How has Frank Salt adapted?
Two years since the outbreak of COVID-19 in Malta, Frank Salt Real Estate director GRAHAME SALT gives Juan Ameen an overview of the resilience of the local market. He talks about how the company adapted to new challenges and its plans for the future.
With years of experience working in his family’s real estate business, Grahame Salt knows the sector inside out. However, no one knew what to expect when the pandemic hit in March 2020. Or when the government imposed restrictions to stop its spread.
How did the company react to these major setbacks?
“The biggest impact was that we weren’t allowed into peoples’ homes between March and June, which led to a significant slowdown,” he recalls.
The company rolled up its sleeves and got to work, determined to sail through the storm. “There was no government assistance for the real estate industry, so salaries had to be covered by the company.”
With more than 200 people working at Frank Salt Real Estate, this was “a big cause for concern,” especially in the first few months.
Frank Salt introduced safety measures but refused to let anyone go and didn’t close its branches. “It was important to retain all our staff. We wanted to support our work force. We also knew that this would pass, and we didn’t want to re-start with a broken-down structure.”
This proved to be the right strategy, as the Maltese real estate market “picked up more than we expected between June and December.” Malta’s 2020 property sales surpassed 2019 with mainly Maltese buyers. The momentum carried into 2021 as even more sales were registered.
“Foreigners couldn’t travel to Malta and this revealed the strength of the Maltese market and that it was not so heavily dependent on foreigner investment,” Salt explains.
The importance of foreignors in real estate
Many expats at the time left the islands or started to work from home. This had a significant impact on the letting market. It also led to a change of strategy by Frank Salt Real Estate.
“Traditionally, at least 35 to 40 per cent of our sales were to foreigner clients so we had to adapt very quickly. We also always had a large share of the Maltese market, and we focused on increasing that,” he says.
As countries lift internal and travel restrictions, Salt points out that the foreign markets have picked up again for both sales and rentals.
Frank Salt Real Estate is now concentrating on expanding its rental and sales teams. “We don’t believe that the franchising model works for Malta. That was designed for fast expansion in larger countries. Malta’s market is not large enough and franchise offices owned by different individuals compete with each other. We want to promote team work”.
Instead, the company has a two-year expansion plan that will focus on quality recruits. “We have a reputation to maintain and it takes time to recruit and provide the right training and support. We are looking to recruit driven individuals who want to work in this exciting industry and earn good money. Our teams are backed by the best real estate brand on the islands”. The company believes that the quality of their service to both vendors and buyers is the main ingredient for their success.
Improving Malta and making it more attractive
Getting Malta off the grey list is also crucial for growing the industry. “Banking regulations and anti-money laundering regulations have become harder and even more so since Malta was grey listed. Getting off the grey list is important as there are several large office projects in the pipeline that will be depending to an extent on foreign companies moving operations to Malta,” he adds.
Salt also speaks about the importance of making the island more inviting through improved infrastructure, gardens in urban areas and more greenery in general.
“As a real estate group, we support several environmental projects. If everyone plays their part, especially the government, we will together make Malta more attractive. Firstly for ourselves and also for tourists, expats and foreign investment.” he says.