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Portugal - Vila Real

The Vila Real district of Portugal is situated in the north of the country. The district is named after the city of Vila Real and has 14 municipalities. The district has around 250,000 inhabitants but this is in decline as people move away from the smaller towns and villages to bigger towns in other areas. The city of Vila Real has recently undergone some major regeneration work in a bid to attract more residents. The lack of major industry means that most people do not come to the area to work but it is considered to be an ideal region for retirement.

The climate is one of extremes, with long winters that can be extremely cold. Temperatures often dip below freezing and snow and frost are common. In the summer, temperatures can be up to around 40°C.

Most expats who come to this area do so to retire as the area is very tranquil. The cost of living is low but as the winters can be very cold some expats choose to stay there only for the summer months, so there are many houses left empty over winter.

Starting a business in this region in any field would be a real challenge due to the lack of industry and the large numbers of people choosing to leave. A tourist based business would struggle, so opting to start a service based business is a better choice. Skilled workers such as builders, mechanics and hairdressers are always needed so these businesses have a better chance of succeeding.

The city of Vila Real used to serve as a second home for the Portuguese royal family and is now very popular with the wealthy Portuguese who want a second home. It is a smaller city than those in most districts and is ideal for those who want to escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. Many of the houses – particularly those in the centre of the town – date back to the 16th century. Some may be available that need some renovation although there are many in very good condition. Some of these buildings have also been converted into apartments. Prices in the centre are high, due to the demand and the period features which still exist in many of the homes.

As you move further away from the city centre there are more modern houses and apartment buildings. These are popular with the Portuguese locals who would often rather have a modern property. These are available at much lower prices and are often better for those with families as many of the houses have more outdoor space and come with garages and other extras.

There are some good rural villages which are worth considering for those who want to retire to the area. Towns such as Peso da Regua and Murca offer a traditional Portuguese way of life and have a very relaxed atmosphere. The properties in the area are mainly farmhouses – both renovated and in need of some work – and these are available in a range of budgets, but property prices in the area are generally lower than in surrounding districts. Those with children will find that the villages have primary schools but there may be a need to travel to the nearest town for a secondary school.

Another town with a long history is Chaves. As with Vila Real, there are properties which date back centuries. The town has a growing tourist industry and may be a good place to consider for those who wish to start a tourism based business. Property in the area is reasonably priced, particularly those located in the countryside around the town. The town has good leisure facilities and has a small expat community already.

Many of the towns in the area date back to medieval times and some are preserving the older feel by not allowing too much development to take place, so helping to keep demand high for existing properties. Property prices are lower than in many other districts but are not falling too low as plans are in place to rejuvenate the commercial areas in the city of Vila Real and to encourage workers to move back into the area.

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