With today’s property market being what it is, it’s hard to imagine that only fifty years ago there were very few estate agencies on the island and the concept of brokering a sale or a rental was practically unheard of in Malta and even more so on the sister island of Gozo.
Yet, back in 1969 when Mr. Frank Salt opened the very first Frank Salt Real Estate branch in Paceville, this was exactly the case.
New Gozo Branch
After slowly introducing the idea of estate agencies to Malta and building the business from the ground up, in 1989, Frank Salt Real Estate ventured into Gozo, opening a third branch in Victoria exactly 30 years ago, shortly after opening the company’s second branch in Paola.
With two anniversaries to celebrate, 50 years in Real Estate in Malta and 30 years in Real Estate in Gozo, 2019 is a big year for this pioneering estate agency, which evolved from a small family business operating from one branch to having no less than 17 branches spread across Malta and Gozo, and a staff complement of nearly 200.
Marie Grech, a ‘legend’ in Real Estate in Gozo, has been managing the Gozo Branch almost since its inception, 30 years ago. “I had just moved back to Malta from Australia, when I came across the opportunity to work as a secretary for Frank Salt Real Estate. I wasn’t really interested at first, but after meeting Mr. Salt, we immediately struck up a great relationship. I started off as the branch secretary, and was then appointed to manage the Gozo branch, and I’ve been doing so ever since.”
No Phones, No Computers…
“At the time, the idea of using an estate agent to broker a property sale or a rental was unheard of in Gozo, it was a completely new concept for everyone, but slowly people started to trust us; they started to understand how we work and eventually started to refer to us for advice and to use our services. Property developers were the first to put their faith in us, possibly because we had very good connections with foreign clients,” adds Marie. “It was a different time entirely; not only were we the only estate agency in Gozo, it was also a time when mobile phones and computers hardly existed, everything was paper based, we communicated by typing and posting letters, photos were taken using basic cameras and then processed and printed, and everything was filed manually.
The nineties were very good years for the property market. It was just evolving and Gozo was being discovered by foreigners who were ready to invest in property as holiday homes and permanent residences. Developers were building beautiful properties, both apartments and villas with views which were going down well with them. Many times clients would come into the office on their last day of the holiday after deciding that they had fallen in love with Gozo, to buy a property. Properties used to be purchased within half a day just before the client was leaving the island. Once we managed to get a promise of sale drafted by a notary and signed by the seller and buyer on the ferry trip from Gozo to Malta as they were leaving. So even though things tended to move at a slower pace because of lack of technology, business was still very fast.
Introduction of a New Technology
Forever the visionary, Mr. Salt always saw great potential in the Maltese islands as well as in the Maltese and Gozitan workforce, so he soon future-proofed the agency by being the first to switch to a computerized system, to invest in a property website, to introduce the use of mobile phones and to use shop windows to display the properties that were on its books.
“Despite our success we didn’t always get it right,” explains Mr. Salt with a tone of nostalgia. “One of our very first marketing initiatives in Gozo was to put up a sign just outside the Gozo ferry landing, that said: ‘Frank Salt Welcomes you to Gozo. Please keep Gozo tidy.’ Surprisingly, it didn’t go down very well with the locals and we had to take it down.
“We soon learnt that despite the proximity, Gozo was different to Malta, and that we needed to operate on a lower key than we did on the bigger island. It took some time to gain people’s trust but eventually we managed by being consistently honest and humble. We now have a good mix of new and returning clients – from foreigners to Gozitans and Maltese. The demand is also a healthy blend of commercial and residential properties with the rental market growing at a very, very, fast rate especially in recent years.”
“Gozo is a gem,” adds Mr. Salt, “and I think that with the increase of internet-based job opportunities, Gozo will see an increase in demand for rental and commercial places.”
Gozo is in fact facing great demand at the moment from people looking to rent properties as well as people wanting to invest in rental properties. For the time being, when compared to Malta, investors can still get more bang for their buck in Gozo, so investing in a rental property there can be very lucrative. To facilitate this demand further, Frank Salt Real Estate also offer a Property Management Service in Gozo to assist or even fully manage a tenant’s rental property or holiday home- from taking care of maintenance and repairs, to the payment of utility bills, from cleaning services to forwarding mail, from meeting and greeting guests to gardening services and pool cleaning; in essence all that makes renting a property, hassle free.
Gozo Team (Best Branch of 2018)
In the past 30 years, Frank Salt Real Estate’s branch in Gozo has grown from a staff of two to a staff complement of ten, consisting of sales and letting consultants and support staff, who also man Gozo’s Property Management Division. Still operating from Victoria, the hardworking team benefits from ongoing training and is always equipped with the latest technology, however Marie Grech believes that the values and ethics of running a successful business always remain the same. “Hard work, offering a superior service, good value and great properties – that’s what makes us who we are. For us the best reward of all is the sheer number of clients dropping into the office to tell us how happy they are with their purchase or rental.”
Earlier this year Frank Salt Real Estate’s Gozo team also won the prestigious Best Branch Award for 2018. This award is given in recognition of the branch’s efforts and outstanding performance. Marie Grech, the branch’s manager, could not be prouder. “I’ve seen my branch go from strength to strength. Most of our clients keep coming back because they have experienced our honesty, benefited from our expertise and profited from our connections and proficiency. This is something I will always be proud of.”
“Gozo is stunningly beautiful and compared to Malta it is still very rural,” adds Marie. “It offers foreigners and locals, the opportunity to enjoy the Mediterranean climate in a more relaxed and quiet atmosphere, so for those looking for a place of tranquillity, charm, beauty and traditions, Gozo ticks all the boxes.”
And what is in store for the Gozo Branch for the coming years? “Needless to say we plan to keep to our service mission – offering a bespoke and trustworthy service to buyers, property owners and landlords who choose to entrust us with their property. We also plan to expand further and are on the lookout for new property consultants to join our team.” says Marie.
“We understand that as the real estate industry evolves through time, our consumers’ needs also evolve. With the advance of the internet and new technologies we are finding our customers to be more mature, discerning and experienced. They are hunting for value in the real estate they want to buy or invest in.” adds Mr Salt. “What they are seeking is value for not only money, but also for the time and lifestyle that they would commit into the property, as well as the quality of the service provided to them by the estate agent. And this is exactly what Frank Salt Real Estate will keep offering in the future.”