The Pope is due to visit next month, but that’s not the only reason Malta is stepping into the limelight.
Those in search of second homes are waking up to the idea that properties here make for good investments. English is spoken everywhere, and the climate, cafe culture and relaxed atmosphere have always made this small island attractive to British visitors.
However, the renewed interest in the property market is down to other factors. ‘There’s more demand than land available, ‘ says Ray Woods, of Maltabuyproperty.
‘Malta has never been part of the great property bubble and the domestic sector has held up well, representing 70 per cent of the market.
‘It has not suffered the financial meltdown experienced in other countries, and local banks are offering 90 per cent mortgages.’ Another point in Malta’s favour is easy access. It is well served by low-cost airlines: easyJet and Ryanair fly there; Bmibaby is introducing a service from east Midlands airport from the end of May; and Air Malta is flights from Gatwick or Manchester from just £89 return.
Interest is also fuelled by improvements in the British property market.
‘This recovery is giving British buyers greater confidence to take the plunge and go for their dream property abroad,’ says Nick Bilocca, of Frank Salt (Real estate) Ltd.
‘They tend to prefer apartments, ideally close to the sea, and Malta has a good selection of properties at excellent value.’
Malta comprises just 122 square miles and so the sea is never far away, but you’ll pay a premium for uninterrupted views. ‘Sliema and St Julians are popular, and 1,615 sq ft resale two-bedroom apartments close to the seafront start from about £156,164,’ says Trafford Busuttil, of Property-line International.
Valletta, the capital, is a World heritage site, and walking through its narrow streets is like stepping back into history. Old buildings are being regenerated and transformed into stylish apartments, subject to strict planning laws.
The successful fusion of ancient and modern is showcased in a former palazzino in the heart of the city converted into three duplex apartments.
Each has an open-plan kitchen/ dining/ living room and two double bedrooms, and the penthouse has views towards Marsamxett harbour and Fort St Elmo.
For those with bigger budgets, villas tend to be in residential areas. Most are resales, starting at around £268,000 and going up to more than £1 million for a seafront detached villa complete with pool. The neighbouring island of Gozo is quieter and suits those wanting to get away from it all.
Converted farmhouses and period properties are particularly sought after. A fabulous home on the market in Gharb is packed with original features, has four bedrooms, all with ensuites, a central courtyard, terrace and pool. Malta’s holiday season lasts for up to 26 weeks a year, which is good news for those hoping to earn income from holiday rentals.
‘The most popular resort with holidaymakers is St Paul’s Bay, followed closely by Valletta and Mellieha,’ When buying purely for investment, Ray Woods recommends opting for long lets.
‘These are a safer bet because rates for holiday lettings are low in some areas, so look for properties near to centres of employment,’ he says. ‘Gzira, outside Sliema, is a good choice.’
Tigne Point in Sliema is Malta’s most ambitious property regeneration project. Across the harbour from Valetta and 15 minutes from the airport, it includes a piazza, new shopping mall and luxury apartments in landscaped gardens.
Only ten units are available, starting at £408,000 for a two-bedroom apartment. The development appealed to Andrew and Jayne Harding from Stockport, who have visited Malta 37 times.
‘ We were interested in the apartments and penthouses and asked developer Tigne Point to explain what was being built and the concept behind it,’ says Mr Harding.
‘We were also taken on a private visit to Manoel Island in the middle of Valletta’s natural harbour and saw the extensive restoration works being carried out on the 18th-century fort.