So I guess I’m going to be buying a piece of land in Portugal. I suppose I should probably be anxious about spending my life savings on a piece of land in with a pile of rocks on it in some sort of ruin-like shape, but the reality is that I’m more excited than nervous. Perhaps it wouldn’t hurt if I were a bit more nervous, actually. Sure, I could spend my savings on something respectable like continued education, investing in a business idea, or a crappy apartment to renovate – but none of these alternatives are very goat-friendly, so it would seem that buying land and attempting to build a house is the plan!
I’ve been thinking about doing this for over ten years and now that I’m in the position to do it, I really feel like I need to take the risk and just go for it. And what is the risk, anyway? Buying a money pit? Squandering my savings on over-priced shovels? Getting ripped off by a local real estate con artist? Losing my money in some sinister or stupid way wouldn’t have as much of an effect on me as not giving this whole crazy thing a try, so I’m hoping to get things rolling by buying a piece of land in early 2019 and seeing where this adventure takes me.
I’m pretty experienced at taking relatively small (under $5,000) risks on business ideas, but the idea of spending much more on a single thing or idea is super daunting to me. I’ve never bought a house or land, the only car I’ve ever owned cost $200 New Zealand dollars (and it was a champ!), and my most expensive possession is my laptop. While I’m relatively confident in my ability to figure things out and persevere through the tough times, I will admit to feeling a bit over my head with all of this.
It helps that I’m meeting lots of others who have done the same thing. If they can figure it out, I’m sure I can too… right? Happily, there are loads of great websites with properties for sale, lots of Facebook groups with helpful people, and countless videos and websites by people who have built amazing things or who are moving to this sort of lifestyle who are based all around the world. With all of the great online resources, new friends in Portugal cheering me on and willing to help, some money in the bank, and a stubborn belief in my ability to get things done, I feel like now is the time and I’m excited to start the search.
But, first things first, how much will this all cost? Do I have enough? What are my expected startup and running expenses? How much will I have to spend on land, anyway? I just realised that I have no idea and so this post is my way of forcing myself to think about that pesky money stuff.
Things I’ll Need to Buy Straight Away
- Land – ? – Hmm… I’m not sure yet. Let me finish the post to figure out how much all of the other stuff will cost and that’ll give me a better idea of my budget for land.
- Car and Insurance – €4,500 – Based on some initial research by me, someone who knows less than nothing about cars, and after talking to a mechanic friend, €4,000 seems like a reasonable amount to get something that’s of decent quality. I know I can get something for under €1,000 but I’d rather set the budget higher and hope for a good-quality ride that doesn’t give me any problems for awhile. Portugal is well-known for being an expensive place to buy a car. Yay. Oh, car insurance will be around €500 per year on top of that based on some super quick research.
- Big, Pimped-Out Tent – €1,000 – I was thinking about buying a caravan or a yurt but the cheap and east route really is to just get some sort of a sturdy tent (that I can stand up in) and to stick a decent mattress and some good bedding in there. Not the most secure thing, perhaps, but I’m not a big fan of caravans and yurts can be quite expensive. If I could find a yurt for under €3,000 I might consider it, though. I kind of hate tents though so I might also consider renting a house near to where my land is. This is all still up in the air but I think €1,000 should be plenty for a tent and bedding or for three months worth of rent.
- Kitchen and General Living Stuff – €1,500 – Bizarrely, I have a decent amount of experience setting up a living space from scratch. I did this for two volunteer bases in Malawi and Nepal, running around Blantyre and Kathmandu buying everything from toilet paper to kitchen stuff to giant Tupperware-type tubs (which happen to be incredibly useful). I have a reasonable idea of all of those little things I’ll need and feel like €750 should be enough. Possibly. Maybe. Plus if I spend all of my savings on land and stuff, I’ll also want to make sure I can feed myself, buy gas to cook on, fuel for the car, data and minutes for my phone, and all that fun stuff for around three months while I wait for more money to come in and this should more than cover me. I’d hope that €750 should cover me.
- Tools – €750 – I’ll want to build a composting toilet, a shower of some sort, and start a garden as my first three jobs so I’ll need to buy the basics to be able to get these thing done (or started, at the very least). I could be romanticising it all, but I love the idea of taking things super slow, living on the land for awhile before building too much, and doing as much carpentry work with hand tools as possible. I’m sure reality will set in once I get to work, though. Power tools are always handy to have plus I’ll need shovels and stuff and €750 seems like a reasonable amount to set aside to get started as I slowly build things up. Plus I’m hoping I end up living in an area with a good sense of community, so maybe I’ll be able to barter and share tools and time with people, too.
- Building Materials and Seeds – €750 – Hmm… how does one build a compost toilet? Wood… drill… screws… a bucket. I’ve seen some great examples so I have an idea of how to make something simple and that’s task number one – somewhere to poop. I’ll want to also buy materials to get a simple shower structure up and seeds to put in the ground. After these initial things, I’ll likely just build and grow as I earn more money each month from my businesses.
