If you want to find an apartment in Lisbon, prepare to be frustrated…and to shell out some dough. Lisbon is no longer the cheap place to live. Due to its gorgeous climate and everyone gushing about how amazing it is, it is no longer a value when it comes to housing. I did a lot of work before I found my rental in Lisbon and I am currently working on finding one to purchase. These are some of the tips I have learned along the way.
How to Rent an Apartment in Lisbon
A complete guide on how to find and how to rent an apartment in LisbonThe market is hot and getting hotter by the minute. Although the average salary in Portugal is €600 and in Lisbon €850, a 1 bedroom apartment will easily cost you an average of €1000. There is a YOLO attitude right now among Lisbon’s property owners. Prices listed are rendonculous…seriously! Basically, this means you either need to be ready to drop big cash for a place you love, or have tons of patience and wait until you find a deal. How crazy are prices? Here’s an example:
- 2015: T3 €1300 monthly rent
- 2017: T3 €1750+ monthly rent
- 2018: T3 €2000+ monthly rent
When to Start Searching for an Apartment in Lisbon
If you’re planning your move way ahead of time, don’t bother. The market is hot and realtors won’t deal with you unless you’re in Lisbon and ready to make a deal. Why? Realtors in Lisbon are the owner’s agents. They have no fiduciary duty to you, so they just want to get deals done as easily and quickly as possible. Here, the landlord or seller is the one that pays the agency’s fee. Many landlords will choose not to work with agencies so that they don’t have to pay the fee since it’s pretty steep. Landlords pay one or two rental months AND 23% tax. Because of this, when owners do use realtors, they are looking for longer-term renters (2-5 years)
My recommendation to you is that you rent an Airbnb flat for 1-2 months and begin the search the first week you arrive. And this is true all over Portugal…Algarve, Sintra, Porto…you name it the realtors are not on your side. They will “help” you, but they are not your agent.
Websites to Look For an Apartment in Lisbon
Sure, you can go to a realtor…but as I mentioned above, they’re not your agents. So, if you do; feel free to work with as many realtors as possible. If you find a good one though…treasure him or her because they are hard to find. There are many websites where you can begin the search. These are all the websites I used when finding my apartment rental in Lisbon.
BPI Expresso – Fairly easy to use. Not as many listings as other sites.
BQuarto – This is more of a social network where people match up with landlords. Not my favorite.
Casa – Holey smokes, this site is ugly…but it is updated frequently and has a good selection of listings.
Casas CM – Easy to navigate and use.
Casa Novo Dono – Easy to navigate and use.
Casa Sapo – Easy to navigate and use.
Custo Justo – Easy to navigate and use
Expatriates – Great listings, but not as many as all the other sites. A favorite of mine.
Friendly Rentals – Better for medium-term rentals. More like Airbnb.
Gabino Home – Another Airbnb clone.
Grande Mercado – Not my fave when it comes to navigation.
Idealista – Probably the one I used most. Almost all properties are listed there.
Immovirtual – Easy to navigate and use.
Mitula – This one is an aggregator. Not my fave since it has to take you to another site to get the info.
Nuroa – Another aggregator.
OLX – Another aggregator.
Sublet – More of an Airbnb clone. Prices will be more expensive, but good enough for your medium term rental.
Trovit – Hate navigation on this aggregator site. Listed it in case you wanted it, but would not recommend using it.
Portuguese Real Estate Terminology
Types of Properties
- Apartamentos – apartments
- Moradias – homes
- Terrenos – land
- Lojas – stores
- Escritorios – offices
- Armazens – stores
- Quintas – farms/country homes
- Distrito – district – like a state
- Cidade – city
- Freguesia – Neighborhood
- Zona – zone
How do you make sense of this? You’re looking for an apartment in the district of New York State, in the city of New York City, in the freguesia of the Upper West Side, in the Zona of Lincoln Square.
