In the course of researching a couple of features, I have been talking to quite a few real estate people recently, trawling through the internet as any potential property purchaser would and looking at areas of the Algarve.

While checking the internet for information on properties in the Algarve, I fell upon the website of one particular real estate agent. I clicked the button offering information on financing a property – and I groaned. The website had not been updated to take account of the changes in legislation relating to offshore-held properties, and so the information was totally misleading. How many people sitting in the UK (or anywhere else) would know that? No wonder so many people get confused when so-called professionals are giving out incorrect information! Let this be a reminder – when did you last update your website information?

Not-so-professionals giving out incorrect information seems to be more common than we would like to think, and habitation licences seems to be a good example. I heard several stories in my travels about owners of older-style properties who find themselves stuck when they come to sell. Most owners of these older properties have made significant chan-ges – added a swimming pool, extended the living room, added a bedroom and/or bathroom – and a majority of this work was done without any paperwork. Come selling time, a reputable real estate agent will ask for the Habitation Licence. “I don’t need one,” the owner says, “my house was built before 1951”. Not good enough. “Was the pool built before 1951? Were the new bedroom and bathroom built before 1951?” “Err, no, we did that about five years ago.” “So, you need a Habitation Licence.” “But our lawyer said we didn’t need one.” This, it seems, is very common, and one that is complicating even further the whole offshore/onshore scenario. There are some people who are stuck offshore because they do not have a Habitation Licence and therefore cannot legally come onshore.

Another worrying trend is real estate agents who are used to valuing properties in the Golden Triangle moving out in search of pastures new, and applying the same equations to rural properties. I have heard several variations of the story where a real estate agent who has historically specialised in Quinta do Lago and Vale do Lobo type properties valuing a property in the hills at a level that brings a smile to the owner’s face. Then another agent, with many years’ experience of country-type properties, and who applies a more relevant list of criteria, gives a more realistic valuation. Who is the owner to trust? Of course, he wants to believe that he can achieve the higher price – but the second agent gives him all the reasons why his valuation is lower. Again, how is a property buyer or seller meant to know who is telling the truth and presenting the real picture – or is the property market so strange at the moment that there is no such thing as ‘value’?

Finally, a troubling tale from someone who was at Loulé Câmara this week as the ‘velhotes’ – the old people – were queuing to pay their first instalment of 2004 rates. It seems that some of these old people, living in their equally old, tumble-down houses, are being hit for rises of up to 44 times their old rates. One old lady, for instance, was being asked to pay 110 euros as her first instalment – last year she paid only two or three euros. Now you and I might say that two or three euros is just laughable, and 110 euros is not a lot. But when you are old, and on a state pension of around 200 euros a month, it is one heck of a lot – especially when you are going to have to find it again in six months’ time! It is all part of the re-valuation process, I assume, but it is hitting these people hard. On the other side of the coin, I am hearing that owners of offshore-held properties are not being hit with the huge increases they were holding their breath for – but it is perhaps early days to get a picture on that.

Makes me understand why so many people are now saying to me that they are going to go and find a desert island to live on!

And to end on something totally different – a big thank you to everyone who came to the Flamenco evening at the Atlantic Paradise restaurant the other week. Around 60 people had a great time, and the Royal British Legion went away with over 300 euros, proceeds from the raffle. Space does not permit me to thank individually everyone who donated prizes, but it helped to make the evening even more enjoyable – and the Flamenco performers were on great form with music and dance from Catalunia and Andalucia. It shows, yet again, that nice people enjoy a good evening out meeting other nice people. Although this was not a Mix & Mingle event, it was open to everyone and the question was asked, “where are all the nice men?” Over to you, gentlemen! There are lots of delightful, intelligent, financially independent ladies around who are looking for some male company. Where are you? How do these ladies find you? Come out of hiding! Contact me on 966 108 605 or [email protected] and I’ll arrange a summer social.