Manter a Calma (stay cool)
First of all, allow plenty of time for your property search, and organise your time well so that you can see as many properties as possible. I worked on farms as a volunteer on the WOOFING program, and was lucky enough to spend months living in the country before purchasing my property. This gave me ample opportunity to get the feel of the place and learn from other peoples experiences. You probably have a vision of Portugal in your mind's eye, I know I did, but there is really no substitute for actually living there for a while and feeling the December sun on your face while gardening in your summer clothes, then experiencing the surprisingly cold winter evenings creeping in through the caravan door.
Make a List
It's a very good idea to keep a list of your priorities with you when you are looking at properties; tick off the relevant boxes at each viewing and refer back to it. Also take a camera and take photographs of each property, it's very easy to forget important details when you are seeing ten or more prospective plots in a day. You will be inundated with new things to think about such as; water supply, the extent of the building project, access to the property, mobile connection and electrical power supply to name but a few. It's all very exiting and very easy to get carried away when you see a house that you love. There is a lot of real estate for sale in Portugal and many factors to consider before making a purchase. Your head will be spinning after a day or two of driving around with the estate agent, so try to remain tranquilo as the locals say, and don't get rushed into making a deal. The fact is that people often end up buying something completely different to what they had first imagined.
Rebuilding an old stone ruin is a labour of love that cannot not be taken lightly. So although it looks beautiful and may seem like quite a straight forward project, take the time to really consider what you are letting yourself in for. Repairing stone walls is a skilled job and also very labour intensive. I know because I have done it, and being covered in filth carrying large stones around in the searing heat is not an experience I care to repeat. Putting them back together is not easy either and demands a great deal of patience and skill. I have seen large cracks appear in newly repaired houses that eager self builders have been working on. Heartbreaking. There are however skilled local stone workers available if you ask around.
Would I Recommend It?
Yes, yes, and unequivocally yes. If you are thinking seriously about buying a property in Portugal then I do highly recommend it. My years there have changed my life in many positive ways, and afforded me experiences that would not have been possible in the UK. I wanted to live in the forest and be away from civilisation and all its trappings for a while. I had a very small budget and was almost always working alone. I chose to build my house using ecological and re-claimed materials where possible and lived off grid for five years. That was my way, and I loved it for the most part, but there are also many foreigners living there doing it very differently; some with young families and much greater budgets than mine; others much older and living out their autumn years. Thats what makes it such a fascinating place to visit, there is great variety of people, and a lot of opportunity to try new things that would not be possible in many other countries. The last word has to go to the very tolerant and kind Portuguese people, if you learn to speak Portuguese your life there will be greatly enhanced, especially in the more rural areas. You would be surprised at the amount of foreigners that don't bother to get past the most basic language skills even after many years of living there. Also if you do learn to speak the lingo (not easy) you could save yourself a lot of money when bargaining your price. Quanto custa?