kitchen renovation

One of the things I find most frustrating about living in Portugal is how difficult it is to get quotes for work that needs doing. To my way of thinking, it’s in a company’s interests to provide potential clients with the information that they need promptly and with a smile to maximize its chances of getting the business. 

That’s not how things work here, it would appear.

Word of mouth and personal connections go a long way in Portugal so I’m guessing that most Portuguese people can put out feelers within their extended family and social network to rustle up a suitable person for the job at a reasonable price when things need doing.

For expats without such contacts, the ridiculously hard work of tracking down and arranging for someone to work on a property can be enough to make you scream, or at least it has been for me. It’s the reason why, after years of living in a house that needs more work doing, the less urgent jobs are still outstanding – I can’t summon up the energy required to get someone to do them!

"Bob” src=”” alt=”” width=”332″ height=”500″>

The quotation process, in my experience

Even when you manage to identify and get a contact number for, let’s say, a builder and ask for a quote, it can take weeks of chasing to even get someone to come to the house to look at the job.

Note: Based on my rather limited experience, Sunday seems to be a popular day for builders to come and size up a potential job.

Don’t bother trying to pin anyone down to a specific time; you should count yourself lucky if they arrive on the day you specified. 

Give yourself a pat on the back for getting this far. Now all you have to do is sit back and wait for the quote to arrive. Better make yourself comfortable; it may take some time. And you will have to ring up and hassle them for it. More than once.

Don’t even bother with email. You may as well stand on a cliff and shout into the wind.

That goes for most services in Portugal, by the way. I’ve lost count of how many unanswered emails I’ve sent asking for information about travel, banking, shopping and, of course, quotes.

The larger building supplies and DIY shops in Portugal such as AKI and Leroy Merlin are set up to provide a range of services from installation to renovation and you can go through them to arrange quotes. Just don’t expect smooth sailing through them, either.

Since you’re paying for the quote, they’re obliged to send someone around and make it happen within an agreed timeframe but it will:

a) be expensive because they are acting as an agent for the contractor and obviously need to take their cut


b) not necessarily include the cost of all the materials which means you’ll still have to traipse round the shop trying to work out how many of which bits might be needed in order to work out your final price. And chase up estimates for things you need that the store doesn’t sell.

If you finally manage to get one or more quotes to choose from, well done for getting this far; it’s no mean feat!

And I wish you the very best of luck with arranging for the work to be done when and how you want. I could go into details but that’s another story…

This little rant is part of my Personal A to Z of Portugal.


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  1. thanks – I hope you won’t quit my ABC story challenge 🙂

  2. that’s Bob the Builder 🙂

    1. Author

      I know. It was hard trying to find a suitable image but when I saw Bob, I knew I’d found the one 🙂

  3. Hi Julie
    I don’t just think the difficulties in getting quotes is limited to Portugal – didn’t have a problem a few years ago, just with the price which was quoted and the additional work we didn’t want carrying out. In UK at present there is also an adversion to get decent tradespeople to get out there and quote. You’d think they’d all won Euro Millions. Perhaps they have and don’t want their neighbours to know.

    1. Author

      Thanks, Nicky. I admit, I’ve never tried to get work done in other countries so I haven’t really got anything to compare my experience with. It’s still a mystery to me why it’s so difficult, wherever you are.

  4. Hi, i’m portuguese and living here, it’s the same for the vast majority of us. I had an “odyssey” that lasted 6 months to install photovoltaic solar panels. As you probably know this represents some thousand euros, and even so…

    1. Author

      Oh dear. I thought that maybe it was just my inadequate level of Portuguese and lack of contacts that was the problem. I just can’t understand why it’s necessary to beg and chase people to make money from you.

  5. Oh Julie, I also don´t know how business owners who should be eager to get work, don´t bother to get back to you with quotes a few minutes later!! For the life of me I never understood how the system works in Portugal and I´m Portuguese, but it seems no one can be bothered to provide good service or to get much needed work. Still have to pay for the quotes, what a cheek!!

    In Australia people tend to have a different mentality, you call a plumber or whatever and they will be there the next day if possible at the agreed time. At least that´s the experience I´ve had so far.

    1. Author

      So it’s not just expats who have problems getting quotes and work done. I’m not sure if that’s slightly comforting or even more depressing!

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