• Justus Hayes

Commune Waiting to Happen - 30 minute Walk to the Beach

Updated: Aug 18



Alvor - 820,000€ - 14 bedroom (yes, 14), 5 bathroom, 7 kitchens/kitchenettes, 1,536 m² built/30,000 m² plot, pool, gardens, terraces, privacy, animal friendly, close to everything


I have to imagine that an opportunity like this one is exceedingly rare. Here is the idealista listing. The property is advertised by Beach and Country Luxury Villas - this is their listing. Nice! - 360 virtual tour and a drone-heavy video on that BCLV page.


Now that I have had a chance to more closely examine the photos and info, I confess that I am a little perplexed by these ads, specifically the photo-taking session. Absolutely no effort was made to stage this property. Everything on the inside is a mess, with clothes and towels hanging everywhere, beds unmade. Not dirty, just not tidied. The interior is by far the weakest aspect of this property, but still. It's like they went out of their way to make it look unappealing inside. The bathrooms are terrible - the two shown are small and dated. The two larger kitchen depicted aren't great. The one kitchenette we see is about as "ette" as it can get.


But.


This is a fantastic location. I don't think it can get much better. The exterior spaces and facilities are also fantastic. The right 6 or so people could have a very rewarding life here.


Deeper dive later - busy morning ahead of me.




Location


I'm not sure what the legality is around using Google Maps this way, but they sure make it easy to download a screenshot. Anyway, according to the ads on idealista and BCLV, the property is somewhere in this neighbourhood:

As you can see, Alvor can practically be hit with a rock from here. It is a 5 minute drive and a 30 minute walk to Praia de Alvor. 10 minute drive to Portimão. So pretty much anything you could possibly need is under 10 minutes away, including the beach (by car).


I've given this a lot of thought and I believe that a 30 minute walk is a very useful metric. Most people I know who aren't walking-crazy (like me) but don't mind a walk find anything shorter than 30 minutes not too onerous. "It's close, it's less than a half hour walk." This is critical for anyone who likes to have a drink or three - you can share a bottle of wine or two on the sand and then get home without driving and without a major hike. Lisa and I don't drink anymore, but when we did this was certainly something we took into account. (Later edit: Ha! I just realized upon re-reading this that I have reinvented the term, "walking distance.")



Considerations, Given the Current Situation


I recently started to listen to Good Morning Portugal!, a daily news and more podcast hosted by Chris Munro. Chris is part of the Pure Portugal community, promoting a lifestyle that has low overhead, sustainability, low environmental impact, and an emphasis on community interdependence. If the current situation has a lesson for us, it's that the status quo is fragile (and leaves a lot to be desired anyway), service and supply chains can be broken, and that it pays to be as self-reliant as possible. There are great advantages to pursuing that kind of lifestyle in Portugal:


- Rural land can be bought quite cheaply. From what I understand, most modern Portuguese people aren't interested in country living - they want to be near the ocean. This makes sense, as that's where all the tourism dollars are. The result, though, is a plethora of cheap, rural properties with abandoned buildings and ruins, almost always with a water source, set up for agriculture.


- The infrastructure for greater self-sufficiency is already in place. Portuguese wages are low and have been for a long time. This means there is a strong tradition in place of making do with little money and providing for yourself as much as possible. There is a lot of of local knowledge.


- The mild climate makes for a long growing season. With the added bonus that you're living in a beautiful place with nice weather. As opposed to Alaska, a beautiful place with much less nice weather.


In a way, this attitude reminds me of the Gulf Islands now, but especially during the 70s and 80s when islands like Saltspring (where I lived for a time as a kid) were magnets for hippies looking to get back to the Land. Farmers markets and rubber boots. Patchouli. Real estate prices there now are, unsurprisingly, through the roof.


We got relatively lucky with Corona. It could have been a lot more deadly. We should probably view this experience as a moderately-dry run. The holes in the system have been vividly outlined, but it remains to be seen how those gaps will be filled. The kind of lifestyle we're talking about here addresses a lot of these issues, while at the same time being healthier physically and psychologically.


This property looks to me like it is uniquely suited for this type of approach. Granted, the price is on the high side. If we use idealista's mortgage calculator with the default settings (2% fixed, 40 years), it comes out to 1.921€ per month, or $2,954.09 CDN. This place is huge and will cost a lot to heat, so let's add an arbitrary $600 a month for all utilities (probably a high guess - I will be looking into cost of living stuff very soon - lots of info out there). That makes it $3,600 a month. If this was split 3 ways, each party is responsible for $1,200. Make appropriate adjustments if the terms of the mortgage are altered to, say, 25 years instead of 40. At 25 years, the monthly is $4,133.58, up to $4,700 with utilities. Split 3 ways, that is $1,567 each. That might be high for Portugal wages but not at all unreasonable for someone with decent online/digital income. Always keeping in mind that I am still largely talking out of my ass - I need to learn a lot more before I can make confident statements about things like this.


