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House Hunting in Portugal: A Villa Nestled in a Garden Outside Lisbon

6 min read

This four-bedroom house with a thatched straw roof is nestled amid umbrella pines and ancient olive trees a few miles from a 40-mile stretch of Atlantic Ocean beaches in Comporta, a coastal area in Portugal’s south-central Alentejo region, about an hour south of Lisbon.

The 2,842-square-foot contemporary version of a traditional Comporta country villa was built in 2019 on a 0.44-acre lot. Sunsets, neighboring rice fields, and farms across the flat countryside are visible from a rooftop terrace, said Luiz Felipe Maia, the founder and director of Maia Properties International, which has the listing.

From a single gable-topped carport fashioned from varnished Portuguese oak branches, steps lead up past a boomerang-shaped pool, wood deck and garden. At the entrance, timber-framed glass doors slide back to each side, revealing a living room with an exposed beam vaulted ceiling. Microcement floors run throughout the main areas. A fireplace is bracketed by display shelves, and glass doors open to pergola-topped terraces for indoor-outdoor living and dining.

The kitchen, open to the living room, has a center island with bush-hammered stone countertops, a sink and a cooktop. Cabinets are Portuguese Riga pine, and appliances are Miele. Off the kitchen are a powder room with an artsy vessel sink and a laundry room.

Three bedroom suites are also on the main level. The primary, with a double bed and double wardrobe, opens to a terrace. The second bedroom has wardrobe doors fashioned from branches and also opens to a terrace. The third suite has direct access to a back porch.

A loft with trapezoid-shaped windows is used as a den and overlooks the living room. Across the landing, the fourth bedroom, outfitted with four single beds, has a sloping ceiling with exposed beams and matching trapezoid windows.

Outside, the landscaped sandy yard leads to an expansive wood deck abutting the boomerang pool, with bucolic views over the infinity edge. A small pool house with a thatched roof has an outdoor shower. The garden was designed to preserve native species, with more than 10 types of lavender, 14 century-old olive trees and another 50 local species.

The villa is a 15-minute walk from Carvalhal Beach and 20 minutes from Pego Beach. Shops and restaurants are also walkable. Surfing, kitesurfing, and horseback riding are popular activities in the area. Lisbon and Humberto Delgado Airport are just over an hour away.

With its dunes, pine forests, rice fields and ocean beaches, the Comporta area — which runs south along Portugal’s western coastline to Melides — has been likened to the Hamptons, a place to disconnect in “barefoot luxury,” Mr. Maia said.

Over the past decade, artists, designers, entertainers and other affluent buyers have moved into the low-key region, often buying plots, hiring architects and building their own houses. “Ninety percent of listings are off-market,” Mr. Maia said. (Among the cognoscenti are the shoe designer Christian Louboutin, who is building a hotel in Melides, at the southern end of Comporta; Jason Martin, the British abstract painter; and the interior designers Philippe Starck and Jacques Grange.)

Premium property prices range from 1.5 million to 8 million euros ($1.65 million to $8.8 million), averaging about $927 a square foot. “Sales went up 40 percent last year, and prices rose 10 to 16 percent,” Mr. Maia said, based on his company’s data.

That’s due in part to limited inventory. Strict environmental laws prohibit houses from being built within 1.24 miles of the area’s 40-mile stretch of unspoiled beaches, said Vitor Paiva, the license partner of Engel & Völkers Comporta.

Among the most exclusive areas is Brejos da Carregueira de Baixo, with asking prices starting at about 4 million euros ($4.4 million). Residents receive “access to the paddy fields and, in turn, deserted beaches on the other side of the sand dunes,” said Alex Koch de Gooreynd, a partner at Knight Frank.

In the past few years, spurred by lifestyle changes due to the pandemic, developers have been planning and building resort communities with golf courses, restaurants and other amenities. “Slowly, it is changing from a farming area to a luxury real estate area,” Mr. Paiva said. “In the next five to 10 years, we will have hundreds of vacation homes all over this area.