- Lawyer, Translator, and Accountant – €3,000 – A friend suggested setting aside around €3,000 to put towards a good lawyer and translator so everything is done properly. I’ve heard about people spending as low as €500 to hire a lawyer so, this cost could end up being a lot less, but I’d want to set aside a good amount just in case. I don’t want to be tempted into skimping on this as buying property in Portugal can be quite complicated. I’m going to try to sneak an accountant into this budget as well. I’ve already spoken to one and, while my taxes should be straightforward, I want to make sure I get things correct from the start.
I want to keep things super simple to start. I’m the type that would rather spend three months researching and observing before putting a shovel in the ground and, once I actually find this piece of land of mine, I want to take things slowly. Plus from a financial point of view, my business will be ticking along in the background and the more time I take to get things done, the more money will be accumulating that I can put towards items like solar, water, and structures to live in.
Speaking of which…
Things I Still Need to Research
- Power Supply – I’m not obsessed with being 100% off-grid but I do love the idea of eventually not having to pay power and water bills. Solar power might be something that comes later, but if I can figure it out from the start it’s something I’d like to get up and running as soon as possible. I know batteries are super expensive and that I’ll need to also build a structure to house the batteries and hold the solar panels, but I’m hoping that a small system won’t be massively expensive and that I can make it more robust later on. If solar doesn’t work out then I’d look into getting a generator just to start out and to keep my tools and electronics powered up. So I suppose I should set aside some money for a generator and fuel at the very least. The internet seems to say that €300 should be enough for a small generator and I’ll bump that up to €500 to cover some fuel.
- Water Pumps and Storage – I don’t know anything about water that doesn’t come out of a faucet. I have a lot of learning to do in this area! Luckily, learned a bit during my time at Keela Yoga Farm who are totally off-grid. They had a lake dug and they also pump water from their well into two large tanks and then feed the water by gravity down to the house and garden. They have a borehole, too. I’m heading back there in mid-July for several months of volunteering and I plan to learn as much as possible about their water supplies. The land I buy will need to have some sort of a water source so I’ll want to figure out how to make it usable.
The Grand Total
Lets all all of this up, shall we? The grand total is… dum da dum dum DUUUUM… €12,000! That’s without any sort of water pumping solution and without taking into consideration a contingency plan. So lets up my startup costs to €15,000 and then I shall proceed to keep a tight budget and cross my fingers.
Budget for Land
So where does this leave me? If I’m setting aside €12,000 on setup costs and if I want to have an extra €3,000 in the bank to cover my ass in case something goes wrong, how much does that leave me for actually buying a piece of land? Well, at the moment, somewhere around €0 is the answer. That would wipe out most of my savings and leave me with squat.
However, I have no plan to buy anything until 2019 and that’s because I’ll have money coming in over the rest of the year that should leave me in a good position when March next year rolls around. As I mentioned in a previous post, I have a monthly income coming in from ads on my Kigali website, a couple of maps (Kigali and Kampala – the sales are already made and I just have to collect the money over the next 18 months) and, most importantly, I’m working now on a Nairobi map that I hope will be released by December 2018 and will be paid for up front by my business partner.
My plan is to live fairly cheaply between now and next year, doing work exchanges and heading off here and there to look at properties. If things go as expected with my businesses, then I’ll have somewhere between €20,000 and €30,000 to spend on a piece of land with a ruin and water source. I’m not the type to count my money before it’s in my pocket and typing this is making me uneasy about jinxing things, but what the hell. It’s good to put it out there to have something to aim for, right? I’d happily spend less depending on what I find and, if I have more to spend, that will give me more choice with location and features or it’ll give me extra to spend on getting things up and running and a bit more breathing room.
Ok there you have it… my possibly fantastical and hastily typed-out budget. There’s a lot I don’t know, but I expect I’ll learn by doing or from people who’ve already done what I want to do. I have a feeling that these budgets are totally inaccurate and that things will change quite drastically, but it’ll be fun to look back in a year to see what I actually ended up spending.
If 2019 rolls around and I don’t have the amount of money I was hoping to have, I might just decide to spend what I have on a piece of land and then spend time saving up for the startup costs I’ll need to actually do anything with it. I really, really, really want to have a property before April next year and I’ll do what I can to make this happen. Bottom line… if I don’t go for it now, I may never find another opportunity. For me, though journey is the fun part and I’m in no rush to get anything done. I’ll hope for the best, but I’m confident I’ll make something work, no matter what the financial situation.
Have you done anything like this? Do you live in Portugal? Are you scoffing at my budget? Do you think I’m crazy? On track? I’d love to hear from anyone about my plans! Words or support, criticism, advice… tell it like it is!