Peter Calder, Gois

My name is Peter F Calder and on the Expat Focus Portugal Forum I am known as PETERFC, yes him!

This is my story from when I first wanted just a holiday home to the decision that it was to become my home for life.

My story started in September 2007 on a warm sunny day here in Liverpool. I had asked on a Forum I am a member of for somewhere to stay for a week at the beginning of September. I replied to one invitation from a couple who lived in Gois, Dianne and Terry. After looking into where they were, I decided that it may be good to try there first. That week during my stay I travelled out each day in a different direction looking at various places with a view to perhaps moving there, but no matter where I went I kept going back to Gois – not just because I was staying there but because it had something all the other places had not. So Gois it was to be.The real story starts here and a story of a new life in the sun.

Before I made my first trip to Central Portugal I had already started researching ready for my move to a new life in the sun somewhere. The search started not in Portugal but in Spain in a place called the Ayora Valley outside of the Andalusia region. My wife decided that she wouldn’t want to go to Spain mainly because of the reports of the British People who were having homes taken from them and she viewed all of Spain as being a place to avoid. The search started again but this time I started looking in Central Portugal – why the Central Region I don’t know but I didn’t want a holiday region

The research started all over again. I sat with my wife to put to her that we could have a holiday home in the sun that we could all enjoy, including our children. This time I was on my own – my wife had decided that she wanted a divorce instead as she wanted to stay in Liverpool, and I wanted to make a new life in the sun with a holiday home to stay in. There was no chance of a compromise I am sad to say, so it was either move to the sun or stay and work. The money I had after the divorce would not allow me to retire in Liverpool – although I would have been mortgage free I would have had to work for the rest of my working life. So it was off to the sun for me but not before lots of research into a move.

During my trips to Gois I had made friends with a number of people and today they are still my closest friends – Dianne and Terry who I with stayed on my first trip, and another couple I met, Richard and Patricia and daughter Bess. Richard and Patricia were so helpful in showing me around the area, places I would never have found otherwise. One such place is the view above Candosa looking down on a valley and one of the best views I have seen here in Portugal. Some time after our first meeting Richard and Patricia told me they where opening an Estate agency in Gois and their work is in this region I have chosen to live.

I had been looking at properties on various websites but only one I really fancied and that was over at a place called Coja. I visited the property about six times and went as far as putting in an offer. The house needed a complete renovation and I decided to give up on the idea as it would have been a major project and with a pending divorce I needed somewhere I could move into. Eventually this property I fell in love with by Coja found its way onto Richards’s website and after four years on other websites Richard and Patricia managed to get the owners a sale in only weeks of trying.

I saw a property on a site that advertises properties for sale but they are not a registered Estate agency. It would be wrong of me to mention them as they had nothing to do with the problems that ensued

The house I saw was down past Tomar about an hour away from Gois in a place called Fundada. It was a stunning property and only 30,000€. I got more pictures and decided that this was the property for me. After contacting the seller I offered to pay 1,000€ in 24 hours to secure the property and I arranged a bank transfer for the deposit and then I arranged a flight to conclude the deal. Hours before the flight I checked my email only to find that the seller had sold the property and was offering to refund me the 1,000€ deposit. I refused to let him pay direct into my bank account as I didn’t want to give my bank details to him or in fact anybody. I elected to pick up the cash instead. That was to be a big mistake.

I travelled to a place called Serta and met the seller at a riverside bar where I received my 1,000€ back and I then counted the money and put the money back in the envelope. The money was in an envelope and there it stayed till I needed it again.

My son saw a property in a place called Vale Boa on a website that at that time I had not seen before. It turned out to be for sale on the website that my friends Richard and Patricia had set up: I arranged a flight and went over to have a viewing along with some other houses of interest. As soon as I arrived from the airport I drove straight up to Vale Boa and as I knew my way around it was easy to find the house. I knew from the first look of the house that it was for me. I went to see Richard and Patricia to go for my viewing inside, and afterwards I said that I would be making an offer of the asking price and I would arrange to send over the deposit and that part of it would be in cash.

