26th June 2024
Portugal: The New Blue Zone on the Rise for UK Retirees

Portugal is emerging as a premier retirement destination and the newest Blue Zone for healthy aging, according to new insights from luxury real estate firm, Goldcrest. The Lisbon-based independent buyer’s agent has seen more than a 20% increase in interest for retirement properties in Portugal over the past year, indicating a rising trend among retirees seeking a better quality of life.


Blue Zones are regions known for their high concentration of centenarians; people who live to be over 100 years old. These zones, identified by National Geographic explorer and author, Dan Buettner, include regions such as Okinawa in Japan, Sardinia in Italy, Ikaria in Greece, Nicoya in Costa Rica, and Loma Linda in California. Portugal exhibits many of these Blue Zone characteristics, including a Mediterranean climate, community-centric culture, fresh cuisine, and a slower pace of living. Notably, the country’s population of centenarians has grown 77% in the past decade, according to figures from the statistical database of the Francisco Manuel dos Santos Foundation.


Portugal: An Emerging Blue Zone?


Longevity experts have identified indicators like diet, climate, community ties, and access to the outdoors as leading indicators for Portugal’s thriving ageing population.


The increase in interest can be attributed to several factors. Portugal’s healthcare system is ranked among the best in the world by the World Health Organization, providing high-quality medical care at a fraction of the cost compared to other Western countries. The country also boasts a low crime rate, political stability, and a welcoming attitude towards expats.


Portugal’s ageing population is not only limited to the locals. In the past decade, Portugal’s foreign seniors’ population has more than doubled, with British expats accounting for 19% of the population according to Pordata.


Goldcrest’s Head of Real Estate, Goncalo Peixoto, has seen a surge in property demand among British retirees seeking to relocate to Portugal.


“The property demand is especially high among British retirees. We receive between 25-30% of inquiries from UK-based clients. Most look for properties that offer a lot of amenities, but also are more isolated and quieter at the same time.”


The ease of transition for Brits is facilitated by the widespread use of English, short travel time, and potential for obtaining an EU passport. Additionally, the stunning coasts, warm climate, and lower cost of living compared to the UK make Portugal an attractive option.


Rise in luxury retirement resorts


Retirees today prioritize holistic wellbeing, seeking Blue-Zone inspired communities that support healthy aging through diet, exercise, social ties, and a sense of purpose.


Christina Hippisley, Director of the Portuguese Chamber of Commerce in the United Kingdom, comments on this trend: “Portugal is becoming increasingly attractive due to the development of specialized retirement communities and projects like Chamber member Life Plan Resorts.”


Life Plan Resorts is a luxury retirement resort located in Tagus Estuary Nature Reserve.  Inspired by the concept of Blue Zones, Life Plan Resorts provide comprehensive healthcare, community integration, and luxury alongside 5-star amenities. These type of resorts are on the rise in Portugal, designed to promote an active and engaged lifestyle, with facilities such as fitness centers, spas, and community activities.


“We receive regular enquiries from buyers who have fallen in love with the region and are looking to spend their golden years here…several of our property owners are retirees and are keen to stay active and embrace a healthy way of living. The fact that there are regular flights from the US and UK to Faro airport is another reason why the Algarve is so popular with international buyers. With many retirees still having family in the UK, it’s reassuring to know that they can easily travel to the UK or invite their loved ones to enjoy the Portuguese lifestyle with them,” said João Richard Costa, CCO at sustainable real estate development company Ombria Algarve.


Economic impact of the retirement trend


As more retirees flock to the country, regions with established retirement communities can expect rising property values and increased investment in local infrastructure. This influx of affluent retirees also supports local businesses, from healthcare services to hospitality and retail.


For retirees looking to invest in high-quality residential properties abroad, Portugal offers strong potential for returns given its expanding appeal as a retirement destination. The country’s Golden Visa program, which grants residency to non-EU nationals who invest in Portugal, further enhances its attractiveness. Since its introduction in 2012, the program has generated over €5 billion in investments.


“We noticed an increase in clients planning their retirement in advance. Most of them are looking for safety in their investment, with a strong return potential when the time comes. Flexibility has been a decisive factor for our clients when searching for property investments, as well as getting a location where they can welcome their families when visiting,” said Goncalo.


Unpacking the UK retirement trend in Portugal


What’s behind this UK retirement pattern? Global migration scholar, Laura Madrid, notes that, “since 2016, the year Brexit was voted in the UK, the number of British nationals living in Portugal has increased by 133.2%. Brits living in Portugal are the second largest expat community in Portugal, only behind Brazilians. Portugal’s favorable weather, attractive tax regimes, low cost of living, and various incentives for investment and retirement make it a popular retirement destination for British expats seeking a better quality of life.”


Despite changes to tax and residence rules for foreigners post-Brexit, British interest in moving to Portugal remains strong. “We think there has been little or no change. The majority of Brits still consider moving to Portugal mainly for the country’s quality of life, good value for money, and the outdoor lifestyle,” said Christina Hippisley.


Patricia Casaburi, an expert on investment migration, emphasized Portugal’s unique appeal: “Since Brexit, which restricts homeowners to 90 days at a time in Portugal, the draw of a potential EU passport also grew stronger. The cherry on the cake is that, after five years of legal residency in Portugal, you are able to apply for a Portuguese passport. This has boosted visa applications.”


Portugal is currently home to over 40,000 UK nationals, who mostly reside in the capital city, Lisbon, the vibrant city centre of Porto, or coastal areas such as the Algarve. It’s warm climate, beautiful beaches, low cost of living, and welcoming communities make it a popular destination for Brits looking to move abroad. Additionally, the process of becoming a citizen is relatively easy compared to other countries, making Portugal an attractive option for those seeking a new life in the sun.