Malta’s House of Character
A simple, yet accurate way of defining a country or region is often through its architecture and skylines. And what better way to describe the Maltese islands if not through its charming farmhouses, so pleasing to the eye, yet so functional and practical in their structure.
Tranquillity, which is long lost in today’s hectic lifestyle, seems to have somehow escaped unscathed in Gozo is the envy of Maltese and internationals alike, many of whom return time and again to spend a weekend or short break savouring the atmosphere. Farmhouses offer the ideal retreat, often situated in private cul-de-sacs or quaint roads, spread across the old villages. Gozo offers a varied mix of such properties, ranging from traditional ones dating to the 17th and 18th century, to new ones being built reflecting today’s trends. Malta also offers its good dose of farmhouses, and its case houses of character, particularly in the smaller villages, such as Naxxar, Zurrieq, Zejtun, Qrendi, Mosta and the surrounding areas.
These older type residences tend to be a favourite, possibly due to their added character and authenticity. Notwithstanding their age, houses of character are nowadays expertly converted and upgraded to include all comforts and amenities sought after today, such as solar heating, air-conditioning, electrical commodities and other trappings. These properties would have originally been built to house extended families larger than is the norm today, and as such often offer ample sleeping quarters and living spaces, with 3 or 4 bedrooms being the norm. Outdoor space surrounding the properties tends to be plentiful, in the form of gardens and yards, with the latter making room for luxury pools and entertaining areas. What’s more, farmhouses often tend to offer magnificent unobstructed views of the surrounding countryside or the Mediterranean seas, making them a heaven on earth at sunrise or sunset, providing an ever changing canvas of nature’s grandeur. The same can be said for houses of character, more likely close to the village core, often set in picturesque alleys and winding roads that add to their luring facets.
Typically, the entrance to these residences is through a well-sized hall overlooking an internal, central courtyard. This would then lead to the heart of the house – the living quarters and kitchen, which in turn overlook the garden, pool or/and outdoor space at the back of the property. The garden or pool area is most likely to be the hub for relaxation – compromising a pool, sun deck and a BBQ area, surrounded by a garden wall, adding further privacy. The sleeping quarters are spread on the same level or on the upper floors depending on the layout of the property. Multiple bathrooms are normally found, with smaller-type storage rooms making room for en-suite showers and walk-in wardrobes. The exterior walls tend to be much thicker than more recently built properties, ensuring better climate control, keeping the rooms warmer in Winter and cooler in the hotter months.
A distinction can be made between farmhouses and houses of character. As the name dictates, in former times, farmhouses were used both as dwellings for the family as well as to provide shelter for their farm animals. Houses of character were used specifically as lodging, although characteristics such as mill rooms and remissas (horse stables) are often integrated.
Supply of these traditional, somewhat rustic abodes, is limited and with the ever growing demand for such properties, many have taken to building new residences that reflect the same characteristics, but with a more modern twist. These ‘modern farmhouses’ are really and truly bungalows or villas, offering the ultimate in accommodation. Built with the best Maltese and Gozitan craftsmanship and style, they incorporate the same characteristics of the older type houses, such as use of Maltese limestone for building, patterned tiles for flooring, use of internal courtyards and cellars, arched ceilings, wooden beams, functional fire places and the likes. These are blended with modern finishes and architecture styles, often making use of modern materials such as stainless steel and glass.
Whether situated around the village core or elsewhere on the outskirts of the villages, farmhouses and houses of character offer unparalleled tranquillity, secluded from urban areas, yet within easy reach of all amenities. Their innate beauty, and most importantly uniqueness makes such residences a very sought after property option, particularly as an investment. The limited supply and growing demand ensures that the price of the property not only holds, but offers steady capital appreciation. What’s more, farmhouses make an ideal rental investment, popular for holiday letting throughout the whole year. Prices start at around €190,000 and average at €250,000, however farmhouses exceeding the one million euro figure are not unheard of.
Each farmhouse is a unique piece of art, a living contribution to Malta’s chequered history and diverse heritage, yet a life-long investment, with a promising future.