Before my next flight I sent over part of the deposit by bank transfer to secure the property and I was to pay the balance on my next flight a couple of weeks later. I booked a flight and arrived as I had said I would, to pay the balance of my deposit for the house. The balance was the 1,000€ I had got back from the failed attempt to buy a property in Fundada. The representative for the owners counted the money and signed to accept it on behalf of the owners. The representative is an ex bank manager and after taking the deposit he went straight to the local bank to deposit in on behalf of his clients. A short time later I received a call from the estate agent’s office to tell me that three of the 50€ notes were not real. I first went to an ATM to collect some extra cash so if I had to pay more I would have it with me.

I mentioned earlier that I would regret not getting the deposit from the failed Fundada house paid into my bank. Well 150€ of phoney banknotes was why I came to regret my decision to get cash back. I was flying home a few hours after the meeting at the office and signing for the house. The matter of the phoney notes was reported to the police and they were given all the help they wanted from Richard and his office staff and from the representative of the owners. It was some time later that I had to make a statement and we are now waiting for the inquiries to be completed.

Due to the way the property market is in the UK it was apparent that I may find myself in a position that I could not complete the purchase on the due date. I was advised that if I could increase the deposit then the owners may extend the contract date and that’s what I did. The owners were happy with the increased deposit and gave me unlimited time to complete the purchase. Now the pressure was off I could get on with marketing the house that I was to sell to start my new life.

The property market being what it was in the UK I ended up dropping the house sale price by £38,000 to get a sale and sadly that’s what I had to do in the end to get the house sold. It was a different matter over selling my business, the only buyers I could get where Asian and I had three offers of almost the asking price but I said no. My son worked in the business and I had two staff that had become close friends due to the time they had been working for me. The problem with Asian owners is they want to employ their own staff and always from my experience they sack the staff when they buy a business and move in their own people. I couldn’t let that happen to my staff, so I decided to give the business to my son. If I had sold it then he would be out of work, and getting a job that would pay enough to pay not just the rent for the flat above the business but all the outgoings as well would have been difficult for him.

The last person I saw as I drove off was my ex-wife. I had hoped that I could see her for one last time and perhaps I could go off leaving a way back should she want to change her mind and be friends. After all we had been married just weeks less than 30 years. What a fool I was to hold out any hope of friendship – all I got was a torrent of abuse and that was my answer.

The drive down to the ferry from Liverpool was just another drive to me but this time there was no way back. Business gone, house sold, so really nowhere to go but forward to a new life and a new adventure. I arrived for the ferry quite a few hours early so I could be at the front of the queue for getting on the ship. The sailing was quite an adventure as it was the first time I had made a long sailing. I had been over from Dover to Calais many time but this time it was a full day sailing and I did enjoy it.

After getting off the ferry at Santander I started to drive off towards Portugal. It was such a great night for a drive – the skies were clear and it was nice and warm. I just carried driving on through the night until I arrived in Gois. This was the evening of the 31st of July, and I arrived in Gois in the early hours of the 1st of August. To sign the purchase document I had to wait till Friday 12th August for an appointment at the Notary’s office. So I had nearly two weeks to settle into my new life.

The day arrived after what seemed ages, and we had to wait till 2pm to do the signing of the Escritura. This was done at the Notary’s office in a town close by called Arganil. The Escritura is the signing of the legal documents and it is all in Portuguese, and is read out in Portuguese, but was also translated for me. After the signing we went across the road to EDP – the electric company – to set up my account with them, and the seller’s representative closed their account. By then it was late in the afternoon and too late to start to move into the house, so I moved in the next day.

It took a full day to get everything from out of my Transit van and box trailer. I did have the offer of help but I wanted to do it all by myself. The reason for this was that I wanted to put things in the place they would be staying and not have to keep moving things around. That first night was the first day of the rest of my life and I sat with a cold bottle of beer and enjoyed that beer so much, oh so much! The first music track I played was by Richie Heavens called ‘Freedom’ – it marked the end of the road and also the start of the road to my new life.

The next few weeks I did nothing but unpack boxes and put things away but it soon became time to go back to the UK to get rid of the Transit van and pick up my car. I had to do my goodbyes all over again. The last time I saw Chelsee, my granddaughter, I just walked away as if I would see her again another day but I didn’t. I didn’t tell her I was leaving again to go to my new home – I knew that she would be upset and so would I. So off I drove down to the ferry and over to Le Havre and then I drove down through France, Spain, and home. It was not like any other time I had driven in Europe – this time I was on my way home. This really is the start of my new life, aged 62, and what an adventure it has been and is going to be.

