alentejo monte

Buying an Aljezur farmhouse

Aljezur farmhouses for sale

Algarve west coast climate; the best weather in Europe?


Odeceixe beach

Control of the red palm weevil

Vicentina natural park wildlife

Heating options

The truth about coastal property

What is natural park Costa Vicentina?

Building and renovating in western Algarve

Portugal land scams

Fishing on the Vicentina coast

Western Algarve agriculture


Utilities in Portugal

Schools in Aljezur

 Solar home heating plans

Building or rebuilding a house in Natural park costa Vicentina;

Buying property in Natural park costa Vicentina


Land can be bought and sold freely. It can’t be subdivided though, and even joint ownership is subject to approval.

You can buy it and own it, but you are not free to do whatever you want with it, unless what you want is to farm it.


Any building you want to build, rebuild, enlarge, or extend, must be first approved by the camara [council, or county], then by the park authority.

The process is very strict, and quite time consuming. Figure 4 months to a year to get an answer to your application, and just preparing it can take a month [a lot of files have to be gathered for submission].

You might get permission to rebuild a ruin [it’s not a sure thing], or change the location of your building or ruin [to get it farther from the road for instance].

Their reasoning probably is quite different to yours though. What you might think of as an improvement to the area they might think of as undesired development.

You’ll need an architect / planning expert to steer you though this minefield; actual rules are hard to pin down, so they’ll advise you on the basis of what has been approved or rejected in the recent past.



 If you ask for a design you really like but they don’t [big windows are usually the point of contention], you risk a rejection. Then you have to redesign and resubmit, and wait for the whole process to work through again.

Some people took 4 years to get their final plans passed.

 Click here for my view on;

Taipa, adobe, or rammed earth construction

 Wooden houses;

Some will tell you these don’t need permission.  Mostly those that tell you this want to sell you a wooden house.

It’s a house, it needs permission.

Some people have gotten away with putting such things up, and have lived in them for years.

Now they find themselves unable to sell. The houses are completely illegal, and have no habitation license.

Yes, they saved a few thousand 10 years ago, and yes, it was all very clever, but now their property is worth almost nothing [it is illegal to transfer a house with no habitation license to a new owner]. Those who built legally now own houses worth a lot of money.

All the work, maintenance costs, and so on, have no resale value. It’s not a good deal.


Today you’re not likely to get away with placing one at all. It’s cheaper than buying a legal house, but it sure is a lot of money to gamble on something that will probably never gain value, and will likely get demolished or stopped before completion.


Rebuilding a ruin;

At the moment [July 2010], this question is under dispute between competing authorities; the camaras of Vilo do Bispo, Aljezur, and Odimira are fighting the Vicentina park authorities in court over jurisdiction, particularly the granting of construction permissions. The park authorities want to severely restrict new permissions for rebuilding ruins; until this issue is decided, I would strongly recommend against buying ruins in the park Vicentina.

Don't believe what the seller or the seller's agent tells you!

Check independently with an expert [I am not one] who is in not connected to the seller or seller's agent. I'm going to say it again, join AFPOP for less than 100 Euros, then have them recommend a lawyer.

It's quite possible you could be able to have a contract that only goes through after permissions are granted. Personally I don't think this would be worth the wait [it could take years], but if your heart is set on it, this is the way to do it.


If it’s a registered ruin, and it still has a roof, there's a good chance you could succeed. I really don't understand why everyone isn't quickly repairing [even replacing] the roofs on their ruins, since depending how the cards fall, this could be crucial.

It is highly unlikely that it will ever be allowed to build larger than the original footprint or the ruin. If you buy 50 square meters, then that's what you'll finish with.


If permission is granted to rebuild a ruin in future [by camara, park, and regional development office], then the work can start.


But it will take a long time.

This is called a “Project”, which is a long and rigidly controlled process.

