveiros closed the Remax Collection Lisbon office from which she and her team worked on 13 March and moved to her family country house in the Alentejo at Monsaraz and work remotely from here.
Monsaraz, she says, is a charming 12th century Medieval castle town and today is a UNESCO World Heritage site in what is probably one of the most genuine and culturally rich areas of Portugal.
The city of Reguengos of Monsaraz is in wine county and the area has an interesting group of vineyard estates or ‘Herdades’ and hilltop mansions ‘Montes’ for sale, and more recently some of the bigger estates have been bought by Chinese investors (Monte do Limpo) and Brazilians (Herdade do Corval) and Telheiro. The French too, have bought extensively throughout the Alentejo Plains.
Traditionally, the International community has been mainly Dutch, Belgian, German and a few Swedish residents. More recently however, Americans and Italians have shown an interest, mainly guests from the recently opened ´Barrocal Country Hotel in Monsaraz.
The Alqueva dam reservoir, the largest in Europe, and its beautiful Guadiana shores is an attraction in itself in this region, cruised by mobile home boats (Amieiras) and SEM FIM (boat restaurants which cater to high speed Zodiacs boats and a Sailing schooner from the Dutch channels.
A new beach has been made at Monsaraz and the Nautical Club offering water sports activities like canoeing and water skiing while the shoreline has a plethora of restaurants.
Motivating the team
During these past three months I have been working from home and have managed to motivate a team of 12 real estate agents during which time we received more than 500 hours of training, learning new tech tools on how to continue helping our clients for their real estate needs. Through our main office we managed to introduce the Digital Signature and Digital Remote Deeds systems as well as using virtual videos with augmented reality features which enabled our clients to ‘see’ their future homes before buying.
By the beginning of July we will have half of our inventory of houses for sale available for remote viewing via video (approximately 30,000 properties). Our main client nationalities have been Portuguese followed by Chinese and Russians.
As a group, we have closed on approximately 20 deeds, 10 CPCVs (Promise of Sale), obtained 50 new listings, signed 20 rental contracts per weekly over the past three months. I personally receive approximately 20 leads per day and 10 phone calls and make around 15 phone calls says Alexandra Viveiros who now has a growing client database of around 10,000 clients
Alexandra represents RE/MAX Collection ExpoGroup (a privately owned Franchisee), with an office in Avenida da Liberdade’s Cartier Building while Remax also has 30 other offices throughout Portugal, from the North to the South, 10 in Madrid and 20 in Italy. In Portugal the group has around 500 hundred real estate agents working as independent entrepreneurs.
Dab hands at using technology
“I started working in this industry in 2003 having had my own agency when the last crisis occurred. This crisis has been different in many ways and I am more positive now because the banks have more capital resources and are more robust, with new products in the market to face this difficult situation” says Alexandra Viveiros.
The seasoned estate agent says the Remax group has an agreement with ZOOM to hold webinars and video conferences while most of their main speakers are experienced public speakers and digitally savvy having regularly held international industry webinars.
“We are faced with clients that need to sell for various reasons on a daily basis and they count on our know-how and readiness to act,” she says adding that it has been a challenging period to live and work for all of the team which has been very busy during the Covid-19 period.
“This beautiful countryside has helped give me the creativity and energy to work remotely while the Alentejo spring has been absolutely beautiful. The food and wine in this part of Portugal is suburb and healthy and every day we have had Cross-fit sessions at sunset” says Alexandra who adds that her three sons were with her, while her daughter and fiancé left for Sydney, Australia in the beginning of March when her working visa was issued.
A stable market
As for the market, Alexandra says it has reacted well so far: “Our industry has made progress and hasn’t seen huge price fluctuations or falls, unlike restaurants and other business that simply closed down and lost turnover. We enjoyed a small uptick of approximately 1% in Lisbon prices (per square meter) during the month of April and a decrease of 1% in May. São Miguel Island had the highest increase during this period at 3%,” she says.
The trend now is for young couples, with young children, both working remotely, moving to single family houses from apartments and this is on the rise, as well as an increase in rental agreements, with falling values per square meter being experienced in Greater Lisbon and other cities.
As to foreign investors acquainted with Portugal, these have maintained an interest in investing, despite the uncertainty over the Golden Visa Programme which will remain unaltered for the rest of the year but will undergo alterations.
The International media (CNN, New York Times, Forbes and BBC) have also helped property sales thanks to a plethora of positive articles not only about the beauty of Portugal as a quiet and secure place, but also because of the excellent way the Government has handled the Corona virus, with early isolation intervention and few cases, starting with the Portuguese president who set the example by staying at home early on in the crisis.
“The commercial sector could suffer a slowdown as companies work remotely more , although the lack of office space in Lisbon is still a real problem, with the exception of one or two major new premises in the Avenida da República and Parque das Nações areas. It is evident that the time Lisbon City Council planners take to approve new projects, which can take up to 2-3 years, is an impediment to investment in the new-build property sector” says Alexandra Viveiros adding that in Lisbon’s Sector A (Prime) prices now stand at 23€/m2/month) with little space available.
“As for the future, that we cannot know. We may experience a slight drop in prices over the summer for some property types, although with the airlines restarting, there should be a pickup in foreign investment in Cascais, Estoril, Sintra and the Ericeira coast around Greater Lisbon and the Quinta do Lago area and other coastal locations in the Algarve,” she adds.
“As for the Golden Visa and Non-Habitual Resident programmes, most likely the government will retain them, although the Golden Visa could be reformed with some restrictions in Lisbon and Porto, although the trend is to keep these incentives going to encourage growth in the residential property sector because the impact of Covid-19 has forced the Government into a U-Turn on previous plans,” concludes Alexandra Viveiros.
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