Since I moved here I have not had one moment where I have had any doubt that this was the right thing for me to do. I am happy and free and what more can anybody want in life. A bonus has been that during autumn and winter I usually have a very bad chest cough – well this year has been the first since I was a child that I haven’t had a chest problem. I am told that it’s because I now live in a place where the air is pure and clean. Also another bonus is that the only food I now eat is fresh food, nothing from a package, tin or processed. I have lost a huge amount of weight and again it’s from moving away from Liverpool and adopting a better way of life.

There are a number of, as they say, ‘Expats’ – I call them immigrants, as I also call myself, although this is a new home and a new life. All the Expats I meet are so warm and friendly and they all are free with help and advice. I saw in Lidl a fly screen for sale and for 20€ it seemed a bargain until I told my friend Richard -he has a huge roll of Fly screen and he gave me the roll to cut off what I needed for my lounge windows. Thanks to this I now have my lounge window open till I go to bed most nights. The locals are without doubt a bonus as I am the only English in the village and I am lucky that they have taken to me. Today I came out to find cabbage leaves left outside for my chickens. Sadly they were attacked and all except my cockerel where killed but it was a nice gesture from my neighbour Fernando.

When I built my chicken run I am told I built it just went over the boundary of someone’s land. It was pointed out to me that I had just gone over the boundary by only about half a metre but if I wanted I could buy the bit I needed and at the moment I probably will. The price is just 60€. For 60€ I get a piece of land about 30ft by 15ft. My land now extends down to the lane where I live – it also gives me somewhere else to start to grow food. The only things I want to grow are things I can eat.

When I left England I was overweight and I put it down to the poor diet I used to eat. Here I just have fresh food in my diet; I have never eaten so well and miss almost nothing from my previous life. Well as I said almost – fresh cream cakes I could kill for but I can live without. I even make my own jellies from fresh squeezed fruit, jams, wine, cakes, and bread. I grow lots of my own food. I have been making my own bread since I moved in almost a year ago and I am getting to be quite an expert or so I will have you believe – in fact I use a bread-maker. My bread-maker is the single most used thing after my computer and my rice cooker.

What could I say I miss from my life as it was in the UK? Nothing.

I was asked what I dislike about my new life in this, my new home. My answer to that is simple – nothing! I am happy, and to me that says it all.

So much is going on here in this area of Central Portugal that I am sure that I will always have something to do. During the summer months there are Festas going on in many of the villages.

Lastly, what advice would I offer to others wanting a better life?

For the men – involve your better half or you may end up like me alone – “but I am so happy now”.

To the ladies – look at your life now and would a move be better for you both? If you answer yes then spend as much time on the Forum and get as much of an insight into the country you would like to move to you – can never get too much information.

Search the Forum before you ask questions as there could be lots of the answers already there. Lots of advice you get from the Forum is of great help but some is misleading – by that I mean answers from people who think they know the answer from hearsay. If in doubt ask the relevant local council departments – for example if it’s about building ask the planning department, as they know what they are talking about.

Don’t plan for ‘Oh I want a place with 4 acres of land and I want this that or the other.’ I did until I found that I couldn’t ever use a huge piece of land. I now have a house with enough land for my needs.

I have mentioned that my friends Richard and Patricia opened an estate agency. Many estate agents like them do a great job in finding what you want, but there are many who are not licensed and you have no comeback should anything go wrong. I know of one couple who got ripped off to the tune of 40,000€ by using an unlicensed agent. Don’t meet someone in a bar or at the side of the road to go for a viewing. I did till I found out better – a licensed agent will only meet you at their office.

To buy a property you have to put down a deposit of around 10% and sign what is called a ‘promissory contract’ and then you have a time limit to complete the purchase. I was lucky – Richard, who in the end turned out to be the agent I used, advised me to get the time extended in case I couldn’t complete the purchase in the time that was originally agreed. This is normally three months, but I had it increased to suit my needs. If it had not been that I had a good agent and friend then I would have gone over the time and lost my deposit.

I started a Blog Peter's Vale Boa House in the Sun to keep a record of my new life here in my place in the Sun.

Thank you for taking the time to read my story and I hope that someone will find it to be of help in their journey to a new life.