João Passos, real estate consultant and president of Variações, explains why living in Portugal continues to be so appealing.
The national real estate market proved to be resilient to the pandemic, and the LGBTI+ segment was no exception. Portugal continues to be a desirable country to live in, “for its safety, climate, people, food, location, cost of living, laws for the community”, as explained by João Passos, responsible for the ‘LisboaPride – Homes for Everyone‘ project, and real estate consultant at RE/MAX for several years, in an interview with idealista/news. Passos highlights, for example, that the number of foreign customers of LisboaPride “has increased exponentially, both in the purchase/sale and rental market”, which is “highly appealing” for these customers to take up residence in our country.
The LGBTI+ real estate market, he says, “is confused with the general market, which did not come to resent the pandemic”. In addition, and despite the initial fears, and some latency period during the confinements, “demand has remained constant and has even grown”, fueled, also, by the international LGBTI+ community, which continues to look at Portugal as a reference destination.
João Passos, also president of Variações, recalls that the LisboaPride project focuses on celebrating diversity, distinguishing itself as a specialist in the real estate market in this segment, and also serving as a “showcase” of Portugal to international clients and investors. Passos added that most foreigners “have rented apartments (usually T2) in Lisbon and surroundings and have chosen to use the D7 visa as a means of obtaining a residence permit”. Most of these customers are from the US, but many are also from European countries. “This trend was accentuated this year, as it is no longer possible to obtain a residence permit in Lisbon through the purchase of an apartment (gold visa)”, he says.
In recent months, he reveals, there has even been “a real rush to rent, with demand clearly exceeding supply”. “The war, for example, brought a large influx of Ukrainian and Russian tenants, many of them well-resourced,” he points out.
The Príncipe Real area continues to be the LGBTI+ area par excellence to live in Lisbon, however, according to the consultant, there are other places to stand out, especially on the axis of Av. Almirante Reis, as “Intendente, Bairro das Colónias and even Penha de França”. The appetite for Lisbon’s South Bank, namely Almada and Caparica, also remains, not least because the search for a house in the countryside or on the beach is an increasing trend, both by nationals and foreigners. According to João Passos, interest in these areas continues, “whether in the more urban centers, for a more national and younger community, or near the beaches, for a more international and more senior segment, with a view to reform or invest”.
In this written interview with Idealista/news, which we now reproduce in full, the specialist analyzes the evolution and growth of LGBTI+ friendly areas in the context of post-covid recovery, the behavior of house prices, the differences between national and foreign clients, and why this niche market continues to attract investment.
More than two years have passed since the beginning of the pandemic. Currently, and in the context of post-covid recovery, what is your assessment of the LGBTI+ real estate market in Portugal?
The LGBTI+ real estate market is in compliance with the general market, which did not really come to resent the pandemic. Despite initial fears, and some latency periods during confinement, the truth is that demand has remained constant and has even been growing. If in some way sales prices in Lisbon have not had the growth rate that has been registered in the recent past, the rental market is already witnessing a real boom, with demand far exceeding supply. Portugal continues to be (if not even more so) an excellent country to live in, and external demand has boosted the rental market, further exacerbated by the recovery observed in local accommodation.
The dream of having a house in the countryside or on the beach is increasingly becoming a reality, both by nationals and foreigners, motivated by the search for a certain return to their origins and a more sustainable lifestyle.
Likewise, the evolution of sales prices in areas bordering large urban centers, such as Lisbon and Porto, has undergone a significant increase, in this case, driven by domestic demand, in search of more affordable prices/m2. Finally, the dream of having a house in the countryside or on the beach is increasingly becoming a reality, both by nationals and foreigners, motivated by the search for a certain return to their origins and a more sustainable lifestyle.
Is the Príncipe Real area in Lisbon still the LGBTI+ area par excellence?
