House Hunter: 'We want to swap the chaotic London life for a peaceful retirement in Gozo'

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The Independent Online

Patrick Jones writes: "My wife and I live in an apartment in central London but recently we have stopped working. Lately we've both found London too chaotic and would like to spend our time in retirement in some peace and quiet. Pollution has also become hazardous to our health here and medical services are expensive.

THE PROBLEM

Patrick Jones writes: "My wife and I live in an apartment in central London but recently we have stopped working. Lately we've both found London too chaotic and would like to spend our time in retirement in some peace and quiet. Pollution has also become hazardous to our health here and medical services are expensive.

"We considered countries such as Spain, Cyprus and Portugal but, for various reasons, they do not appeal to us. But we recently visited Malta and Gozo on holiday and were impressed by the friendliness of the Maltese, and the low crime rate.

"We believe that Gozo would be more peaceful than Malta and it may be an easier place to settle into. Now that we are ready to make a decision about our retirement, we feel it might be right for us if we find a suitable property. We would like to know how hard it would be to integrate with the local community and participate in the social and cultural activities. We know that there is a lot going on, and it would be nice to get involved as we do want to remain active.

"Our budget is £650,000 maximum, and we would like somewhere that feels like home but which is low maintenance. We do not want to have to do major work, but some basic decorating would be fine. We don't drive in London, but are prepared to drive somewhere where traffic is not too intense. We would rather live in a house than an apartment and the property must have at least three bedrooms, and preferably a pool, in order to accommodate our kids and grand children whenever they decide to visit."

THE ADVICE

Marie Grech writes: "Gozo has always been a favourite retirement spot with the British, although it's a little less known than Malta itself. The island enjoys a quiet way of living and still retains that sense of community. Because of its small size, it's very easy to meet the friendly, welcoming locals. There are 13 villages spread out over the island and it's very hilly so seems bigger than it actually is. It only takes about 25 minutes by ferry to get here from Malta.

"Gozo offers a lot of cultural activities, so there are good opportunities for meeting people. We often get people who come here for 'the quiet life' only to find themselves very busy as there's so much going on from opera to rock concerts. Just like Malta, it is English-speaking but also boasts a warm climate, beautiful beaches and sprawling countryside so it's a perfect place for English people.

"A particular characteristic of the Gozitans is that they are more laid back and also seem to have more time for themselves. There are also excellent medical services including two good health centres on the island. Facilities are easily accessible, with a general hospital equipped with modern facilities. Malta and Gozo have a reciprocal health care agreement with the UK, whereby British residents who hold a permanent residence permit do not pay any hospital fees.

"Prices are very similar to Malta although some areas are cheaper. With Patrick's budget, he is spoilt for choice. He can choose to go for a villa like the one in Xaghra. This is ideal if Patrick wants to live in a secluded area, yet one which is close to all amenities, since it is on the outskirts of the town and has wide valley and sea views.

"The second, less expensive, option would be a terraced house, also in Xaghra. This is quite charming and would be more appropriate if Patrick and his wife prefer to live more towards the centre of the village.

"The third option would be a quaint farmhouse situated in the village of Gharb. These houses are usually over 300 years old retaining all their original features. If they are looking for a typical country house, then this is it. It also has a large mature garden and a pool."

Marie Grech manages Frank Salt Real Estate's Gozo office: 0207 935 5333; www.franksalt.com.mt

THE SOLUTION

Property one: Detached villa in Xaghra, Gozo

Price: £620,000

Agent's details: A fully detached villa situated on the outskirts of town, which enjoys wide valley and open sea views from all rooms and garden. The entrance, through a large courtyard, leads to a sitting room, lounge room, separate fully equipped kitchen, dining room, three large double bedrooms (one ensuite), two showers, large pool, garden, garage, carport and lots of terraces. Ready to move into.

All properties are through Frank Salt (real estate) Limited: 020-7935 5333 and Simon Barnes Property Consultants: 020-7499 3434

Property two: Terraced house in Xaghra, Gozo

Price: £204,000

Agent's details: This charming, newly built rustic terraced house enjoys distant sea and country views. There is a hall, kitchen/living/dining room overlooking pool, three double bedrooms and four bathrooms plus large under-laying garage and washroom. Well- finished and ready to move into. Good value.

Property three: Converted farmhouse in Gharb, Gozo

Price: £408,000

Agent's details: A beautifully converted, typical farmhouse, which has its entrance through a sunny courtyard with external stairs. There is a magnificent mill room, lounge/dining room and fully equipped kitchen. There are three bedrooms, three bathrooms and large mature garden with pool.

THE VERDICT

"It was not easy to decide on which property to go for. The three houses we saw were completely different, but all good possibilities. Property three is charming and quite unique but we realised that maybe it would need too much looking after and, though it has all modern comforts, we imagine it might be difficult to cope with as we get older. The terraced house was also nice but we want more space for entertaining.

"But the villa has everything! Sunny location, fantastic sea and valley views, large pool, gardens and lots of space for entertaining. Even though the house is on the outskirts of the village, long distances are never an issue on Gozo. It is rather pricey, but we can afford it, and we are looking forward to spending our retirement days in the sun."

If you would like House Hunter's help, write to House Hunter, The Independent, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS, or e-mail with full details: househunter@independent.co.uk

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