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Renovation Special

Today we meet Paul and Ali in a renovation special!  Paul and Ali are an English couple who recently moved to central Portugal.  Paul is a composer and musician and Ali is a cook (Michelin star chef – tour & safari guide – research scientist and a few more) both have a wide range of interests, skills and life experiences.

What made you decide to move to Portugal ?
We are both interested in growing food and living on and with a piece of land.  This is very difficult to do In England at the moment and Portugal allowed us to buy a piece of land large enough to grow lots of food and plant some trees and also to have a house big enough to host guests and friends without needing to be millionaires.

Bedroom Before

You found your property through Pure Portugal! How did you hear about us first of all?
We searched online extensively over a period of a few years while we were living in Central India, Cyprus, all over the UK and on a small island of the west coast on County Mayo.  Pure Portugal became our first point of call because it offered all the information that interested us in a really clear easy to understand format.  Also we got the impression that the information was being presented as it was, warts and all, with a sense of honesty.  There didn’t feel like there was an agenda there other than to help people move to Portugal in the way that some ‘estate agents’ can feel.

Were you looking for the right place for long?
We decided on Portugal after a while spent looking in Iberia and looking online more broadly.  Then we decided to move to India… long story… and spent a couple of years on the road.   All the time referring back to Portugal.  When we eventually decided to return and look here more seriously here, we found our place very quickly.

Did you intend to find a property which needed renovating?
We looked at many kinds of property but in order to get a sizeable plot of land and a good sized house within our budget we suspected there would be some renovation involved.

What made you buy this specific property?
I (Paul) fell in love with the land here immediately.  It has a valley with water, south facing and north facing hills, wet and dry, essentially lots of microclimates for growing different things.  Also the way the house sits in the land.  We have a good road access from the front but out back looking over valley we can see no other houses and it is very quiet.  But the basic is we fell in love, there is no other way to describe it with geographical or architectural features.  When looking for your home it’s a real gut thing.  It either hits you or it doesn’t and no amount of rationalisation will change that.

Bedroom After

How much of the work was done by you and how much by trades?
All the main house work was done by local tradesmen. This was not particularly planned as much as how it happened. Some of the house was habitable and some not when we bought. We had originally thought we would move in and then renovate slowly over time.  As it happened I (Paul) got some work in (we both do contract work) so we decided to be based back in the UK for the winter and have all the really chunky stuff done in one go.  We had a new roof, new floors throughout and windows, doors and walls removed and added in places.  We were very lucky here in that we met and English friend near by when we were looking at the property who has some experience of this world and speaks Portuguese so he was able to project manage for us.  This enabled us to move down into a clean shell of a house which we now beginning to make into our home here. Much of the lighter internal work we will do ourselves and with friends.

Kitchen Before

Tell us one pitfall / down side that you didn’t expect from taking on a project like this?
We’ve been very blessed and things have happened very smoothly and quickly for us.  We have other friends who have been plugging away at similar missions for years and are not as far on as this. On the ground the speed can be frustrating but in the grander scheme of things I really can’t complain.

Give us one bonus, something you didn’t think you would get out of the project?
A real surprise has been workawayers.  We imagined that moving to a very remote place would be potentially isolating. I put  up a workaway profile just in passing to see how the site worked and we have had such an amazing flow of skilled hard working beautiful people helping us and sharing this transitional time with us. It’s actually been extremely social here.


Would you buy a property which needed work if you were to do this all over again? 
At this point I can’t imagine the idea of doing it all over again, we are still so in the thick of it. If there funds were in place to buy a property we could walk straight into and live in then of course that would
be wonderful…who wouldn’t prefer that…?

Kitchen After

Was the project what you expected it to be? 
In many ways yes.  Though it’s hard to quantify.  This is all new and unknown for both of us that it was difficult to have too many ‘expectations’.

Are you able to give a rough estimation of the costs involved for renovation?

Very roughly I’d say €25,000. I’ve not had time to sit down and add up yet.  In fact I don’t have an office yet so all of that stuff is up in the air.  What I would say though is that our experience and that of many
others we have talked to is that the standard of workmanship and trades here are very good.  The is something of a ‘mañana’ attitude about which day things might happen, but when they do, they happen
well and professionally and the costs are considerably less that anything in the UK.

Would you recommend other people took on a renovation project?
It depends on your character and energy levels.  It is very challenging at points and requires patience and stamina.  But if you can pull it off it’s incredibly rewarding.  For us at the moment the big jobs on the house are nearing completion.  The land will keep us busy for years.  We are tired but there is some rest is in sight and we are feeling satisfied and happy to be here at this place and point in time.

Favourite book which inspired you?
Ali for books.. I’m visual.. Here’s a treat .. Click here for video