If you’re looking to invest in property, you won’t be short of choice in Malta. Born romantics will want to snap up a ‘house of character’, the dreamy, limestone houses built around a courtyard with Juliet balconies, vaulted ceilings and exterior stone staircases – you’ll find them mainly in the heart of the older towns with some being more than 400 years old; modernists will be drawn to penthouse properties, with sharp lines, panoramic sea or country views and easy access to shops and restaurants; and families will enjoy properties with private or communal pools. Although prices are rising, there are still some bargains to be had, especially if you don’t mind renovations.
Take some time to understand the property market in Malta before you buy. It is worth noting some peculiarities.
An estimated 18% of the total housing stock in the country is unoccupied, with a further 13% only used occasionally (2011 Census). According to the University of Malta’s Department of Economics, there are 226 vacant properties for every square kilometer in the country (compare that to the Czech Republic, where there are just 7 vacant properties per km²). Some of these are abandoned and in need of major repair, often because of squabbles over an inheritance or inadequate permits; others were bought during the housing boom as an investment and have been just left empty; 10% are in shell form.
That should keep prices depressed, but in fact, the opposite is true. Malta suffered less than other countries during the housing crash of 2008 and the growing population (swelled by foreign workers particularly due to the iGaming and Financial industries), along with low-cost loans and low unemployment, means that the housing market is buoyant, especially for sought-after properties and locations. In Q4 of 2016, property prices increased by 13.8% according to the Central Bank of Malta. The key is understanding what and where to buy to make sure that you get a return on your investment and can re-sell your home again if you leave Malta at some point in the future.
To do that, it’s best to rent when you first arrive. That will help you make key decisions such as whether to live in Malta or Gozo, which town to pick and what kind of property will fulfill your needs but also sell well.
Despite the relatively high price of housing, rents are still reasonable in Malta compared to many other European countries (although they are rising and low-cost housing is becoming harder to find). To give you an idea, a one bedroom flat costs an average of €600 a month nationwide, while a two-bedroom costs €796 (National Statistics Office). Prices might be considerably higher in areas like Sliema, St. Julian’s and Swieqi but rents will be lower further away from the major population centres.
The Maltese tend to own their homes and mortgages are generally cheaper than renting in the long term. Don’t rush into buying until you understand the market though – renting when you first arrive will also help you to figure out the best place to live. Here's what you need to know about buying property in Malta.What will I need to pay when I first rent a house or apartment?
It’s standard practice to pay one month’s rent in advance and an additional month as a deposit, although you may be asked for a larger deposit on fancier places.Can I break the contract if I need to leave early?
If you think that this might happen, negotiate a break clause in the contract. That might come at a price.Where shall I live?
Where you choose to live will depend on where your work is based and/or the children’s schools. Many foreigners start off in the Sliema area if they can afford it – nearby Swieqi, Msida, Gzira and Pembroke are a little cheaper and less busy. St Paul’s Bay is popular too, especially with older residents. Xemxija is an up-and-coming village towards the north, which is cheaper and away from the crowds.
Bugibba and Qawra are principally holiday zones, popular especially with the British – unless you like hanging out with your fellow countrymen abroad, you might want to look elsewhere.
Towns such as Balzan, Attard, Birkirkara and Lija are quaint and pleasant places to live and not too far from all the action. Madliena or Gharghur tend to be a little more expensive but are highly sought after. Mellieha is a beautiful town, but far north if you have to commute to work every day. The same could be said for Marsascala and Marsaxlokk, which are situated at the other end and to the south of the island.
Gozo is caught in a dreamy time warp – this is the place to settle in if you genuinely want to get away from it all. Here's a quick guide to the regions of Malta.What bills will I need to pay?
Bills include gas (in the form of propane cylinders), electricity and water. This will set you back approximately €68 a month. You can also get cable or satellite TV and a landline if you want to, as well as WiFi internet. There is no equivalent of a ‘Council Tax’ or waste collection tax in Malta. Here is a list of prices of Utilities.