A "project" is all or nothing. once it's a registered project, you need full architectural and engineering drawings, and a series of inspections will take place from pre-foundation work to the last lick of paint. there are hundreds of rules and boundaries, and you'll need registered builders, plumber, electrician, etc. to do all work according to those rules and approved plans.


Frankly, I don't think it's worthwhile; the high cost of the ruin to buy, plus the rebuilding costs, will be at least equal to the value of your property when it's finished years later. What about the interest expense while you're waiting for the plans to pass, the construction to finish, the habitation license to be granted, and you can't live in it? What about the stress and work you'll have?

Better to buy one of the many houses that are already completed, and for sale. Chances are, if you want something that isn't available, it's because you can't get planning permission for that.


Also beware of ruins where you only get half the house. Many have come to grief over these "bargains". If you can't get a whole house, why bother moving out to the country? The other half hangs on your renovation like a parasite, until someone finally buys it. Then it's time to meet the neighbors; pray you like them. And their kids, animals, friends, relatives... Just say NO to half houses I say.

And don't think you'll get the other half at a bargain; quite the opposite, most likely. The owner will want a premium for it, knowing how much it's worth to you.

The only exception would be if you're able to buy both parts, all negotiated before signing either contract.


Repairing an existing house;

If it has a habitation license, it is a house. Otherwise, it’s a shed, ruin, or whatever. If you have no habitation license, it’s a big job to get one. See project.


You can rebuild an existing house on the inside, and pretty much do as you want, so long as you don’t make any structural changes…

Well, that’s the rule. In practice, just don’t make any changes visible to the outside.

That’s tricky, since if you take the roof off [which you would normally do when you want to change what’s holding it up], it’s visible on the outside.

In that case, you’ll need to submit a building plan to the camara, with engineering drawings. This can be done by an architect, and so long as you don’t change the final shape, you don’t need approval from the park authority [if you’re in the park]. Depending on which camara you're in, it can be fairly quick, a matter of weeks; if they approve, that is.


It is possible to change the structure from the inside; the roof can be supported by builder's posts, the walls broken out, and steel beams set on new pillars. This way you can turn all those tiny Portuguese rooms into a few bigger ones.

steel ceiling beam


The square steel beam in this picture is welded up from 3 heavy plates, surrounding the old concrete beam. It rests on new pillars [cast into the walls] which are supported by big foundation blocks cast under the floor. It only took a couple of weeks, and it's much stronger than before. Bearing walls? No worries.


Changes to doors and windows can also be approved by the camara without further consultation by the park authorities [for those in the park], so that can be applied for in a reasonable time frame. My application was approved in a few weeks.

However, they do have guidelines to adhere to; if you have a farmhouse or historic townhouse they probably won’t approve huge windows or big balcony doors. Of course you can always ask, it doesn’t cost too much.

They will let you have a garage door though. And I'm not the only one who has thought of putting big glass doors inside of one.


For villas in the urbanizations, things are more flexible.


Sea containers;

I've seen a few around, used as storage. General opinion is that as it's an object, not a building, it doesn't need permission.

However, if you cut windows into one and try to live in it, I strongly suspect you'll get trouble. I could be wrong of course!


Campers and trailers;

These are very muddy waters. If no one is living in it, then you can park what you want [so far that is] on your own land.

If someone does live in it... well, if it's off the main road and not too obvious, probably it will be ignored. There are hundreds of people living that way in the forests a few km inland.

Some people even have several occupied trailers on their land. They're pushing the envelope, but getting away with it until now.

Like almost everywhere, it simply isn't legal for people to live in anything other than a legally designated house [apartment, whatever]. In this area those laws are not enforced with extreme rigidity, at least for the moment.


It looks like the park authority intends to restrict human occupation in the park as much as they can in future, so I wouldn't bet too much on the situation staying this way for long in the park. Outside the park, east of the 120 road, I expect the status quo to remain for a while.  No one seems bothered by it.


Please note that all of this is my personal observation and opinion, trying to give a "best guestimate" of this opaque situation. These things change all the time and the information is only what I've been able to gather in the time I've been here.