As many Maltese sought out traditional houses of character during the last two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, Frank Salt Real Estate Balzan branch manager EDWARD MICALLEF explainsehy thid type of real estate.
Why a House of Character?
They are hard to come by, they display rare architectural features, are often located in village cores and they tell a story of past generations. These are amongst the key reasons that make houses of character so sought after, explains Micallef as he goes on to add that the dwindling availability of such properties keeps pushing up their value.
“A house of character will never lose its value – not only because of the market shortage but because of the increased awareness of the skilled labour and work that went into it,” Micallef explains.
Buyers are also attracted to these properties because they are more spacious, often include an outside space and have the added advantage of coming with the ownership of the roof and airspace.
Typically situated in the heart of a village, usually close to a church, houses of character are often in Urban Conservation Areas, giving them a level of protection. This can vary from leaving certain features, such as the typical spiral staircase or garigor intact, to ensuring that the façade remains untouched.
The government recently announced a scheme to incentivise owners to sell properties in these areas while attracting buyers. This budget measure waives stamp duty and taxes on UCA properties on the first €750,000 of the property’s value.
“The charm behind houses of character is learning about their history. If a person is looking for one, it is important and exciting to know how the property passed down from one generation to another,” he says.
Why are Houses of Character diffrent?
So, what sets a house of character aside from other property types such as townhouses or palazzinos? “Aside from the traditional Maltese balcony, these properties have distinctive features such as large limestone flagstones, xorok, or large supporting beams known as kileb. For example, houses of character are older than townhouses that would typically have just xorok.”
Palazzinos and palazzos are more extensive and grander properties that might have two sets of staircases, a double-fronted façade or an entire floor with a 17-course high ceiling.
Understandably, many new owners of houses of character choose to give a fresh, updated look while preserving their unique features. “Converting houses of character is not an easy process – some of these are situated in tiny alleys or require manual labour to safeguard their characteristics. It is a technical process compared to doing up a modern house, as experts, and sometimes the authorities, are involved. However, it is amazing to see how creative owners are with their properties”.
Houses of character are the hallmarks of an era gone by and a testament to the value of slowing down – especially with the importance of home life re-envisaged and reinvented during the pandemic.
“Their popularity soared to new heights for several reasons: these homes are reminders of a gentler time, a slower pace of life, and they are often full of quirky features, a legacy of its former owners,” Micallef says.