So Chris and Alastair, where were you living when you decided to move to Portugal?
Chris: I lived between London and Munich in a hectic investment banking job. On my regular weekend surf trips to Portugal, I started following the opportunities in the hospitality and real estate markets and eventually invested in my first hotel venture here in 2015.
Alastair: Also London. I grew up there and part of me will always love it. But can’t imagine choosing to move back there any time soon!
That was a couple of years before moving to Portugal became so trendy. What was your moving process like back then?
Alastair: It’s funny, because at the time I actually thought I was behind the curve! Which seems crazy in hindsight, but I guess it’s a universal feeling. I think for both of us, the initial decision to move was probably more romantic than rational, and as such we underestimated the headaches in store. We both managed the process ourselves, which taught us a lot about how this country works and how mostly the answer was: ‘let’s just go to the beach!’
Sounds like you had some similar experiences. Did you know each other before Portugal or how did you meet?
Chris: We met while playing tennis at one of my hotels OUTPOST - Casa das Arribas in Sintra. I remember sitting with Alastair long after dark on the tennis court discussing our joy and excitement about our new lives here, but also the frustrations…
So, would you say the positive still outweighed the struggles in the first few years?
Alastair: Absolutely. The lifestyle here is fantastic and the opportunities are endless. Despite the administrative teething issues, I dove straight into buying my first renovation project with two architect friends from London. It was just so obvious that the city’s housing stock, although charming, needed some serious design-led TLC and having worked as a developer in London, I immediately knew I wanted to put those skills to work here, which ultimately led to me co-founding a design+development firm, FAWpartners.com. These days we take on a range of projects, from whole building restorations to bespoke work for friends and private clients. That said, I obviously couldn’t resist the allure of the surf and nightlife, which was of course a big factor in my decision to move here in the first place. So in the early days I was definitely burning the candle at both ends!
How about your businesses in Portugal,Chris?
Chris: It started with the boutique hotel Casa Mae in Lagos, which we opened in 2016 just when tourism started booming. I then invested in a technical clothing brand and moved it from Austria to Portugal. More recently I founded the hospitality brand OUTPOST which develops and operates unique hotel locations in the Sintra region and is gradually expanding.
Wow, you’ve both been busy! And then you thought it would be a good idea to start another business, how did that come about?
Alastair: At first, the idea of founding a relocation services company was almost a joke. We both had so many friends moving here that helping them had started to become a full time job. Very quickly we realised that the joke was in fact a great idea, given that we were uniquely placed to offer advice and construct a team that could deliver.
Chris: They say that the best businesses solve problems their founders faced themselves. That is certainly the case with LandingPad. Although we were both ultimately successful in our moves to Portugal, the process would have been much easier with the help of a team of competent professionals.
So what services does LandingPad provide?
Chris: Each and every client has a different starting point. That’s why we don’t work with standardised packages and instead offer a bespoke service. Most of our clients require some combination of basic relocation stuff like visa processing and tax structuring, and real estate or investment advice. We’re also set-up to answer lifestyle questions such as school and restaurant recommendations.
Alastair: Having been through all this ourselves, we understand that on top of the hassle of filling in forms and standing in lines, a major cause of stress was the nagging doubt that perhaps we weren’t even standing in the rightline either! It was this lack of certainty, born of an opaque bureaucratic system, that we wished we could have avoided. Clear communication with our clients is a cornerstone of our service.
Sounds like a lot of work!
Alastair: Fortunately it’s not all us doing it. We have an amazing team.
Chris: It’s a service business and everything depends on our people. Our team is based in Lisbon, Caparica and Viseu, headed up by our amazing COO Paulo, who has the perfect combination of a Portuguese background refined by 15 years of living in Germany.
What kind of people are moving to Portugal, and what is the profile of the clients you attract?
Chris: Our idea is to help ‘people like us’ in the broadest sense. Most of our clients are professionals and entrepreneurs previously based in one of the major global cities, at a point in their careers where they want to focus on quality of life and a healthy work-life balance.
Alastair: Increasingly we see both young artists from Berlin as well as high-net-worth individuals making the same decision to move here.
What makes LandingPad different from other relocation services companies?
Chris: We obviously did not invent this service. But we feel that many of the large international service providers are not well-equipped for the Portuguese peculiarities. And our local competitors are mainly focussing on the basic easy-to-standardise services. In contrast, LandingPad wants to offer a solution that addresses the situation of each and every client, and includes a very broad range of services like property search, investment advice and mortgage consultancy. We can draw on our broad range of experience, expertise and relationships as founders.
Ah, so you’re also in the property game. What trends and opportunities do you currently see in the market?
Alastair: Yes, of course. We’re actually a licensed broker as well as developers in our own right. As for the state of the Portuguese real estate market, it’s obviously been on a tear in recent years. However, unlike in previous booms, this one isn’t driven by excessive bank lending, but rather on sound fundamentals and the structural shifts like the rise of remote work and staycations. The downside is that there is more competition than ever for property in prime locations, and of course a significant variation in the quality of available assets. It is still perfectly possible to find good deals of all kinds, whether you want a newly built penthouse or a charming fixer-upper, but finding those deals increasingly takes experience and expertise to stay ahead of the competition.
What kind of properties do your clients look for?
Chris: A wide range, from one bedroom investment apartments in the heart of Lisbon, to family sized penthouses in Cascais, to villas in Sintra and beyond. The one consistent theme is quality of design and finishings, with a certain Portuguese x-factor unique to each client’s taste.
Alastair: One of our big discoveries was that many of our clients struggled to find high-quality temporary accommodation for their first few months while they figured out the lay of the land. So we started building a portfolio of furnished properties, suitable for our clients’ picky tastes. The design and development is overseen by my architecture practice, FAW Partners, underpinned by Chris’s extensive hospitality experience. Our landingPADs (www.landingpad.pt), as we call them, are available for our clients for as long as they need them.