9th April 2024
Interview with Gerry Fagan, Chairman and CEO, Reserva da Luz and DDM

Gerry Fagan has been leading luxury property development companies for more than two decades. The 71-year-old Irishman has a string of successful resorts and golf courses under his belt in Portugal. Now, as he prepares to launch a new product at the Moving to Portugal Show in Dublin on 18th April 2024, Gerry shares his insights into why the western Algarve is the ultimate destination for so many Irish holidaymakers, second home owners, expats and entrepreneurs.

How did you end up living and running businesses in Portugal?  

I grew up in Ireland but I’ve lived all over the world: in the UK, Egypt, Indonesia and the US. I first visited Portugal when I was 20 and the country just got me from the very start. It had that same family-friendly feel that I recognised from my childhood in Ireland – but with a much better climate! The Algarve in particular felt very safe and welcoming and it had an excellent infrastructure even back then.

As I’ve grown older and focused more on health and wellbeing, I’ve begun to appreciate the holistic aspect of living in Portugal more. The healthcare here is very accessible and affordable, as is health insurance. I’ve had two very serious back operations in the past six months and the health service access and quality of care have been second to none. That’s an important consideration for people who are considering retiring to Portugal.

From a business perspective, the Algarve has everything you could wish for. It has an excellent internet and communications infrastructure, plus fantastic transport links both to other destinations within Portugal and internationally by air.

Why is Portugal particularly attractive to Irish entrepreneurs? 

Irish people used to holiday in Spain a lot but Portugal gradually crept onto their radar. The Shrine at Fátima, 120km north of Lisbon, had a lot to do with engaging the interest of some of those early Irish visitors. Since then, the Irish love of Portugal – and of the Algarve in particular – has just snowballed. There are lots of Irish businesspeople here now; people like myself and Denis O’Brien who owns Quinta do Lago.

One of the key advantages for Irish entrepreneurs coming to Portugal is the holistic nature of the experience. It’s not just about starting a business but about benefitting from the whole outdoor lifestyle. There’s also plenty of community support here, meaning anyone coming to Portugal to start a business can speak to those who’ve already been through the process. They can make the right connections and build strong links more easily.

Have Irish property buyers’ demands in the Algarve changed much over the years? 

We’ve definitely seen a shift of buyers looking further west. Years ago, Irish holidaymakers here would only focus on the central Algarve, coming to Quinta do Lago and Vilamoura and so on. But as some of those visitors started looking for homes rather than holidays, they began heading west along the Algarve. Many were seeking more authentically Portuguese areas and more affordable properties – but with the same quality standards they were used to from then central Algarve’s luxury resorts.

I am proud to have created the Oceânico Group, along with Simon Burgess, to help meet the needs of those buyers. Back in 2007, we were the largest golf course operator in Europe and were keenly focused on luxury tourism and luxury properties. We built hundreds of homes and operated some beautiful golf courses, with developments such as Jardim da Meia Praia, Belmar Spa & Beach Resort and Estrela da Luz putting the western Algarve on the map in Ireland.

To date, my team has been involved in building more than 2,000 properties and we’ve seen demand from Irish buyers change over that time. We’ve also learned to factor in lessons from my own experience of living in the Algarve.

That experience has given my team and I a keen awareness of the importance of futureproofing homes with features like lifts, accessible kitchens and bathrooms, and level gardens. Nowadays, we build homes with buyers’ future health and accessibility needs firmly in mind. We talk to clients about the importance of this. It means they can be comfortable in their home both now and in the future. It gives the properties longevity and protects the client’s future needs. Yes, properties have to look fabulous, but they also have to work in practical terms.

What are you now offering to the Irish market? 

The Decade Development Management (DDM) team is building luxury homes at a stunning oceanfront location at Reserva da Luz in the western Algarve. The setting is just beautiful, with large, south-facing plots that command panoramic views of the Atlantic. At Reserva da Luz 70% of the plots have already been sold and 40 have homes built and occupied. We launched the second phase of the development last year and sold 17 plots, so we’re now breaking earth on the first of those. We provide everything that clients need – architects, builders, project managers and so on. It means buyers can build personalised, detached homes that perfectly suit their needs, using a comprehensive, seamless service.

The DDM management team has huge experience of the Irish market, so we’re delivering products that accommodate Irish buyers’ needs and preferences. We’re also building with future needs in mind, so it’s not just about accommodation anymore. We’re linking with the local health clinic and hospitals and with insurance services, so that buyers can purchase whatever they need for complete peace of mind, now and in the future.

We can also put buyers in touch with tax and pension advisors and all the contacts and services they need to set up a business here in Portugal. It’s a holistic approach that enables buyers to truly embrace the opportunities that Portugal offers. We’re focusing a lot on sustainability and the environment too, these days; we’re building with one eye firmly on the future.

Another key part of our offering is trust. Reputation is really important and I’ve worked hard over the past 20 years to deliver high-quality products that deserve clients’ trust. One way I do this is by putting my own faith in my products – I’ll be living at Reserva da Luz and want it to be somewhere I feel proud to invite my family to stay. It’s also gratifying to see clients who bought homes from me 15-20 years ago now expressing interest in Reserva da Luz. They trust that DDM will deliver the same quality they’ve already experienced.

What do you foresee in terms of future demand? 

There is strong, sustained demand for high-quality homes in the western Algarve from buyers from Ireland (and elsewhere). That demand is likely to grow as more and more families discover the benefits of living and running businesses in Portugal. Ireland being in the EU means it’s very easy to move a business from there to Portugal.

The quality of the education system here in Portugal plays into this long-term demand. Portugal has excellent schools running the UK curriculum; both of my own children were educated here.

Portugal also offers leisure facilities and an outdoor lifestyle that suit family members of all ages, too. There are amazing experiences here for children, as well as adults.

In terms of DDM, we’ll be offering products that meet a range of buyers’ needs. We’ll be launching a new product in the near future, at the Moving to Portugal Show in Dublin on 18th April 2024. It’s free to attend, so anyone interested in starting a new chapter of their life in Portugal can come along and discover our luxury properties and chat about their plans.

The show will be packed with information on tax, property, starting a business and more – there’s a whole line-up of expert speakers and specialists. I would recommend that anyone interested in moving to Portugal come along and tap into the expertise available on the day. And discover our fabulous new properties, of course!