The word “character” is likely to conjure up thoughts of charm, quirkiness, and overall intrigue, regardless of the subject, be it a person, a village…or a house. Never has this rung truer than when speaking of Malta’s House(s) of Character. While most were built in the 17th and 18th centuries, some date back as far as 500 years ago, and true to their name, carry within their rustic limestone walls a legacy steeped in history, culture, and tradition.
What is a House of Character?
Some might be quick to detract from the uniqueness of these houses by pointing out their architectural cousins the farmhouse, the townhouse, and the palazzino, but they differ from each of these structures in at least one very key way. Farmhouses are found on the outskirts of a town, or more commonly, in rural areas away from the hustle and bustle of village life and with few to no neighbours in the immediate vicinity, while Houses of Character are usually centrally located, within walking distance of most establishments and plenty of neighbours to mingle with. Townhouses might share similar location features, but lack the individuality of Houses of Character, as they’re all built in a uniform size and manner. Palazzinos were, as the name implies, the homes of the ruling class, built with the explicit purpose of flaunting wealth and status. Houses of Character were, on the other hand, built for the average family with plenty of children and livestock, the latter usually occupying the houses’ lower levels.
Since the goal of the House of Character was to facilitate such cohabitation, it can be described as multifunctional, and as such, haphazard additions added on throughout the centuries are a common attribute of this whimsical dwelling, as quaint features such as wells, mangers, storage pits, cellars, drinking troughs, barn doors and even extra rooms, amongst others, were chiseled out of a wall or built as needed over the course of several generations. One common aspect found throughout most Houses of Character, however, is the central courtyard or garden, around which the rest of the house is built, thereby providing easy access to most of the house’s rooms, including the upper floors, by means of external staircases. Today it’s common to find these courtyards/gardens fitted with pools.
Why Buy a House of Character?
There are several elements that make a House of Character an attractive investment. Those with a penchant for the past would swoon over the limestone walls, Roman arches, vaulted ceilings, wooden beams, quaint courtyards, welcoming entrance halls with the essential Sotto Specchio, and natural stone floors overlaid with the increasingly rare traditional Maltese tile, which often features in interior design magazines outside our shores. For others, the bucolic atmosphere serves as a form of tranquil refuge from the frenetic pace of modern Maltese life. The fact that no two Houses of Character are the same also appeals to many, who would take pride in knowing their property is one of a kind. Moreover, because these houses are typically found in traditional villages, their neighbourhoods are often protected by law from excessive development, a modern issue which plagues many of Malta’s towns.
Is it a Good Investment to Buy a House of Character in Malta or Gozo?
From a financial perspective, these properties only appreciate in value over time, making them a worthwhile investment even in today’s inflated economy. The demand for houses of character for sale in Malta and Gozo is growing, so if you find the right house of character and restore it well, it is one of the best property investments you can make.
Furthermore, because of their high historic value and age-related vulnerability, Houses of Character qualify under the Maltese government’s incentive to protect and preserve traditional and/or classic Maltese architecture, thereby raising awareness of Malta’s cultural heritage. This incentive
offers potential first-time buyers a €15,000 grant when purchasing a property in an urban conservation area in Malta, and double that (€30,000) for one in Gozo. Restoring them will see owners eligible for grants of up to €54,000 on the first €300,000 spent on their restoration. Additionally, all qualifying properties are exempt from taxes or stamp duty, a scheme limited to the first €750,000 of the property’s value. Worth noting is that Houses of Character have also proven to make great rental homes, translating to a substantial secondary income for investors. For all these reasons and more, sellers will never find a shortage of buyers.
Converted or Unconverted?
Houses of Character for sale in Malta
are either converted or unconverted and prospective buyers will have to ask themselves which route is the better option during their property search. Unconverted properties lack most, if not all the commodities that make a home habitable in the 21st century. Therefore, while they’re definitely cheaper at face value, buyers must be ready to invest a substantial sum of money into their restoration, which would naturally significantly increase their value. While undeniably challenging, many regard this undertaking as a labour of love, and appreciate the fact that they can tailor their house to their own specific tastes and needs, a perk lost on those who buy one which is move-in ready. Because of their growing scarcity and price, many buyers find they have no choice but to purchase an unconverted property, as less and less people are willing to sell their beloved House of Character.
Buying a House of Character - The Challenges
The main challenge faced by buyers of converted Houses of Character is financial, as prices of these gems continue to soar. That of unconverted ones can be loosely described as transforming a house while preserving its historical and cultural integrity. This is no mean feat, as adding essentials like ventilation, plumbing, insulation, air conditioning, damp proofing, and electrical upgrades must all be done while adhering to strict MEPA regulations and traditional building methods (which is why it’s so important to ensure you hire skilled workers for such a project). It’s important to remember also that maintenance expenses of such old buildings are considerably higher than that of modern ones, regardless of the condition in which one buys the house.
The Bottom Line- Is a House of Character the Right Property for you?
- Owning a House of Character is owning a highly desirable piece of Maltese history.
- Quaint, charming, and usually found in bustling traditional Maltese villages; a great place to raise a family.
- Within walking distance to most establishments.
- Usually in areas protected from overdevelopment.
- High appreciation value due to limited supply.
- Very attractive government incentives to help with the purchase and renovation of these homes
- Costly to purchase, renovate, and maintain.
- Neighbourhoods can be noisy for those who prefer quieter, more rural areas.
- Adhering to strict government regulations can be a hassle.
- Oftentimes, final expenses for converting these houses far exceed projected expenses.
Where do we come in?
Excel Homes understands how important and life-changing such a purchase is. Our dedicated team with years of real estate experience goes above and beyond in helping match discerning buyers and sellers of converted or unconverted Houses of Character for sale in both Malta and Gozo. Check out our large inventory and contact us today! We are here to help you.