Like a lot of travelers, we were curious about how to buy a house in the Azores, so stopped to look at homes for sale in Terceira. After staring at the flyers on the window for a while, we approached the agent on hand and asked him typical questions, such as: are there any good deals to be found? Are prices rising now? Can foreigners buy property in the Azores? What do the locals think about foreign ownership?He patiently answered our questions and off we went to pursue our day’s activities.
We had come to visit the Azores as part of what is known as dental tourism and fell in love with the island and people. On our way back to the hotel in Angra do Heroísmo we visited a different real estate office. Next thing we knew, we had an appointment with him the next day to visit a few properties.
That evening my wife pored over for sale by owner properties, as well as other listings by agents. She found a for sale by owner that looked promising and our friendly agent took us to see it the next day, after viewing the ones he had listed.
To our delight, this last house was just what we were looking for, even though we didn’t really know what that was. When we saw it we knew. It is a small, totally renovated stone house near to Angra, but yet seemingly remote. It only has one immediate neighbor and is otherwise bordered by pastures.
As happens frequently in such a small place as Terceira, our agent personally knows the owner of the house. This helped immensely when it came to negotiating the terms of the sale. Personal trust is still important here and a handshake means the deal is sealed. Once we agreed on the terms we had to get to work and to make it happen.
What Is Required To Buy A House In Terceira, Azores
Buying a house in Terceira is not difficult, but, like any major purchase, you have a lot of hoops to jump through. Here is what we had to do.
Just to be clear: we are not lawyers and do not pretend to represent any legal service. This is simply our experience, which may be entirely different from yours.
- Find a lawyer. We got lucky because the first one we stopped at was perfect for our needs. She is exceptionally kind, speaks more English than she lets on, is competent, inexpensive and cooperative. My Portuguese is decent, but legal speak is difficult even in English. Make sure you can communicate well.
- You need what is called a “fiscal number”. You cannot do any transactions until you obtain this. It is somewhat like a social security number in the USA and provides an ID for legal purposes. You can easily obtain one downtown Angra on Rua da Sé. You also need a resident to sponsor you. This is not as difficult as it might sound; the sponsor has no legal liability and simply has to vouch for you. Our lawyer offered to sponsor us for a small fee. This turned out to be an excellent decision because she actually has agreed to represent us in various helpful ways.
- You need to open a bank account. My wife checked out several banks and settled on Caixa Geral Depositos, which is the national bank of Portugal. The biggest headache with this was the fact that we need to maintain a savings balance of €5,000. A fellow American told us that she opened an account with a different bank with no required balance but, on checking with that bank, we found they had the same requirement. It may have been a new policy gaining ground. Apparently the €5,000 requirement has been dropped as of this writing.
- Homeowners insurance is available at both insurance agencies and banks. We chose a bank for the sole reason that it cost a little less. It is quite inexpensive anyway.
- Setting up utilities requires a visit to the local agencies, such as electricity and water. Not difficult, but a bit time-consuming. My wife set up automatic payments to come out of the bank account. This is one example where our sponsor/lawyer friend has been wonderful, providing her name, address and phone number for any problems and, so far, not charging anything for this service.
- Propane, WiFi, telephone, and TV are also easy to set up. We called a local propane serviceman and he was there in 30 minutes. The WiFi, telephone and TV can be set up by visiting one of the numerous stores in Angra or Praia. We chose Vodafone because someone recommended it. You can set up a no-contract or contract service. We’ve since found that Meo is the only provider if landline, wifi and cell service are all needed.
Overall, buying a house in Terceira was no more difficult than buying one in the US. It certainly helps knowing rudimentary Portuguese, but it is by no means necessary. Most professionals speak English well enough to accomplish the task at hand.