At any rate, let's make a fairly large assumption and say that the above is true. The property in question has massive built space, 1,536 m², or 16,533 square feet - my guess is that this included both interior space and terraces/pool. Even so, the virtual 360 tour on the BCLV page makes a number of things clear:


- There is a lot of interior space. The building is not deep but is very wide.


- The interior layout leaves a lot to be desired. Lots of tiny rooms and narrow hallways. Two sections of the building have low ceilings. No closets, bathrooms very small (but all have bidets, it turns out), a couple not bad kitchens but all other kitchenettes extremely small. Certainly livable, but far from polished. The place would definitely benefit from having many interior walls knocked down, rooms enlarged, kitchen/bathrooms updated. That all costs money, but could be done piecemeal over time while living there.


- The property appears to be inhabited by about 16 or so young people at present. My guess is that everyone is in their twenties. Hell of a rent-share.


Shit, I just realized I haven't copied and pasted the description from the idealista page:


"Property with several wonderful houses / villas.

3'T2 with 2 bedrooms, bathroom, living room and kitchen / kitchenette.

2'T1 with 1 bedroom, bathroom, living room and kitchen / kitchenette.

Studio with 1 bedroom, bathroom, living room and kitchen / kitchenette.

5 bedroom villa with 5 bedrooms, bathroom, living room and kitchen / kitchenette.


Simply fantastic and extremely spacious outdoor leisure area. Common outdoor pool.

Horse ring. Hen house. Land with various fruit trees, such as orange trees (450), olive trees (6), fig trees, loquat, carob, lemon (12), almond and quince (5). Mains water and daughter-in-law. Dam Canal / River (Monchique). Daughter in law. Automatic watering with canal water and / or daughter-in-law. Barbecue / barbecue. 2 Fireplaces. Laundry. Good tarmac access.

Covered and uncovered parking within the property. Automatic gate. Farm all furnished and equipped. Wonderful, naturally quiet surroundings with neighborhood in the surrounding area. Stunning Panoramic Mountain Views. Fantastic countryside view."


Energy efficiency rating: D


This place is set up for agriculture with all systems and equipment already in place. Obviously, the only crop at the moment is fruit trees, mostly citrus. At over 7 acres, there is plenty of room though for other gardens, especially if you decide not to keep horses and turn most of that space over to vegetables and perennials. Stick to chickens and goats and grow as much food as you can handle. As for what to do with all those oranges, any surplus could be used for local trade and relations. Or you could make marmalade.


As to what a "daughter-in-law" is, my efforts here have thus far drawn no water (rim shot). It's definitely a water transport/irrigation term, from context clues, but Googling has run dry, bearing no fruit. In my mind's eye it's some kind of levered action pump. If anyone reading this knows the answer, please do let me know.


Conclusion


Briefly, this property has everything for a group of people who together have the funds to support a homesteader-type lifestyle in relative luxury at a location that is difficult to beat. I say "relative luxury" because the inside needs so much work, and it will take considerable time, money, and effort to get it done. If the tenants are close enough to eat together as a group on a daily basis (I'm thinking large family here, especially), then the larger main kitchen could be used for everyone and the terrible kitchenettes reduced to making coffee and popcorn exclusively. Also, while the bedrooms and bathrooms are small, dingy and dated, they are still livable. I imagine that any group who is willing to roll up their collective sleeves and get to work would probably not be too fussy. In a way, this drawback is an advantage to the less fussy buyer, because the problems with the interior reduce the property's curb appeal - it looks bad in photos - and likely helps drive the price down. And that price seems to me, a still very-largely-uneducated-on-these-matters-living-in-Vancouver guy, exceptionally low. Compare 534 €/m² with the Algarve average of "€1,736 (US$1,938) per sq. m. in November 2019" (GlobalPropertyGuide, "Portugal’s house price boom continues strong"). Even taking into account the possibility that the meter square price is diluted by all that exterior terrace and driveway, it's still very low for walking distance to the beach and a picturesque coastal village. Oh, and if I recall correctly, it's practically in the parking lot of the local hospital. Cherry on top.




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Justus Hayes. Husband, dad, scenic painter, container gardener, Vancouverite, Algarve enthusiast

 

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