Gozo Property: Marie Grech Discusses The Way Forward
The property market in Gozo has adapted with the times and there were highs and lows, but the biggest challenges were the recession of 2008, Brexit and currently the Covid pandemic.
During 2008, sales slowed down substantially and this affected our foreign market but with the pandemic, the opposite happened and sales boomed because the domestic market has more than made up for any losses. With flights resuming to Malta, the foreign market is now picking up well. Generally, people are now spending more time at home and realise that they need more space, whether it is indoor or outdoor space such as a garden, courtyard or a terrace. With the new work-from-home arrangement, clients have realised that they can live and work from anywhere and many Maltese have opted to move to Gozo permanently rather than just having a traditional holiday home here.
The UK Factor
The British market, which has always been the predominant market as far as foreign property sales are concerned, has been on the decline in the last year mostly due to the pandemic but also because of Brexit. The residency status for Brits to move to Malta is no longer as easy as it was before, due to the fact that they no longer have the EU freedom of movement and British clients now have to apply for one of the residency programmes on offer to enable them to live here. Holiday homes are still very sought-after and we have thus seen a huge increase in sales to British clients during the last six months, especially as travel became easier. This trend is likely to increase next year.
The rental market suffered a lot when tenants left at the beginning of the pandemic with no-one replacing them, but what was lost with long-lets was then compensated for by short-lets, especially with Maltese booking their holidays in Gozo.
Buy-to-let in Gozo has always been a very good investment, even more so now due to the demand from people who work from home. This is on the increase and property rental prices are also on the rise. Projects like Bart’s School and others offer some measure of stability for the rental market in the future. There is also a new trend with foreign workers from Malta looking for accommodation in Gozo as the rents are still fairly cheap here. The accessibility made possible by the ferries running on shuttle and new fast ferries make this even more of an option.
I wouldn’t like to debate the sensitive topic of the Gozo tunnel, but if it were to happen, it would definitely make life easier for Gozitans and for anyone who wants to live on Gozo and work in Malta. This would in turn create a demand for additional accommodation. We would definitely need to ensure that there would be a strategic plan in place for both new properties being built and the necessary infrastructure to guarantee that Gozo won’t be spoiled in the process. There are still a large number of properties available in the village cores that could be restored and renovated and more incentives should be offered to compensate for the expense to renovate these old properties. At times this is extremely challenging as these homes are not always easy to access for renovation and upgrading.
I feel there is a lot of awareness of the necessity to preserve Gozo’s character, whilst at the same time, making it more appealing to tourists. Gozo’s biggest attractions are its charm, its villages with their towering churches and their skyline as well as its beautiful valleys and hills which change colour with every season. All of this should be protected at all costs. Gozo has a lot to offer: from concerts and operas to traditional village feasts, lovely villages and stunning beaches! Gozo is a true gem and if it ever loses its charm the cost will be far too high.
On-Going Developments and Building
When it comes to the on-going development here, we must ensure that we plan this properly in order to retain Gozo’s charm and still make room for the booming property market. This fear of Gozo’s identity being eroded has always been there. For instance in the 80’s and 90’s there were huge uproars against developments but these same developments are now almost regarded as classics! It all boils down to good planning.
Present market demand is still encouraging developers to build even more and my main concern is about height limitations which, if exceeded, will spoil the Gozitan skyline. The quality and style of current new buildings, especially their facades, do not blend in with the style of traditional buildings in the same area. This is destroying the elegance of our villages. I understand that development cannot be stopped but more strategic measures are urgently needed to ensure that buildings are constructed in accordance with the ambient surroundings. No-one intentionally wants to destroy Gozo but there is a definite need for balance to retain the old world character of Gozo.
A New Second Office for Frank Salt Real Estate in Gozo
The Frank Salt Real Estate Group is synonymous with Malta property after fifty-plus years and it is no wonder that when one thinks of buying, selling or renting, our name is the first one that springs to mind. We now have more than 20 branches all over the islands and we have just opened our second branch in Gozo as the demand for property locally has grown phenomenally over the past two years. This new office is in Republic Street, Victoria opposite the famous “it-Tokk” Square. It will specialise in sales and letting while having access to one of the largest databases of property on the island.
Some members of our Gozo team have been with the company for more than ten years and they are hard-working, loyal, ambitious and our pride and joy. We never would have achieved as much as we did without them. We were the first company to start operating an estate agency in Gozo over thirty years ago. Starting all those years ago was not easy as we had to show clients the benefits of using an agency. We started as a two-man band and nurtured the operations according to the growing demand. We introduced a letting and property management department, as we had to look after a lot of properties on behalf of their owners. Personally, I look forward to a rosier future with more growth on the cards for Frank Salt Real Estate’s Gozo operations and hopefully things can slow down a bit for me too. But you really have to love this profession, as it is tough working 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I joined the company more than 33 years ago and was appointed as a director in 2019 and I am very fortunate to say I still love it after all this time!
On a final note, I want to congratulate everyone at Frank Salt Real Estate Gozo on the opening of our second office and wish each and all the best of success for the years to come. After all, there is no-one better equipped to serve our client’s needs better than this group of specialists that you will only find at Malta’s oldest, largest, family-owned and run real estate company, Frank Salt Real Estate.