Many of the main and most iconic businesses frequented by the community continue to be located in Príncipe Real. Its centrality, with easy access but a lot of tranquility, multiculturalism, and proximity to areas such as Chiado, Bairro Alto, and Baixa make this area a long-time favorite for the LGBTI+ community to live. The trend has only slowed down in recent years as a result of the growing real estate speculation that has made prices in this area unaffordable (at least for the national LGBTI+ community).
Are there other areas to grow as LGBTI+ friendly zones? Have there been changes in the last few years?
Effectively, as a result of what I said earlier, other areas have attracted the community, especially around the axis of Av. Almirante Reis. Lower prices, the opening of new LGBTI+ friendly businesses, good transport, and a more irreverent spirit have put Intendente, Bairro das Colónias and even Penha de França on the map of the most sought-after places by LGBTI+ people to live.
Last year, you pointed to Lisbon’s South Bank, namely Almada and Caparica, as areas of growth. Does the appetite for these areas remain?
It remains and we believe it even has a tendency to increase. Whether in the more urban centers, for a more national and younger community, or near the beaches, for a more international and more senior segment, with a view to retirement or investment.
How are purchase/sale and rental prices evolving in more inclusive areas?
Considering the parishes of Misericórdia, Santo António, Arroios, and Penha de França in Lisbon, there is an increase in sales values, but at this stage, it is much less expressive than in Lisbon’s South Bank (Almada and Caparica area), although the absolute mean values remain lower here. In relation to rental values, in all these areas the increase has been considerable. In recent months we have witnessed a real rush to rent, with demand clearly exceeding supply.
In recent months we have witnessed a real rush to rent, with demand clearly exceeding supply.
Are Portuguese customers looking for more homes to buy or rent? And the typologies and segments?
The trend that we can see relates to smaller households (reflected in the preference for smaller typologies, T1 and T2), situations of financial/family precariousness (preferred rent vs purchase, often with shared housing), and the search for areas with more affordable prices, as mentioned above.
And the foreigners? Do you intend to move to the country? What are they looking for and where is there more demand?
Definitely, Portugal is today a destination of excellence for those who want to move to another country. Most of our foreign customers have rented apartments (usually T2) in Lisbon and its surroundings and have chosen to use the D7 visa as a means of obtaining a residence permit. Most of these customers are from the US, but many are also from European countries. This trend was accentuated this year, as it is no longer possible to obtain a residence permit in Lisbon through the purchase of an apartment (“golden visa”). We have also noticed a great interest on the part of customers who already have a home in Lisbon in acquiring a 2nd home (e.g. in Alentejo and Algarve). Living in Portugal, for its safety, climate, people, food, location, cost of living, laws for the LGBTI+ community, etc., is highly appealing for these clients to settle in our country.
Portugal is today a destination of excellence for those who want to move to another country
Has the change of rules on golden visas impacted, in any way, the search for homes by the LGBTI+ community?
The international LGBTI+ community has never been the driving force behind the golden visa program. Hence, the recent change in the law has had little impact on this community. On the other hand, in terms of the national LGBTI+ community, one might think that if this international demand ceases to exist, prices will drop. What we observed does not correspond to this idea, since the golden visas were related to specific prices (in their overwhelming part, purchases of €350,000 or €500,000). But even this product has been absorbed by the existing demand from foreigners (and some nationals). The reality is that the weight of golden visas has always been small when compared to the number of total transactions in Lisbon and Portugal.
How is the LisboaPride – Homes for Everyone project going?
Since the beginning, LisboaPride has focused on celebrating diversity, distinguishing itself as a specialist in the real estate market in providing the best service to the LGBTI+ community. For many people in this community, looking for a home is an especially stressful process, between having to hide your reality and the fear of not being accepted on the other side. Our participation in the process helps to mitigate these fears and ensure greater security. LisboaPride is currently “the Portuguese LGBTQI+ real estate brand”, a reference in the community, and sponsor of events for the community such as the Arco-Íris Awards, Arraial Pride, the Queer Lisboa International Film Festival, and the Miss Drag contest, Lisbon Bear Pride, the Lisbon Foxes Futsal team and member of associations such as Variações – Associação de Comércio e Turismo LGBTI+ de Portugal and BJWHF Sports Club.
