Malta: Find homes with history

Malta and Gozo are investment hotspots for British buyers, and offer plenty of historical charm
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The Independent Online

Malta has always been popular with British buyers, partly because of its former military links with the UK, but as it joins the EU next month an even greater relationship looks set to develop. Grahame Salt, director of Frank Salt Real Estate, says: "Malta will officially become a member of the EU in May 2004 and this means that it will become an even more attractive and stable country for British buyers looking for investments and permanent homes. We have already seen a significant increase in demand for property and the island's developers are constantly striving to offer better-quality homes to meet with this demand."

Malta has always been popular with British buyers, partly because of its former military links with the UK, but as it joins the EU next month an even greater relationship looks set to develop. Grahame Salt, director of Frank Salt Real Estate, says: "Malta will officially become a member of the EU in May 2004 and this means that it will become an even more attractive and stable country for British buyers looking for investments and permanent homes. We have already seen a significant increase in demand for property and the island's developers are constantly striving to offer better-quality homes to meet with this demand."

Prices on the island have risen steadily over the years, on average around 8 per cent although more in very recent years. "Malta is currently enjoying a boom period and the last couple of years have seen prices rising at a rate of 10 per cent per annum and even up to 15 per cent," says Salt.

Malta may be a sound investment hotspot but it's also a place where you can find stunning homes of character. Frank Salt is currently selling a range of property including a seafront apartment in Vittoriosa, currently under construction, which has lovely views of the harbour and open sea for £200,000. In Siggiewi, a large, five-bedroomed house in a lovely part of this old village is for sale at £470,000. It has two courtyards, one of which houses its heated pool. In the sought after village of Gharghur, a beautifully converted double-fronted house which has many architectural features, three bedrooms, garden and swimming pool is on offer for £280,000.

Malta may be associated with historic buildings but the island is now seeing growing numbers of new developments under construction. George Lacey of Lacey & Co has been selling property on the island for over 12 years but he is definitely noticing increased interest as the EU deadline approaches. "Prices will definitely go up, although it's not particularly cheap at the moment." Lacey is a fan of both Malta and its smaller neighbouring island of Gozo, which is just a 20-minute boat ride away and which has a different climate. "The islands are very different: while Malta is relatively flat and arid, Gozo is much hillier and very lush, but it's a bit too quiet for me."

Lacey finds that many buyers want to be based on Malta within the Medina "where the buildings are made from lovely sandstone", but increasingly new developments are enticing buyers to Malta. Portomaso Marina is a new development of luxury apartments in the fashionable district of St Julian's on Malta's north-east coast. Along with a Hilton International Hotel, convention centre and yacht marina, the scheme will also contain shops and restaurants, and owners will also have access to an adjacent beach club. Prices for inland-facing apartments of around 70 to 500 square metres start from £223,000 and from £873,600 for three- or four-bedroomed seafront apartments.

There are restrictions on non-Maltese purchasers, which will not be affected by EU membership: currently they are not allowed to buy apartments costing below £48,000 or houses below £80,000. Non-Maltese buyers can buy only one property, but there are tax-related incentives for people who chose to retire there. "The government doesn't want local people to be priced out of being able to afford property as has happened on other islands, for example in Mallorca," explains Lacey.

County Homesearch's Jonathan Haward was so impressed by a recent trip to the island that he reserved a new apartment for himself at new waterfront development Tigné Point, where Frank Salt is selling two-bedroomed apartments from £146,640 and where a four-bedroomed ninth-floor apartment with stunning views is on offer for £1,162,200.

"The development going on there is very up-market and tasteful," adds Haward, who was also struck by Malta's large number of world heritage sites and by the historical nature of the island. "It's seen off so many invaders and in the Second World War the harbour area alone suffered more bomb attacks than London."

County Homesearch are soon to open their Maltese branch to respond to growing enquiries for the island, but Haward believes that it will only appeal to selective clients. "It is slightly harder to get to than many other Mediterranean destinations as it is off the budget airline map and so it appeals to more sophisticated holidaymakers, but as it joins the EU I think that we are going to see a huge appeal. The Maltese people are extremely friendly and the pound goes a long way there."

Pat and Ken King recently bought a three-bedroomed, two-bathroomed apartment in Swiequi, St Julians which cost them LM£60,000. "We are getting a lot of property for our money and chose this particular apartment as it's so light and airy," says Pat, who is Maltese by birth. "I left the island over 40 years ago but we both love it, it's warm and sunny and the people are very friendly."

King speaks the language but enjoys the fact that English is widely spoken on the island. The Kings timed their purchase carefully with impending EU membership in mind. "Prices will definitely go up, and that's why we decided to do it now. At first we plan to spend time there separately and see if my husband can cope with the heat before hopefully moving there permanently."

Frank Salt: 020-7935 5333, www.franksalt.com.mt, stjulians@franksalt.com.mt;

County Homesearch: 01872 223349, www.county-homesearch.co.uk;

Lacey & Co: 01702 603210, www.laceypropertybrokers.com

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