Uncovering Portugal’s sizzling luxury real estate market with Hannah Wood
With one of the most active high-end real estate markets in the world right now, it’s an exciting time to be a Luxury Collection Specialist in Portugal. And having plied her trade there for the past 10 years, Hannah Wood, Operations Director at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Portugal Property, is well placed to discuss the state of the market and what it’s like to work with luxury properties in this popular Mediterranean playground.
Growing up in the West Midlands, UK, Hannah moved to Portugal with her family when she was 10. “I went to Portuguese school, and I suppose at this point I’m more Portuguese than English,” she said.
After finishing school and dabbling briefly with photography, Hannah was looking for inspiration to guide her next career move. So when an opportunity to dive into the real estate industry arose, she jumped at the chance.
“At the age when I got into real estate, I wasn’t 100% sure of what I wanted to do with my career. But as soon as I started in the industry, I really enjoyed it, and now I can’t imagine doing anything else,” Hannah explained.
Joining the fold when she was 17, Hannah is now the second-longest serving member of staff. “I actually started with more of an administrative role as I was quite young at the time,” Hannah added. “I assisted a lot of the directors within the company.”
In the past 10 years, Hannah has worked her way up to a management position, but she’s still able to get out and represent certain high-end listings. “Now I’ve been here so long, I know the company inside and out,” she explained. “I do have more of a managerial role now, but generally when I do take on properties, they end up being more on the luxury end—and if I do take on clients, then they are more likely to be luxury clients as well.”
When Hannah isn’t actively representing clients or properties, she splits her time between her duties as Operations Director and managing the company’s property advisors. She said: “A lot of our clients are international buyers. A typical scenario would be for them to make an inquiry on our website today, but they may be not looking to move for six months or a year, so it is the property advisors’ role to really find out what that client is looking for, what they're interested in, when they're coming over, what kind of property they want, etc.
“Sometimes people don't even know Portugal—they've heard it's a nice place but that’s it, so it's the property advisor’s job to really focus on getting some sort of clarity from the client, which often involves them getting the clients over here on a plane to view properties with us. That’s the team I look after on a day-to-day basis.”
A country as beautiful and alluring as Portugal of course gets its fair share of high-end buyers looking to plant roots there. Consequently, Hannah has met some people with fascinating jobs.
“I met with a gentleman once whose company, if I remember correctly, made the ingredient that differentiates Pepsi from Coke,” Hannah recalled. “And that's what that whole company does. It’s something that is obviously very valuable—just providing that key ingredient.”
“Another client we had was a chef,” she continued. “He was head chef at the Oscars and held the honor of preparing the most dinners ever at the event.”
The irresistible appeal of Portugal
The clients that seek relocation assistance from Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Portugal Property aren’t just looking to settle in one particular area of the country. While resorts like Vilamoura and Lagos are popular on Portugal’s Algarve coast, many want to be close to the hubbub of a busy city like Lisbon or Porto, while others prefer the laid-back vibes of Madeira or the Azores.
Luckily, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Portugal Property has offices in each of these areas. “Wherever they need to be, we just follow their needs,” Hannah commented.
But what exactly makes Portugal such an alluring prospect? “It’s a lovely country—and it’s very accessible,” explained Hannah. “You're just a six-hour flight from New York—we’re one of the closest European countries to the US.”
“Plus, we’re very close to Africa—especially in the Algarve—so the weather is very favorable,” she continued. “It's a particularly safe country as well, and I think that's really important for people. Healthcare, too: I know in America that healthcare is extremely expensive, while here it is extremely inexpensive.
“So, all these factors really attract people to this area. And then you have initiatives like the Golden Visa program where—depending on the property type and area density—if you purchase the property for €350,000, then you may be eligible for Portuguese residency. All this put together makes things very attractive to someone who’s thinking about buying here, really.”
Looking in more detail at the country’s Golden Visa program, Hannah said: “In 2022, 35% of our buyers were American and even if they hadn’t been considering a Golden Visa, it just makes sense for them to get it.
“And since Brexit, if you're British, you can't just come back here anymore—you have to get a particular type of visa to stay here. And the Golden Visa is, let's say, the most straightforward avenue for gaining residency here.”
As Hannah has alluded, American and British citizens make up the majority of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Portugal Property’s clientele. “We have a very vast database of clients—they come from all over—but after American and British, we get into lower numbers with clients from Ireland, France, Belgium, the Scandinavian countries, and other countries as well,” she explained.
A mix of modern marvels and voluminous villas
Portugal’s architecture is a captivating combination of more traditional Mediterranean styles and new-build contemporary designs. “In Portugal at the moment, everything that is being built on the luxurious side is designed to look modern,” Hannah said. “If we go to Quinta do Lago, which is 10 minutes from where I live in Vilamoura, they're like spaceships. And they're getting bigger—they're 2000-square-meter houses [approx. 21,500 sq ft]. They are huge, and you don't need to leave them, really.”
“Personally though, I do prefer a more traditional home,” she added. “For example, the villa that was showcased on Global Open House in late 2022 would be my ideal home.
“It really is a stand-out property—often you don't get properties of that magnitude here in Portugal. You can't build pools that size anymore. They just don't allow you to.”
“But we do have some other stunning listings. We have some exquisite properties that are part of our off-market section, for example, we have one in Quinta do Lago priced at €35 million—these are modern, lovely homes. And we even have a castle near Lisbon—they’re all gorgeous in their own right.”
Navigating a different real estate market
The real estate industry in Portugal is a different beast to what agents, brokers and customers are used to in the US. One of the main distinctions is that sellers can source multiple agents to help market their property, so a company getting exclusivity on a listing is rare.
“We do get a few exclusive listings,” Hannah explained. “A client will have a property they want listed exclusively with us mainly because of our reputation and transparency. The previously mentioned villa is exclusive with us—the seller didn’t want multiple agents advertising it because he knew that overexposure can be dangerous.
“In the US you have the MLS, which, when a property is sold, you must remove it, I believe within three days. Here in Portugal, if you go on some of our most common portals, you’ll find properties on there that we sold a year ago and other agents are still promoting them. So, you find a lot of fishing, which is obviously very difficult to combat when you are a transparent company.”
Embracing the luxury market
And what does the future hold for Hannah and the team at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Portugal Property? “As a company, we're heading more everyday into the luxury market,” Hannah said. “Properties in Portugal are getting more expensive anyway, so we are sort of being pushed in that direction. We still have our bread-and-butter transactions of course—like the €500,000 price range—but we are certainly heading more into the luxury market.”
“The brand has been a big part of our success,” she added. “People put a lot of faith in the name and they know they can rely on a Berkshire Hathaway company.
“Referrals from US network members are also becoming more common now and we are getting more leads through some of our partners in the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices network.
“Recently we did a Road to Portugal event in California, in which my colleagues Joe and Paddy went and presented to Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties—and we’re doing the same in New York as well. So we’re hoping that these programs will better our referral numbers within the network.”
You can find out more about Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Portugal Property at PortugalProperty.com.