At Estates Spatia Comporta, 10 of 38 homes are sold, and five are reserved for two- to four-bedroom villas on lots between 2.5 and 15 acres, said Mr. Koch de Gooreynd. Prices for the remaining homes range from 1.5 million to 2.6 million euros ($1.66 million to $2.9 million). Sister property Spatia Comporta’s 27 homes are sold out, with two resales, Mr. Maia said. Among the amenities included at both properties is hotel/concierge service, with an annual condo fee of $6,085. A free shuttle takes residents to a members-only beach club at nearby Praia do Pinheirnho.

Buyers at the area’s new developments tend to be “not retired but 35 to 50 years old, with families,” Mr. Paiva said, and looking to buy homes that will be finished in a year or two “because of the simplicity of the process,” instead of buying land and hiring an architect and getting approvals.

Among other projects in development are Muda, Dunas and Torre — all by Vanguard Properties, a Portuguese developer based in Lisbon.

The 50 12-acre farms are sold out at Muda Reserve, a residential development where construction is expected to begin this spring on 175 villas with private pools, starting at 1.25 million euros ($1.385 million). The result is “for those who enjoy the calm of the countryside with the sea nearby,” said Duarte Zoio, head of corporate communications for Vanguard Properties. The development will also include children’s areas, a restaurant, bar, church, co-working space and a convenience store.

At Dunas and Torre — mixed-use developments with residential condominiums, hotels, wellness, gastronomic, and sports facilities and services — construction is scheduled to begin later this year on 245 villas set among on Torre’s 900 acres. At Dunas, with 2,500 acres, up to 750 villas will be built on 0.61-acre to 1.5-acre lots. Prices at both range from 1.5 million to 15 million euros ($1.65 million to $16.5 million), Mr. Zoio said.

While the majority of Comporta’s listings are for villas or buildable plots, “there are a few apartments planned in the future, with expected prices starting from circa 350,000 euros,” or $388,000, Mr. Koch de Gooreynd said, noting that he expects prices to rise 10 to 15 percent over the next five years. “The area is seeing incredible infrastructure investment with schools, hotels, and golf courses all in planning.”

Though plans for new development abound, “the authorities are committed to protecting the region’s authentic ecological atmosphere with its low density and traditional styles,” Mr. Koch de Gooreynd said. “The original single-story fishing cottage style is being maintained but now using some of the world’s innovative designers to create a luxurious haven.”

However, many smaller planned developments may not come to fruition in the short term, said Ronald Wayne, chief executive of Living Portugal Property, “due to severe price increase in both materials and labor. All new ‘tourism-resort’-type planning applications have been put on hold by the local authorities and, if put into law, may not be reconsidered for another 10 years, under current legislation.”

Agents reported that many international buyers come from Germany, Switzerland, France, Belgium, Britain, Brazil, Canada and the United States.

Mr. Maia said that buyers are drawn by tax incentives and Portugal’s Golden Visa program, which confers residency in exchange for an investment of 280,000 euros ($308,000).

There are no restrictions on foreign buyers in Portugal.

Getting a local mortgage may be easier than bringing capital from outside Portugal, Mr. Vitor said. All banks give 50 percent, and some go up to 80 percent of the property’s value.

Buyers pay a transactional or acquisition tax of 6 percent if the property costs under 1 million euros; over 1 million euros, the tax is 7.5 percent, Mr. Maia said.

Stamp duty is 0.8 percent; legal fees are about 1 percent for the lawyer and 1,300 euros ($1,430) for the notary.

Portuguese; euro (1 euro = $1.11)

Annual land taxes on the Comporta house are about $1,663 (1,500 euros).

Luiz Felipe Maia, Maia International Properties Ltd, 011-351-913-777-197; maiaip.com

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Marcelle Sussman Fischler

2022-04-06 09:00:38

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