When we were searching for an architect to design our house in Madeira we learned some things about architects on the island that we think all of you should know from the very beginning. There is actually nothing really surprising about it, but I think it’s good to keep some of the points mentioned below in mind if you are planning on building your own house in Madeira.
You can hire an architect before buying a plot
We started looking for architects only after we bought our piece of land. This is when we found out that some of them do not only offer their services as architects, but also as realtors and consultants. It is in fact possible to go to a company that offers everything: from finding the perfect property, checking whether you can or are allowed to build your house there, doing to paper work and designing the house. One possibility is also to buy a piece of land with an already registered project – this way you do not have to search for an architect but only have the house built. It is more like buying a house, only that it is completely new when you move in. This might have advantages for some of you, so you might want to check out this possibility. One of the companies that offer several services (starting from help with the relocation and the taxes) is Bespoke Villas – to be honest I have not had contact with them directly, but I was browsing their homepage on several occasions. I do not know the prices but I know that they operate particularly in the area I am most interested in – the southwest of Madeira. There are actually many more such companies (type Madeira real estate into a search engine) and honestly, I do not want to go into more details here, as I was not using any of those and therefore cannot give you any advice on which one is good and which isn’t.
Some architects don’t work in all areas of Madeira
We were told that some architects in Madeira work only in specific areas. As Madeira is not the biggest island in the world, this sounded a bit strange for us in the beginning. But it makes sense, as many architects offer services like supervision of the construction site – and obviously would prefer to have the construction site close to their office and not a one hour drive away. I guess that you can still argue with them, and when the price is right probably anything is possible. But keep in mind that it might be easier to get an architect from Calheta when you are going to build your house in this area. It is also easier/faster I believe to get the papers done and approved if the architect knows everybody in the local Câmara municipal than if it is an architect from Funchal. This might be another reason they prefer to work in the area they live in.
Check previous work and reputation of the architect
What should be clear to anybody reading this – but still important and so I am going to mention it anyway – is that you should have a look at previous work of the architect. The first reason is that you should like the architect’s style and the other is that you might want to talk to previous clients. Are they happy with the result? Would they recommend the architect? In Madeira people are usually easy-going and friendly, so you can ask them who their architect was. I even did that once with an AirBnB. Fun fact: I did not even stay in this particular AirBnB but saw it listed while looking for another apartment in Jardim do Mar. So I wrote them a message on AirBnB asking who designed their house, and who constructed it. It is this one by the way. How this story ended? They are very nice people and immediately replied, telling me that their house is similar to a modular house, all build in wood but not made in modules and then transported to install. They in fact have engineering skills so they worked on the design themselves. And they inspired me to work on our design myself as well (spoiler?!).
Another important aspect is the language. Most architects in Madeira speak English very well. Therefore, if you are a native English speaker, you might be just fine. If German or any other language is your mother tongue, you will probably have to talk to the Portuguese architect in English, which is neither your, nor the architect’s native language. Some things are just easier when you talk in your mother tongue, and I believe so is talking about your preferences and how a house in your opinion should look like. Also, it is easier to understand what the not-native English speaking architect is telling you and why something is not possible to be built the way you want when you are a native speaker. If you however speak Portuguese as well, you can talk to your architect in English and Portuguese, which might turn out to be very helpful in resolving some of the issues or misunderstandings. Therefore, learn Portuguese or try to find an architect who speaks your language. Or just live with the fact that you will have to repeat yourself from time to time, as well as that you will have to ask again and again whether you understood correctly. I prefer to bring a piece of paper and a pencil and then I would just draw what I want to explain 🙂
Compare different architects
Like in most countries in the world, you can contact the architects either via Email or schedule a meeting in their office and discuss your project with them. They will also give you a written cost forecast that is usually valid for up to 60 days. It makes sense to talk to different architects and compare their prices. Keep in mind that usually the price for an architect does not include any license fees, engineering services, topographical measurements or models. In particular the whole engineering plan (water&electricity) has to be done by someone else – but some architects work together with engineers that they might then recommend to you. What I keep forgetting all the time is that for every price someone tells you, you have to add an extra 22% tax (VAT).
Be prepared that they will design a Portuguese house
They build houses differently in Madeira. It was only after I had my house designed that I noticed that many houses in Madeira have their windows almost exclusively facing to the ocean. I find it very strange that only few houses have windows to the north, east or west side of the house, and if they are usually very small bathroom windows. It makes sense to have a nice view to the ocean, but for me (this is maybe an Austrian thing) it would be important to have them on all sides for ventilation. This is also something they do in apartments – there are many very beautiful apartments also in Funchal, big and spacious with living rooms with open kitchens that are maybe 10 x 6 meters big and all the windows are on the 6 meters side, the 10 meters (sometimes even more) and all the other walls are completely without any windows. Looks like a tunnel to me! There are also some other peculiarities when it comes to houses in Madeira that I will write about another time. Until then, peace out, Hana.
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