Houses of character can be found in various sizes and conditions.

Houses of character: what makes these special properties tick? – Times of Malta

True to their name, Malta’s houses of character represent the island’s rich lifestyle, culture and history. Four top agents at RE/MAX Malta explore why this unique property type still fascinates homeowners, as well as what the latest real-estate trends and budgetary measures might mean for these beautiful homes.
Charm, history, a unique story told through original architectural features, space, quirky style: there are many reasons that houses of character in Malta remain close to the nation’s heart.
Some of the island’s houses of character are more than five hundred years old, still showcasing this beloved property type’s defining features such as intricately crafted stonework, arches, troughs, courtyards and vividly patterned tiles. Indeed, well-converted houses of character across Malta and Gozo have fuelled a niche industry over the course of the last four decades that today continues to thrive.
“Local houses of character were mainly built in the 17th and 18th century in most villages and can be found in various sizes and conditions, either converted or unconverted,” explains Rosanna Binotto at RE/MAX Affiliates – Crown in Sliema. 

Rosanna BinottoRosanna Binotto

“Some clients love to visualise how these properties can be renovated and buy unconverted as this gives them a blank canvas to add their own personality. Others walk in and fall in love with the property and its features. Although they can be more costly to maintain, houses of character are charming by day and, with the right lighting, they come to life by night.”

Chris CachiaChris Cachia

While demand for houses of character across both islands stays strong, buyer vision on how to best preserve these unique homes is currently shifting, as Chris Cachia at RE/MAX Affiliates – Specialists Tigné Point points out. 
“The latest trend is to convert these houses into contemporary living spaces where new and modern materials are introduced, while still respecting the old through preservation and restoration. This creates a home that offers everything expected for today’s modern lifestyle yet adds to it the unexpected beauty of character created hundreds of years back. The result is outstanding.”

Philip ToledoPhilip Toledo

Meanwhile, the COVID-19 pandemic has inspired another real estate trend that continues to impact the bustling houses of character market. 

“The pandemic has brought about a greater awareness of the importance of outdoor space”

“Appetite has increased for properties with outdoor space in general since the pandemic,” highlights Philip Toledo at RE/MAX Affiliates, Balluta. 
“Houses of character offer something different to the new developments on the island – and I love seeing their old character being reborn and restored back to its former glory – but now they offer a spacious alternative too.”
Clive Pollacco at RE/MAX Affiliates – Advantage Msida notes a similar pattern in his clients: “The pandemic made us realise the importance of having some outdoor space. A house of character usually revolves around a central courtyard, the bedrooms have terraces and – if one stretches the budget – you might also enjoy a back garden.”

Clive PollaccoClive Pollacco

And with the extra demand for private outdoor space has followed a shift in house of character prices, as Cachia continues. 
“The pandemic has brought about a greater awareness of the importance of outdoor space. Demand for houses of character and farmhouses with gardens and land has increased, but of course, the supply of these properties is limited. This has kept prices stable and, in some cases, they have even increased. As open spaces continue to diminish, having your own garden or piece of land is something that many people aspire to. I believe that character homes will substantially increase in value in the years to come, as demand for this type of property exceeds their supply.”
Snapping up one of these highly-sought-after properties has, however, recently been made more affordable due to a range of new measures and incentives included in the latest national Budget. Buyers can benefit from paying no capital gains tax or stamp duty on the first €750,000 of the property price, while buyers or owners of such properties will also qualify for a grant on VAT paid up to a maximum of €54,000 on the first €300,000 spent in restoration and refinement costs. 

Houses of character can be found in various sizes and conditions.Houses of character can be found in various sizes and conditions.

First-time buyers of these properties will also receive a grant of €15,000 – an amount that increases up to €30,000 for houses of character in Gozo. 
“I expect an increase in demand towards houses of character as they will now have an edge over other property types,” Pollacco concludes. 
“These new incentives will save buyers thousands of euros slashed off from the purchase price and the cost of restoration of such properties. Let’s keep investing in these houses that identify us as Maltese and keep our traditions alive.”
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