by Gordon Dalli Branch manager, Dhalia Fgura
The government’s commitment to pay more attention to the south of Malta has unlocked the area’s growing popularity. Planned infrastructural projects and announced investments are attracting more and more interest in properties in the area.
The influx of foreigners working and studying in Malta has increased interest in properties close to workplaces and schools, such as SmartCity Malta, MCAST, and the airport region, amongst others. This has pushed investors towards rental properties in the surrounding areas. The ferry linking Valletta and the Three Cities has also encouraged those working in Valletta to settle in one of the Three Cities, as it is the fastest route to arrive at the capital city.
Right now, demand is high for all types of properties, in both sales and letting. In fact, we are experiencing the highest levels of demand for the southern region in the past 15 years.
The foreign interest in the Three Cities is impressive. There has been a major influx of foreigners who take the opportunity to find their desired property at an advantageous price within any location, as long as it is pleasant to live in. People from all over the world are astonished by this area and see great investment potential there, especially due to the advantages in transport, accessibility, beautiful sea and countryside, sport facilities, schools, culture and many other things. We regularly meet experienced foreign investors who believe that the area will continue to develop and increase in value within a few years.
The recent interest in the South has also brought about a higher demand for commercial property. Investors are noticing the dramatic improvement and interest in these areas, so this is bringing about more commercial activity. Catering establishments still top the list but and areas like Paola and Fgura are attracting big brand names, thus increasing the demand for and value of commercial outlets in these areas.
The letting market has changed dramatically. Around three years ago, it used to be possible to find rental properties as low as €250 per month, but now prices have increased drastically. The supply in the South is also limited, especially in peak months, due to the demand from foreigners working or studying in Malta.
In recent years, we have also noticed that Maltese buyers are moving in from outside the region. Due to the saturation of the market in areas such as Sliema and St Julian’s, developments in the southern areas have mushroomed.
Prices of properties in southern localities also vary according to locality. Although there is still a gap between the South and the central areas, prices of properties have recently increased. The Three Cities, for instance, are now a sought after area especially for investment opportunities. Demand has increased so prices will also increase, however the southern locations are still affordable for the average buyer. With many projects focused on the southern localities – such as the completed Dock 1 regeneration, the American University of Malta, the hospital in the SmartCity Malta campus and the planned Marsa flyover – we expect the area to continue gaining popularity.
The reduction of stamp duty for first time buyers has helped to stimulate the industry in 2015 and I feel this should be kept in future. Unfortunately, the average price of a finished three bedroom property in an urban conservation area (UCA) such as Vittoriosa is becoming out of reach of the average first time buyer’s budget. This varies within different areas, but with the professional assistance of an experienced estate agent it is still possible to find suitable properties within a first time buyer’s budget in a village core – although they are becoming more and more rare. The main advantage of such dwellings is above all the benefits of being a home owner with a private entrance and one’s own airspace. It is, in my opinion, a more feasible investment and a better way of living.
Some people are not happy with a traditional layout and finish, and also prefer to live in modernised areas. Works needed to convert an old property could also be a barrier to first-time buyers. However, the main problem is the supply. There are plenty of unused properties in our village cores, but most of them are not for sale. This is why measures to increase the availability of old, unused properties will surely benefit the community. More effort is needed to increase the supply of UCA properties, to attract younger generations to live in our UCAs and thereby protecting our culture and history and regenerating the traditional village core.
Malta’s property market needs a long-term strategy for sustainable results. The government’s schemes have worked to strengthen demand, but the situation becomes unsustainable without the steady supply of properties. Prices cannot increase endlessly. By introducing incentives to make vacant properties available, they will no longer be left to deteriorate and harm the characteristics of our village cores. The government should also consider involving local councils to collaborate on these measures.
Property standards have risen, matching other parts of the island, and the potential of many southern areas is great. The future of the property market in the south of Malta is bright and prosperous.