Home from home...Malta

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Home from home...Malta

Malta?
Three Mediterranean islands – Malta,Gozo and Comino – just south of Sicily and less than 300 kilometres from Tunisia. The most southerly part of Europe (apart from a tiny Greek island) with a land area of 300 square kilometres and a population of 370,000. The capital is Valletta but the largest city is Birkirkara.

The British arrive
Horatio Nelson helped the Maltese people rebel against French occupation, and Malta become a British dominion in return for protection. In 1964, 165 years later, they gained independence and have been a member of the Commonwealth ever since. Part of the island's British legacy are driving on the left and English as a joint official language, including for government offices and newspapers. Around two per cent of the population are British according to official figures.

The George Cross
The “unsinkable aircraft carrier” Churchill called it. As our base against enemy shipping in World War II, the Germans attacked Malta so relentlessly that the Luftwaffe complained there was “nothing left to bomb”. Thousands of local people and 369 RAF fighter pilots died, yet Malta held fi rm. King George VI gave its people the George Cross collectively, “To bear witness to a heroism and devotion that will long be famous in history”.

Royal approval
Between 1949 and 1951, the newlywed Princess Elizabeth spent happy years in Malta while her husband was at sea in the Royal Navy. Later, the couple returned as Queen and Prince Philip for their 60th wedding anniversary in 2007.

A Brit's last round
Oliver Reed died much as he lived – plastered. It was in a gap from filming Gladiator in Malta that he bought a round of drinks – eight lagers, 12 large rums, half a bottle of Scotch – at The Pub, in Valetta, that was to be his last. While taking on some sailors from HMS Cumberland in an armwrestling contest he suffered a heart attack and died. His tab is still behind the bar.

Working in Malta
Although an EU member, Malta has an opt-out from the usual free labour market and you must get a work permit to work there. This is,however, usually granted.

Setting up a business in Malta is easy, with similar systems to the UK,English being the official language and it being well positioned between Europe, Africa and the Middle East.Malta is now a major hub for IT and software fi rms. Average salaries are low, at well under €1,000 (£833) per month, but so are living costs.

M-altered images
Malta has become a popular destination for medical tourism, both for surgical procedures that would take too long on the NHS and for cosmetic and plastic surgery. Prices are around a third less than in the UK, and medical services are good.

One of the main concerns for many people considering any kind of cosmetic procedure is how to pay for it. Fortunately, there are a range of plastic surgery financing options available, including a number of specialist lenders that can provide you with finance. Plastic surgery financing is a growing business both in the UK and abroad.

Getting there
Flight time from the UK is three hours. Ryanair flies into Malta's Luqa Airport from Edinburgh, Dublin,Leeds, Luton, Bristol and Bournemouth. EasyJet flies from Manchester, Liverpool, Gatwick,Belfast and Newcastle. With Air Malta flying to Exeter, Newcastle, Norwich,Bristol and Cardiff, the whole of the UK is well served.

Climate
Malta has very mild winters and long,sunny summers with the heat tempered by sea breezes (except when the sirocco wind blows high temperatures in from north Africa). There is a reasonable amount of rain in winter, leaving the summers with guaranteed sunshine.

British shops in Malta
A brand new shopping centre at Tigné Point has Debenhams as its flagship store. There is also Marks and Spencer, BHS, Top Shop, Next and many others. For the tastes of home, supermarkets are increasingly stocking British foods, so no one need go without Twiglets or proper cheese.

Where to live?
The north of the island, Gozo, Sliema and St Julians, and some areas in the south are particularly popular with expats. In the north of Malta, Qawra,Bugibba, St Paul's Bay and Mellieha are mostly sought after for holiday homes and very popular with British tourists. Nice holiday apartments in these areas fetch €140K (£117K) to €186K (£155K).A landmark development in Mellieha is Tas-Sellum close to Malta's largest sandy beach.

Sliema and St Julians are the trendiest districts, the main centres of both employment and entertainment, and up-market property areas. They're popular with British investors, particularly the high-end developments of Portomaso, Pender Gardens, Tigné Point and Fort Cambridge. These are all in Special Designated Areas, meaning that foreign nationals may purchase more than one unit.

Gozo is very sought after as a retirement destination, with its charming farmhouses, many of which come with a private pool.

Renting
Two-bedroom furnished apartments rent for around €250-€350 (£208-£292) in a southern village, but up to €550 (£458) as an average. Three-bedroom houses cost from €850 (£708) on Gozo, to around €2,000 (£1,670) per month (including private pool) in the popular resort areas of Malta.

Case Study - “I couldn't afford this lifestyle in London”

Hilary Rogers enjoys the work/play ratio that Malta offers

“I've been here four years, and came to join my parents after living in South Africa. I now work as PR manager for a software company called Uniblue. I rent a two-double bedroom apartment with pool for €420 (£350) per month and could not possibly afford this sort of lifestyle if I were still working
in London. The working atmosphere is much like in the UK – 40 hours a week, finishing each day between 4pm and 6pm. My company is very young and progressive in its attitudes. There really is a wonderful social life here: a big music scene, great restaurants,shopping, including at the new shopping centre at Tigné Point, and lots for older people.

And it's all with guaranteed sunshine in the summer: if you decide to have a barbecue with friends, you don't have to spend the next week worrying about the weather!

“I especially like Gozo as a more chilled out choice for a day out, or Birgu, the ancient capital, which has a lovely quiet atmosphere but some nice wine bars. The waterfront at Valletta has really opened up now as well. As well as the day job, I also do some writing for a local online guide, www.malta.cc.

Essentials - Malta's property market

Demand for Malta picked up following the arrival of low-cost airlines and the adoption of the Euro in 2004. High price rises inevitably slowed dramatically in the past two years, though without falls as in some countries, and with healthy rental returns of 2.5–4 per cent.

  • Studios on Malta from €105,500 (£88K)
  • Two-bed apartments from €128K (£107K)
  • Small townhouses from €160K (£133K)
  • Family villas from €370K (£308K)
  • Luxury villas from €580K (£483K)

Residential property averages €2,710 (£2,258)/sq. metre, meaning you can buy this much of a built property for €2.70 (£2.25)...

Source: Frank Salt and Global Property Guide

Author

A Place In The Sun