We’ve nibbled around this subject here and there, but the story of our housing situation here in Braga has taken a turn and we just, like this moment, finished moving from the apartment we rented while still in the US to an apartment that’s probably 300m at most from the first place. We were in that first place for just shy of four months and we had to break the lease to do it. Why would we do such a thing? Glad you asked.
Our story begins with a Zoom call with a real estate agent we’d been recommended through a colleague of theirs. We were living in Seattle, it was summer, and we needed a lease in hand for our appointments to file our applications for the D7 visa that would allow us to stay in Portugal until a residency meeting could take place. Let’s just say now that, whatever the twists and turns of this story are, we like the guy and would recommend him to others if they needed property in his city. ANYWAY, we discuss wants and needs and he sets off to find a place for us. WE scrounge through probably hundreds of listings on a few different websites, occasionally sending a handful to the agent so he could vet them for us and see if they were ok in person. It took us awhile (as in, not until we’d lived here for awhile) to realize that the Portuguese do not see it as a professional obligation to hold your hand in the way that Americans do. Since he often had no news, he would be silent for days or even weeks at a time. That’s just how they do. I can’t imagine Redfin coming to be in Portugal for example; all these “constantly stay in touch” tools probably make no sense here. ANYWAY x2, long story short we only ever actually see recommended apartments from him on two places, and this is in the yellow-orange zone for getting a deal done in time, so we pick the place that looks more interesting and tell ourselves “well, we can live anywhere for a year, so if it sucks we’ll just deal and then move on.”
Well. Our initial impression when we got there was that the online photos did the place a great disservice. It was cute! Charming, kinda funky and unusual, but refurbished with modern fixtures etc. Plus, because we happened to have the 1st floor, rear apartment of this converted row house we actually had a yard! We really thought we had lucked into a winner. But it didn’t take long before we noticed a serious problem. (John’s trying this new thing where he gets to the *#(@&^# point.) Water would drizzle down a wall we shared with the building next door, pooling in a couple spots in the kitchen and the basement/living room. Not giant pools, but genuine puddles. Not only was that no fun, Lisa’s nose quickly informed us that the place was developing a mold problem. Fun!
Communications with our landlords were tricky. While they have Portuguese backgrounds they had lived and worked in other countries for a long time; they currently live in Paris. It took forever and a day to even get them to understand that we were not being typical Americans complaining about the humidity. Fortunately we managed to get in contact when we traveled to Paris (not to see them, but…) and we got to meet face to face, show them photos we’d taken and described the issue. They seemed genuinely engaged and wanting to fix the problem. I mean, it’s *their* property, having a serious mold problem can be a royal female-dog to remedy.
However, for a variety of reasons, none of which in a vacuum would be considered unreasonable, things dragged. They were going to have a painter come out and assess/fix. Then their painter explained to them that he was a bad choice for that kind of work (good call), so they had to scrounge for an actual contractor who did this kind of work and come over to, well, do that kind of work. He absolutely diagnosed the problem (long and not interesting story, but in short: water accumulates on roof next door and slowly drains off, during heavy rains the drainage can’t keep up and overflow happens) and said he’d report back to the landlords. THEN one of the landlords says he needs to see for himself, perhaps to do the work himself, he says. Great. He says he’s coming in *March*. We told them about the problem in mid-*December*. It’s an actual and growing health concern. We hit the limit. We were out.
So, the apartment hunt was on, again. This time we were in town to see places, which was good, but the rental market is starting to get nutty here, which is not so good. A place we absolutely loved got snaked out from under us because we went to our next appointment mostly as a courtesy; we called place 1 after a walk through place 2, but it had been reserved by someone else. Boo. In the end it came down to a place that was right in the center of town, with a funky collection of furniture and unusual layout + a ginormous deck, or else a completely bougie apartment that was perfect in size and layout. Oh, and the funky place was up four flights of stairs. And we’re not spring chickens. Yeah, we’ll take bougie and comfy. In pretty close to record time we saw the place, said we’d take it, got the lease and such in order, and got moved in – all in about two weeks. Today was the move, which consisted of moving approximately three pieces of furniture and a couple van’s-worth of boxes and miscellany. Now the only complication is that we’re in the final approach for our residency visa appointments, so we won’t get to finish settling in for a few days, minimum.
Wait, residency visa appointments? Yuuup. Tune in next week for what will surely be a download of events, for good or for ill.