Real estate has been booming in the Algarve’s most quaint fishing town. We take a look into how Carvoeiro has become the modern families’ dream destination
With its pretty, picturesque village and breathtaking coastline, Carvoeiro is one of the most coveted residential locations in the Algarve. From world-class footballers to relocating European families, the magic of this small fishing village has captured the world’s attention with a promise of a lifestyle that is second to none.
Without doubt, Carvoeiro’s draw begins with its captivating aesthetic charm. Set between the contrast of the sparkling ocean, yellow sandstone cliffs and bright blue sky, it is an idyllic cove of tradition and culture. Humble white houses, with multi-colour painted façades and terracotta rooftops dot the cliff face in a gorgeous display of community, as local people and tourists alike enjoy the slower, more authentic pace of life it resonates.
“Carvoeiro is a synergy between social and tourist life, with the peace of living in a paradise by the sea,” says Erik de Vlieger, entrepreneur and co-owner of one of the area’s biggest property developers, Carvoeiro Clube Group. “You only need to take a stroll through the village to realise that Moorish culture is still deeply rooted in the most traditional Algarvean architecture, which gives Carvoeiro a very special charm.”
And this paradise isn’t going unnoticed. Since the stabilisation of the market in 2016, Carvoeiro and the surrounding area of Lagoa have stood out for agents and developers as “ones to watch”. According to local data from the Portuguese Real Estate Mediating Professionals and Companies Association (APEMIP), provided by Lagoa council, between 2016 and 2017, the area saw an increase of 15% in property transactions. “I would say this growth reflects the fact that Lagoa is a very attractive area,” said council mayor Luís Encarnação. “Perhaps due to our urban policies, Lagoa has no high-rise construction, there is a harmony between our buildings and the land.”
For Zoie Hawker of Fine & Country Algarve, the same rings true: “One of its appeals is the fact that the town has expanded outwards rather than upwards. There isn’t much high rise in Carvoeiro and so it has kept hold of its traditional appeal.”
This is perhaps why some of the area’s local investors and architects are so committed to restoring, preserving and enhancing the landscape of Lagoa. Carvoeiro Clube Group is known for its restoration projects along the coast and, along with the development of resorts like Quinta do Algarvio, works are now underway for the restoration of Atrium Lagoa, a transformation of an abandoned building into 52 luxury apartments. “Lagoa and Carvoeiro are jewels in the Algarve, and the real estate market is aware of this,” says Erik de Vlieger. “New villages and investments present a more modern edge whilst keeping its Portuguese personality. The secret is to modernise without losing the essence of this very special place.”
Mayor Luís Encarnação also believes the area has become popular thanks to its media presence: “When someone wants to show the Algarve, in terms of its natural beauty and the potential of its tourist offer, we often see an image of the municipality of Lagoa, whether it’s Senhora da Rocha, Praia do Carvoeiro or the Benagil caves,” he says. “I think this is very attractive for the real estate market.”
The preservation of Carvoeiro’s aesthetic appeal is deeply rooted in the development of new residences and buildings in the area. Local authorities have strict regulations on the construction of new builds, with the area split into zones to protect the surrounding nature that gives it its inherent appeal. Residential developments that are approved share commonalities in design for year-round living that not only blends with, but also supports, its environment.
L&N Residences, a new project marketed exclusively by Fine & Country, is a stunning example of this. The four exclusive luxury villas are located in the highly desired spot of coastline between Carvoeiro and Ferragudo, with views over the estuary of the Arade River and combine classic architecture with the highest quality craftsmanship and cutting-edge technology for home comfort solutions.
“Clever home automation like intelligent heating and cooling systems are built-in to reduce energy waste and costs, while the classic, low-rise design complements the location and makes the most of the Algarve’s outdoor lifestyle,” says Zoie Hawker. The villas, priced between €2,150,000 and €2,350,000, are planned for completion in May 2020.
Another of Lagoa’s local low-rise property developments, Carvoeiro Gardens, also offers year-round living, using energy-efficient construction techniques. Close to Vale Centianes beach and with the town centre around a 10- to 15-minute walk, it is a very desirable place to live, priced from just under €500,000 for a three-bedroom villa.
