We had the privilege of speaking to Portsmouth-born Karen Mills this week. She moved to Malta fifteen years ago to retire and her aim was to exchange the long and cold winters of the UK for a life in the sun…until the property bug got hold of her in 2017! Karen has a background in retail management and besides being a very successful estate agent for the group, she is a creative at heart and keeps herself busy with painting, crafts and interior design projects when she is not out with clients.
Living in picturesque Kalkara, Karen loves to go walking in this beautiful part of Malta and watches her favourite series when she has some spare time. Vivacious and upbeat, no-one can hold this lady down, no matter what life throws at her. We simply had to get to know her better and this is what she had to say:
"The role of a property consultant, in my opinion, is not about the hard sell. Buying a home is not like buying a handbag or a new car, it’s a lifetime commitment!"
Who is the person we know as Karen? Tell us in about a 100 words!
Well I am a Karen and a Virgo which already says a lot, but apart from that I am a mum of two: Emily 28 and Ethan 22. I live with my partner of nearly 20 years in Kalkara and our Persian cat called “Tusa”. When I am not working I enjoy arts & crafts, interior design, walking, reading and watching motivational videos to improve my mind and skillset constantly. We are never too old to keep learning… well, that’s what I think! Where possible I love to travel and see new places and hopefully now I can start to cross off some places on my bucket list.
What can you share with us about your younger days and your family?
I was born in Portsmouth in 1969 as the eldest of three and I have a sister and brother. Mum and dad were always hard-working and we had a great childhood, living in the days when you made your own fun, went bike riding, building dens and exploring with friends. We had no idea what a mobile phone was, let alone social media! I always enjoyed being involved in school activities, especially the school play and was told by teachers I should become a politician! Once I was at college I realised that communication and psychology were my passions.
Tell us about your past work experience…
After leaving college, I joined the police force which was a real test just to get in! But once I did, I found out it wasn’t for me. After a few secretarial jobs and losing my husband to cancer, raising my daughter became a priority so I went back to studying and took up physiotherapy which I loved. After having my son, I found it almost impossible to continue due to childcare difficulties… so I switched to retail and within a short timeframe discovered that this was something I could do well and love. I soon became a deputy store manager for a large UK supermarket. Life changed again when I met my partner and we moved to Malta in 2007. I had jobs with Marks & Spencer, Debenhams and Mothercare and this filled the next ten years until I decided a change was in order.
What attracted you to join the Frank Salt Team?
I’ve always been interested in property, even in the UK where I was offered a job in real estate… but then I thought: “Me, an estate agent? I don’t think so!”
During the process of searching for a property I had the great pleasure of working with Simon Marchett and he convinced me that I would be good at it, so one day I just decided: “Let’s give it a go!” …and here I am five years later. Plus, through my love of interior design, what better job than getting to see and work on some beautiful properties across the island!
If your outgoing, determined to succeed, motivated and want to challenge yourself constantly, enjoy meeting people of all ages and all walks of life, then this is the job for you. Along the way you get to help in making someone’s dreams come true and the satisfaction of being part of this process cannot be beaten. It makes all the hard work worthwhile.
Some of your happy clients profess that you can read their minds! Care to elaborate?
The role of a property consultant, in my opinion, is not about the hard sell. Buying a home is not like buying a handbag or a new car, it’s a lifetime commitment! In order to find the right one you have to listen, listen and listen some more to understand a client’s needs and once you do this, you can match them to their dream home… and hey, “Presto!”… You delivered what they wanted. It’s like you are reading their minds, but in reality it is just taking the time to do something well.
We hear that you harbour some creative talent! Tell us about your love for painting and crafts?
I love being creative, whether it’s recycling furniture, knitting toys for charities, drawing/sketching, painting (which I need to start again) or just doodling… I need to keep my hands and my mind busy all the time! My dream job as a young girl was to be an interior designer or else failing that, a window dresser in a huge department store, but in the eighties this wasn’t seen as a suitable career, so off to secretarial school I went.
Please tell us about your love for interior design! Where did this all start and do you have a current project?
It started when I was a child of around 12: there was a TV show that had different designers on each show, but then there was one with Laurence Lewellyn-Bowen… and I was hooked! Watching it every week, I dreamed of doing the same…. I am currently nearing the end of a two-year complete renovation of my apartment, with just a bathroom left to do. I’m already itching to find something else and I love helping my friends with design options plus planning their living spaces together with them.
We also heard that you are a keen walker….where do you go and what do you think about while outdoors walking?
I’m very fortunate to live in Kalkara, so I enjoy walking around the Three Cities and the harbour… and when I feel more ambitious, I walk all the way to Smart City. I like listening to music whilst walking… normally dance or house music as it helps me to switch off and de-stress for a bit.
Do you think that you can ever become obsessed with something? If so tell us more!
Well as an OCD sufferer, becoming obsessed is part of my daily life! I try to keep it in check and allow some disorder, but it is not easy. I can become obsessed with TV shows too, especially on Netflix… so much so that I tell myself: “Just one more episode” and then, before I realise it, sleep has evaded me and I have watched an entire season in one go!
What is your favourite food and do you make it yourself?