- NY State > NYC > UWS > Lincoln Square
- Lisboa District > City of Lisbon > Avenidas Novas > Bairro Azul
- t0 – studio
- t1 – 1 bedroom
- t2 – 2 bedrooms and so on…
Many apartments in Portugal don’t come with appliances, so you need to know if yours does or does not. Here are your options:
- Mobilado (fully kitted out)
- So cozinha equipada (only the kitchen is equipped – usually means stove & fridge)
- Nova construção – new construction
- Bom estado – in good condition
- Para reformar – to rennovate
More Important Words
- Ar condicionado – air conditioning
- Arrecadação – storage
- Elevador – elevator
- Jardim – garden
- Lugar de garagem – parking spot
- Permite animais de estimação – allows pets ****they can’t not allow pets – read on for more info
- Piscina – pool
- Roupeiros embutidos – closets
- Terraço – balcony or terrace
- Prédio – building
- Apartamento – apartment
- Último andar – top floor
- Cave – basement
- Rés do chão – 1st floor
- 1º andar – 2nd floor
- 2º andar – 3nd floor
- Sótão – attic
Things You Need to Rent an Apartment in Lisbon
- NIF – You need to have the Portuguese Fiscal Number. You get this at the AT
- Deposit – Most landlords ask for 2 month’s deposit (1st and last month as well as a security deposit).
- Warrantor – If you aren’t legally in Portugal yet (example – waiting for your first SEF appointment) you may need a Portuguese fiador.
We rented directly from the owner. We found our apartment on Idealista after many searches. The signing of the lease was easy. We didn’t have a NIF or any Portuguese documentation, but Portuguese landlords love renting to foreigners…basically, because we can and will pay more than locals. We are also considered a safer investment for them. If you don’t have your documents and you don’t have a Portuguese warrantor, just offer to pay 6 months in advance. That will clinch the deal.
What is in Your Rental Contract
Rental contracts in Lisbon are pretty simple (sometimes). We passed up on a gorgeous flat because we did not like the rental contract. Your rental contract will include:
- Length of lease
- lease review date
- How long you need to let the landlord know if you won’t renew
- Full name, nationality, DOB and marital status of both parties
- Whether the contract is either open-ended or fixed-term
Open-Ended vs Fixed Term
It is better for the tenant to have an open-ended lease in Lisbon. Let’s look at the why:
Open Ended Lease – This means the lease is automatically renewed. In this case, the landlord can only increase the rent amount yearly in accordance to the index % for the cost of living increases. Historically, this has been between 1 & 2%. With this type of lease, your landlord/lady cannot terminate the contract to craft a new one to increase your rent. If you can land one of these, you’re golden.
Fixed Term: This type of lease states the end of your lease. Say, for example, a two-year lease. Your landlord/lady can raise your rent if you want to extend the lease. If you’re not sure that you want to stay in an apartment forever, this could be the way to go, but beware that the owner of the property can increase your rent as much as they want. A friend of ours landed her place at €900 for a 5-year lease. We did 2 years and wish we would have agreed on a longer contract.
Your landlord is required by law to give you receipts for your rent payments. This signifies that they are filing taxes with Financas. They get hit with a 24% tax rate on the rent you pay them. When you’re signing your lease, ask your potential landlord about these receipts and how you will get them.
Legal Terms You May Need to Know
- Renda – rent
- Caucao – deposit
- Resolucao do contrato – termination of contract
- Despejo – eviction
- Sublocacao – Subletting
- Contrato com prazo certo – fixed-term lease
- Contrato por duracao indeterminada – open-ended lease
- Obras – repairs
Renter’s Rights in Lisbon
This is the best part about renting an apartment in Lisbon, tenants have tons of rights:
Your landlord can increase your rent only once a year from the start of the contract. Both you and the landlord must agree to the increase. The increase is minimal (and capped) and you must get 30 days notice. This is usually 1%. HOWEVER…if your contract is ending, they can increase the rent as much as they want, so if you find a deal, sign for at least 3 years.
Cessation of Rent Continuation
It’s pretty hard for a landlord to kick you out. Here are the reasons your landlord can decide not to continue a lease:
- If the landlord is moving back in
- If they are renovating and already have permission from the city
- They must give 120-day advance notice if your lease has been in place for more than one year
- or 60-days in advance of the expected termination, if your lease has been in place for less than one year
Rental Contract Cancellation
- You’re late on the rent for 3 months
- You’re using the unit illegally
- You make structural changes the landlord does not agree with
- You sublet partially or fully without their permission
- You get more than 20% on your rent from sublet
- You don’t use your apartment
PRO TIP: This is something we found out much later from when we signed our lease. Prior to moving into your new rental property, make sure that you have registered your lease with the Finance office and that your NIF is attached to it. If that was not done, get a lawyer to assist you with the process of setting this right.
We love living in Lisbon and are bummed that we didn’t move here sooner. If you have questions about renting an apartment in Lisbon or any other aspect of Lisbon living, leave it in the comments.