What the UK can learn from Lisbon, where house prices could still rise this year despite coronavirus

Lisbon’s rental sector was the first to feel the brunt of the outbreak. As tourism dried up, Airbnb investors moved their properties en masse to the long-term lettings market. The same has happened to London, though on a smaller scale.

Pedro Branco, of estate agency Engel & Volkers, said rental prices fell immediately by 15 to 20pc.

But house prices have so far been resilient, say agents. “Buyers might be trying to lower asking prices, but owners are not under pressure,” said Mr Penalva. Interest rates are low, the Portuguese government has introduced a wage protection scheme, and homeowners can take mortgage holidays.

Still, there is pressure in the pipeline. Tourism and hospitality are big parts of Portugal’s economy and unemployment will rise.

Miguel Poisson, of agency Sotheby’s International Realty, said: “In a six month window, maybe prices will go down by 10pc, maybe 15pc in some extreme cases.” 

His predictions are similar to analysts’ predictions for the British market. Savills has forecast price falls of 10pc for the UK this year.

And just as British house prices will likely be brought down first by landlords who are forced to sell because their rental income has dried up, Lisbon’s Airbnb investors will be the first to need to sell at a discount. “We have listed a few already,” said Mr Poisson. 

But agents expect Lisbon’s downturn to be short-lived. Once foreign travel can begin again, they are anticipating a surge in foreign money. 

“Coronavirus made us very afraid at first, but it has somehow become an opportunity for Portugal,” said Mr Poisson. The country has handled the outbreak much better than its neighbours in Europe. “Tourists and investors are choosing Portugal as a place to visit and invest in because it has done better than Spain, France and Italy,” he added.

There has been a massive uptick in inquiries for Lisbon, according to Knight Frank. Foreign interest is already back in line with 2019 levels, he said. 

Mr Branco noted a particular rise in interest from different groups of international property hunters who now want to take advantage of the golden visa. Buyers from the Philippines, China, India and America have all inquired about buying into the scheme since the outbreak, he added.

They could be spurred on by the deadline for the golden visa scheme. Later this year, it will no longer be available in Lisbon and Porto, though some believe the Government could extend it.

David Moura-George of the property developer Athena Advisers said spending by foreign buyers will be curtailed by a drop off in Brazilian buyers, who have now been hit by a drop in the value in their currency. Before coronavirus, they accounted for 20pc of Athena Advisers’ sales, but now the value of the real has plunged. “They have lost 50pc of their purchasing power,” said Mr Moura-George.

Their absence could be counteracted by an uptick from American buyers. “I believe that has been a bit of a late Madonna effect,” he said. The pop-star has been self-isolating in her Lisbon mansion and posting about it on Instagram. 

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