Connection to nature is an essential part of life in Lagoa. Arnold Aarsen, creative director of Studio Arte in Portimão, says it is what his clients are most drawn to. “Here you encounter nature in a different way to other parts of the Algarve. People are attracted to the organic, the true Portuguese feeling. We are seeing a trend with buyers in this area who are looking for this specifically,” he explains.
“More often now, it is young families, mostly from northern Europe, who want to settle here. They fall in love with the simpler lifestyle and the possibility of living so close with nature.”
Contrary to Lisbon and Porto, where property transactions in 2017 were primarily made by non-EU investors, house buyers in the Algarve are almost exclusively from EU countries. Europe has long been a key-player in the region’s property market and, despite Brexit uncertainty, British buyers remain the leading player – for now.
At Fine & Country Algarve, 2018 saw Brits bring just 28% of their business, still the largest market for the agent but “there is a change beginning”, Zoie Hawker says. “Last year, we sold to people from 20 different countries from across the globe. Whilst the vast majority were from Europe, we had buyers from the US to South Africa and the Middle East. The Algarve is connecting with the world.”
Across nationalities though, the majority of buyers are looking for two- to three-bedroom family homes, and more than ever want to permanently relocate, as opposed to making a holiday-home investment. And for those looking for lifestyle, Lagoa is a clear choice. “When relocating, people want to be connected to a community that has everything, from good schools to medical practices, shops and social life,” Arnold Aarsen says. “But they want it in a setting that also supports their families’ mental and physical health too. Lagoa, and Carvoeiro in particular, have all of this, right on their doorstep.”
In 2020, Lagoa will be further fortified with the expected opening of a new state-of-the-art sports centre. The project, developed by Studio Arte, is an investment by an unnamed international football club, and will connect municipality swimming pools and Parchal’s Bela Vista Stadium with a new training and hotel complex dedicated to team sports.
“There are also four new luxury, five-star hotel units planned, which is in line with Lagoa’s commitment to quality tourism,” adds Luís Encarnação. Although these units have yet to be picked up by operators, “there is clearly an intention on the part of developers, either directly or by finding a partner, to move forward immediately.”
With stunning views and idyllic climate, combined with the infrastructure, local amenities and growing investment, Lagoa is indeed ticking all the boxes and so, naturally, the price tag reflects this. Since 2016, the value of land in Lagoa has steadily increased in every first trimester.
“The market is very buoyant and there is still plenty of demand,” Zoie Hawker says. “But from strong year-on-year growth since the economic recovery, we are seeing house price increases starting to slow down this year.”
According to figures from APEMIP, the number of existing family homes bought in the Algarve decreased by 7% between the first trimester of 2018 and 2019.
Interestingly though, the number of new-build transactions increased by 7% in the same period, suggesting that the future of property in Carvoeiro could be moving from restoration to reinvention. “It’s not uncommon now for people to buy a property and totally renovate it,” Zoie says. “However, the prime spots are rare and there is only so much you can do with refurb-project, so we are also starting to see older villas being demolished and replaced with modern properties.”
For buyers, it seems the additional upfront cost is worth the long-term investment, and architecturally modern homes can offer a great deal more. “It is a quality of life that cannot be replicated in northern European countries,” Arnold Aarsen says. “Carvoeiro isn’t cheap and the dream plots are rare, but people deeply want to settle here, to build their homes and invest in their children’s futures.”
Home automation and the latest mod-cons are no longer a luxury for the few – they are expected, an integral part of modern family life. With foreign home investment in the Algarve no longer being just for a hot summer holiday, the property market is adapting to demand and so too are the homes that adorn the hills of this southern paradise.
Today, the little village of Carvoeiro presents a paradox in property investment. Modern families are uncompromising in a need for updated, tech-savvy homes that support a lifestyle of luxury. But they are drawn to this area in search of a simpler existence and share fondness for architecture rooted in typical Portuguese nostalgia, connection to nature and familial warmth.
For those lucky enough to call this corner of the world home, Carvoeiro presents the possibility of a lifestyle most can only dream of.
By RAE DELANIE PASSFIELD