Have you made the decision to move to Lisbon?
Then, first of all, congrats 👏
My first experience in Lisbon was about 13 years ago when I moved here to study thanks to the Erasmus program.
Lisbon was a very different city at that time:
And some of the most popular hipster areas nowadays like Intendente, Martim Moniz or Cais do Sodré? Those were complete no-go areas. 😬
I came back to the city in 2016 and after a while, I created a Facebook group called Lisbon Digital Nomads to help digital nomads and expats with any questions they had about the city.
After gathering plenty of insights from that group, I decided to write down this little guide. I assume that you already know which are your preferred Lisbon's neighbourhoods and now you are ready for the apartment hunting.
A cool feature of Hoodpicker is that you can explore similar neighborhoods in other cities and find their "twins" in Lisbon.
It's actually the most frequently asked question in the nomad community.
To try and help, I’ve summarized my own experience and included some tips from my friends that may be helpful too.
I also ran a survey in the nomad community to get a better picture of what finding mid-term accommodations looks like in Lisbon today.
From the results of the survey it was obvious that the most popular ways people found accommodations were through:
Does it mean that these are the best ways to find accommodations in Lisbon? Well, it depends...
Airbnb is always an option but it’s usually the most 💰 expensive one.
If you don't have friends in Lisbon, this option is out.
Uniplaces is mainly for 🎓students and the quality of accommodations can vary.
There are many 👺 scam offers on Facebook groups as well, so be careful!
The Facebook group Accommodation for digital nomads in Lisbon has quite limited offerings but the listings are curated and they include pictures, price, the speed of the internet, closest coworking spots, etc.
It's also the best place to introduce yourself if you are searching for shared accommodations with other nomads.
They are written in Portuguese but easy to use with Google Translate. Local landlords usually speak good or at least OK-ish English and are typically happy to rent to expats as they are dependable tenants.
They will ask you about your job. It doesn't matter if you are an employee, freelancer or contractor, I recommend saying that you work remotely for a company abroad and that you have a stable salary (I suppose that it's kind of true, I'm not advising you to lie). Most landlords have had a bad experience with people not paying them, which is why they are careful.
Most nomads and expats will use English websites or agents, so you would have an advantage and a much higher chance to get a good deal if you use Sapo or OLX.
When you contact the landlords, you must call them or send a Whatsapp message. Nobody is going to answer your emails and text messages.
Tip: Didn’t receive a response from a landlord? Don't give up! Follow up at least twice.
If you want to rent an apartment, most of the landlords will ask you to sign a 12-month contract. Sometimes you can negotiate for 6 months or less, but it’s difficult. If the apartment is offered online, there is a big chance that it’s a real estate agency. They will charge you 1-month’s rent as their deposit. If you want to stay only for a few months, this can make your monthly rent even more expensive.
Quite a common practice is for landlords not to have a formal contract (guess why) in exchange for charging less rent. But then there's always the risk of having a landlord kick you out whenever they feel like it. This is why you should always want to get it in writing - even if not in an official contract.
Like in any popular city, you can find a lot of scams when you are searching for apartments.
Example of a scam message:
"I received your contact for my apartment located at Rua Rodrigo da Fonseca. My name is Nielsen Karina, I am the owner of the apartment and I am from Spain. The apartment is available for rent in good condition, fully furnished and well equipped, as in the photos. It is available immediately and for an unlimited time. The monthly rent is € 700 for the entire apartment and includes all bills. I want pay for a month's rent in advance plus a € 700 deposit (I ask for this deposit because everything in the apartment is new and I want to be okay ... I hope you understand), totaling € 1400. Before renting my apartment on Airbnb for short periods, now I don't have time to take care of it and that's why I want to rent it for a long period. The entire rental process will continue to be managed by Airbnb, so they take care of the inspection and payment. I use Airbnb to rent my apartment for short periods for almost a year and I never had any problems. I will pay the fees so that you have no additional costs (no agency fees). Before we move on, I would like to know a little about you, like how many people do you intend to live in the apartment and for how long."
Scam red flags 🚩
1. Find suitable apartments/rooms on Airbnb with an empty calendar for the next few weeks/months and contact the landlord asking for a discount. The Airbnb monthly prices are typically higher than local rents, but you don't have to pay the deposit (and then struggle to get it back), and you have the flexibility of that system (the payment is month-by-month) and are covered by Airbnb insurance/support. This usually works in the winter months when landlords struggle to get short-term rental bookings.
2. Write down your requirements for an apartment and delegate the scouting to a Portuguese personal assistant you hire on Upwork. Your PA will probably save you more money (and time) than you will pay him/her for this job.
3. In Portugal, most of the flats are legalized and you can easily check online if a flat is registered and even get the owners’s contacts by inserting the mandatory registration number (ex: AL2488) in the blankets of the national tourism site.
Good luck with the apartment hunting ✌️