GRAHAME SALT, director of Homes of Quality, met up with MARTINA SAID to discuss the current state-of-play in the high-end property market segment.
In spite of a shortage of high-end properties on the island, Grahame Salt, director of Homes of Quality, which forms part of the Frank Salt Real Estate Group, says that this market segment always seems to fare well, and is not as temperamental as the rest of the market because there will always be people around willing to spend money on such types of properties.
“In the last year or so, the property market at large has picked up. Sales in Malta this year are up by around 40 per cent, and in the case of our company by around 60 to 65 per cent over last year. I would say the high-end market has experienced growth at a similar ratio.”
Homes of Quality is a specialised estate agency, focused on serving a specific customer segment in the market. A number of criteria must be satisfied in order for a home to qualify as one of quality, he says.
“It is not a case of ‘if the property is expensive, then it is a home of quality’, but rather the evaluation is based on the quality of the property itself. We take a look at the Frank Salt real estate database, which enlists thousands of properties, and shortlist a few hundred based on the quality of the property itself, the location, the value for money and saleability of the property.
“It could be a studio apartment, but if it is a top quality studio apartment, it would qualify. We also deal with very high-end properties such as palazzos and villas, but those need to be marketed in a slightly different way, whereby for instance we produce brochures for them and market them overseas.”
Mr Salt says the demand for high-end properties in Malta is split down the middle between locals and foreigners. “We get a lot of locals who are looking for good quality properties and want to be treated perhaps with a little more discretion, but then through the website we attract a lot of interested foreign clients too. The majority of foreign buyers in Malta are British, but there are also a number of French and Italian buyers, Russian buyers due to the citizenship scheme as well as Dutch and South Africans, but it heavily depends on where we’re promoting at a particular point in time.”
In terms of demand, Mr Salt explains that upmarket apartments always sell more than houses, primarily because the demand for apartments is greater, and so is the supply. “For many, apartments are more affordable, and in the case of foreign buyers, one can simply lock up and leave an apartment, but a house requires more work. I would say that those opting for more permanent residency go for houses of character and villas, but those planning to stay for four or five months of the year tend to opt for an apartment.”
High-end apartments on the island are predominantly concentrated in the Sliema and St Julian’s area, but villas and houses of character are more dispersed across the island. “In the case of villas, the most popular locations are close to the seafront, such as Victoria Gardens, High Ridge, Madliena, San Pawl tat-Targa, Birguma, Mellieħa, as well as along the seafront of Marsascala. There’s a very limited supply of good quality villas, and whenever there is a concentration of them in an area, that area is generally sought after.
“As for houses of character, they are a bit less location-sensitive, because people tend to focus more on the house itself rather than on the location. Having said that, however, the areas of Għarghur, Lija, Balzan, Attard, Naxxar and Żebbuġ are still very popular.”
Due to the shortage of upmarket properties, Mr Salt says that the company is always on the lookout for good quality homes. “There is a very limited supply of them, and we always have a steady stream of clients looking, so people who own a home that might classify as a ‘home of quality’ should contact us and we will in turn will visit the property and help them with the valuation, and help them market it.”