My all-time favourite dish is Lasagne… and according to my family, the one I make is delicious! But they have to say that, don’t they!? Unfortunately now that I’m older and I have to watch my waistline, I don’t have it as much as I would like… as now I’m a slave to salads!
Are you adventurous with food and have you ever eaten something strange or unusual? If so, what?
Not as adventurous as I would like! The most unusual thing for me was when I tried snails once in Paris and Octopus here in Malta… after my father-in-law told me it was chicken!!
Do you have any favourite charities or causes that you support and if so, what are they?
I support Cancer Research as it’s very, very close to my heart after losing my husband and my father to this awful disease.
Do you have a pet? Here at “Meet the Team” we are animal crazy and want to know more…
I have a long haired grey/white Persian called “Tusa” who is aged 16. I am not sure I would call her a pet, she is more like a princess! And dare I say it, she behaves like one, but we love her dearly and she is our baby.
Do you like reading and do you have a favourite book or author?
I love reading and books are scattered around my home… unfortunately I don’t have as much time to read as I would like, but I love crime, mystery and period drama novels. I like Martina Cole’s books right now.
Who will be first your first choice to have supper with when it comes to public figures that have influenced your life? It can be anyone in history or current.
There are two that spring to mind and they are both very different: the late Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher and the long distance runner Mo Farah.
If you were an inventor, what would you invent or be working on at present?
This is a very difficult question! Maybe invent an easy way to test for Covid rather than the hideous test currently in place.
What do you enjoy the most about your job?
Meeting people and that no day is the same.
Which film have you seen over and over again and enjoyed every time?
If you were let’s say a billionaire and did not need to work, what would you do?
I would go around the world and probably end up in Las Vegas, then start up some sort of charity to help people with cancer.
If you had a disagreement with an old friend, do you reconcile the friendship, or do you forgive and forget… or do you never speak again?
I always try to resolve any issues. I’m not good at letting things continue so I have to sort them out… preferably straight away or if not, a short while after.
Tell us about a favourite childhood memory!
Going fishing with my family on a Sunday morning and my dad showing me how to bait the hook and cast the line. Normally I caught nothing but seaweed, but one time I reeled in a big fish all on my own!
Do you ever binge-watch any TV series or shows? If so, which?
Yes, constantly! The latest ones are ‘Ozark’ and “Queen of the South’ on Netflix.
Imagine you are at karaoke night. What song will you be singing and will someone sing with you?
Ha ha, I’m so typical I think…! It would have to be ‘I will survive’ by Gloria Gaynor, because that’s how I see myself: a survivor! Should anyone else want to join me, be warned: my singing is awful!
Is there anything you hate doing and if so, why? Would you go as far as paying someone to do it?
Ironing! Luckily I have little or no need for it as I always buy clothes that don’t need any ironing.
If you came second in a competition, would you sulk or be OK with it?
Hmm… probably sulk, but it depends on who came first. If they worked harder than me, then I would think they deserved to win and I should have done better!
Tell us about something funny that has happened to you or that you have seen!
My face as ‘Cruella de Ville’ on the screen at the Eden Cinema Complex during the recent AGM! It was very funny!
If you did not live in Malta, where would you see yourself?
I think Australia.
Give us the best piece of advice you will share with a younger person just starting out in life…
Change is good as nothing is ever set in stone, so go out there and try everything. Don’t be afraid… if it doesn’t make you happy every day, find something else that will.
Did you have a great or awful time at school and would you relive some of the times if you could?
I hated school as I was teased and bullied constantly… so I would for sure not want to do any of it again!
If you had a warning label attached to you, what would it say?
“Beware of Crazy English Lady!”
Tell us about the best party you have ever been to!
I used to love dancing all night when I still could in the clubs… with my friends! The best party was in a field till 6 in the morning, raving with my friend and then driving home at daybreak in her clapped-out old Mini, eating KFC on the way… it was an awesome time!
Can you get along without your mobile phone for a weekend?… and whatever the answer, elaborate!
Honestly, no. Because my mother and daughter live in the UK and they constantly have issues, they need to be able to get hold of me all the time.
If you had a choice, what would be your superpower?
I already have one! It’s called “Positivity”. No matter what comes my way – and there has been a lot – I always manage to find a way forward.
What motivates you to keep going?
It’s a privilege to be alive and to wake up every day to do new things.
What will you do if you had a time machine?
Go back and see my husband again.
Some interesting facts about karen we’d like to share
What is your star sign?
Name some of your favourite drinks…
Gin & Tonic, Baileys and Vodka & Cranberry
Are you an early riser or do you prefer staying up late?
Both! I’m a morning person and I go to bed late…I survive most days on only 5 hours’ sleep, tops!
What is your favourite season of the year and why?
Summer. I love the sun and the hot weather as my arthritis is less painful then than in the winter.
How do you feel about getting older?
Well, it’s inevitable… so it’s no use thinking about it, I am just happy to be able to keep going!
Describe to us an ideal night out and what you would be doing…
Either spending time with my friends or family having a meal and a chat, or a night at the casino.
Do you have a bucket list? If so, name a few things on it!
Yes I do! I want to see the Northern Lights, climb the Great Wall of China and buy another property.
Do you prefer going to a restaurant, a delivery or a takeout?
It all depends on the weather and my mood.