Whenever I come back from the UK, the first thing that strikes me when I walk in my front door is how spacious my home seems to most I visit in my native country. Here, I find far higher ceilings and larger, open plan rooms. It’s something that’s struck me since I first visited Malta 20 years ago. How ironic that we love our space (inside) when we’ve so little open, communal space outside.
Farmhouses or older town house properties can have stratospheric ceiling heights. I estimate the height above me now, in my study, as close on 5.5 metres. My sister-in-law’s lounge ceiling is easily two or three metres higher and in a room of barn-like proportions. Of course, older properties may have those weeny rooms, where you bow your head, and all sorts of other oddities in layout. Palazzos and town houses generally have a full complement of airy rooms. Ceiling height is an important dimension here as it equates to cooler rooms; a must in our summer heat.
Times are achanging though, and new build properties can easily vary from very small, ‘can’t swing-a-cat-around’ proportioned flats and maisonettes to vast, deluxe penthouses or duplexes many recessed discreetly on apartment rooftops. One agent marketing Tigne’ said that the development is for people who don’t like flats. Apparently, the average apartment size is some 250m2 with some penthouses 650m2. While a lot of Tigne is billed at ‘semi-detached’ – a new term for me in flats – it does look as if you can shake hands across those balconies, even if you’ve superior space inside.
Malta’s limited land mass and relentless building since the 1960s has seen the demise of space. You can still pay your money and get space as in those penthouses – but believe me, you pay for it. Malta is not a cheap housing option in comparison with what your cash can buy in even Provence and Tuscany these days.
For example: next door to me is a property on the market for Lm137,000 m (old Maltese currency) / Euro 319,000. It is a newly-renovated, end-of-alley, 3-bed house village house with small central courtyard (no garden, but church views from the roof terrace). A browse of a French estate agency website of similar places in Provence, showed I could get a 3-bed, old stone village house (near a premier village, that of writer Peter Mayle, ‘Year in Provence’ fame), with large central courtyard and garden with space for a pool, for Euro 50,000 less.
So why are we happy to pay a premium for living in Malta?
Malta has its pull and charm – we get around six people emailing us at Malta Inside Out each week saying they want to move to the Islands. Malta’s cache’ is that it’s English-speaking, has broadband, an airport within 20 mins for most of us, the sea nearby, and, for urbanites or those who like to have a lot of nightlife nearby, no property is ‘out in the sticks’. And we have all-year round mild temperatures (unlike N. Italy or Provence with their snow and Mistral winds). And, if you compare Malta as an urban area with major EU cities (we are an island-city after all), then Maltese property prices come in at good value – click here for comparison indices.
So, those who seek to live here, might not seek out a home with view in among the olives, as you can find in our Mediterranean neighbours. You are likely to come to Malta for social life more than anything. And that means it isn’t a particularly quiet retirement destination – more one for silver surfers and the active aged.
On the bright side, if you do buy here, Maltese property prices rarely, if ever, drop. The house for sale next door hasn’t dropped in price despite being on the market for near on two years now! The seller, who can afford to wait, knows that with each year passing, the space gets less and the price of a plot goes up. And, yes, it’s a house that still has those desirable ceiling heights in its favour. If it’s too small for some, there’s a country Palazzo going for Euro 8 million on the Islands!
Photo: courtesy of Pierre D. Zammit