For many people in this community, the search for a home is an especially stressful process, between having to hide their reality and the fear of not being accepted on the other side.
Following the evolution of the Portuguese real estate market, and in particular that of Greater Lisbon, the number of LisboaPride’s foreign customers has increased exponentially, both in the purchase/sale and rental markets. This has made its role more important than ever, as a safe haven when carrying out a real estate transaction in an unknown market, and also as a “showcase” of Portugal for international clients and investors. These specific factors, among others, help to explain that 2022 is so far the best year ever for LisboaPride.
Is the geopolitical and economic scenario – namely the war, inflation, and announced rise in interest rates – having any kind of impact on the business?
It is always difficult to analyze the impact of some events while they are taking place or about to happen. Not least because many of them are not specific to Portugal, but global. So far, the impact has been minimal, at least on our business. The war, for example, brought a large influx of Ukrainian and Russian tenants, many of them well-resourced. We are the European country furthest away from the conflict that is taking place in Ukraine. We are a safe, politically stable, moderate country, and we continue to offer many assets to attract expatriates. On the other hand, internally, inflation and rising interest rates will make it more difficult for families to meet their financial commitments, also making it difficult to access housing credit. But the truth is that the real estate market has been very resilient. Whether this trend will continue, only time will tell.
The war, for example, brought a large influx of Ukrainian and Russian tenants, many of them well-resourced.
And where is the Variações project? Are LGBTI-friendly businesses still popping up? And in what areas and zones?
Variações is in a moment of regaining its momentum after these two years of instability and uncertainty for many of the businesses. The Association depends on the efforts of the people and entities that make it up, and we feel that it is gaining energy again, at the same time that the economy resumes its growth and LGBTI+ businesses are thriving again, also driven by the massive return of tourists. Lisbon continues to be the region where most businesses arise, not only due to the favorable environment of being the capital but also because it has always been the place that most promoted the LGBTI+ sector, namely as a tourist destination, although there is still much to do.
Is Portugal still an LGBTI+ tourism destination par excellence? Are you aware of any type of campaigns underway to increase the attraction of the community to the country?
The Proudly Portugal campaign was a major promoter of the Portugal brand as an LGBTI+ destination. We believe that this should be one of the priority segments in promoting the country as one of the most inclusive and safe tourist destinations in the world, yet in practice, we still face difficulties in supporting this vision. We continue to work together to promote this project with Turismo de Portugal, in order to obtain the necessary support for Portugal to be internationally recognized as one of the LGBTI+ destinations of excellence. Additionally, Variações, in a project intended to involve other LGBTI+ associations, is again leading Lisbon’s candidacy to host a EuroPride (in this case, 2025), a decision that will be taken in October by EPOA member organizations in the city.
After two years on hold, Arraial Pride in Lisbon is back. How important is this type of event for the LGBTI+ community?
All community events are of enormous importance in promoting inclusion, fighting for rights, and celebrating Pride. Both the LGBTI+ Pride Marches, as well as other Pride events, have their importance in breaking isolation and creating safe places for socializing and community.
We believe that Portugal still has little supply compared to Spain, where the various regions and cities promote their destinations with Pride events
We are happy to be able to organize these events in our country again! Even so, we believe that Portugal still has little to offer compared to Spain, where the various regions and cities promote their destinations with Pride events, and there are even cases where the events take place twice a year (summer and winter). Hence, we believe it is necessary for Turismo de Portugal, Regional Tourism Agencies, and municipalities to have multidisciplinary teams working together with the community, to provide greater visibility and the necessary support for Portugal to present itself as one of the destinations of choice for this market.