About 3 years ago I bought and renovated my house. Back then I thought everything was taking long, about 6 months from house purchase to finished renovation. For my project of this year, managing my girlfriends house purchase and renovation… well, it took one whole year just to get the deed signed and all papers approved. It’s an old townhouse, so it needs a lot of cosmetic work done to make it safe, future proof and environmentally smart.
A lot of people ask me about house purchasing and what there is to know, so I thought I’d break it down for you so you can get a decent overview of it. So let’s say you want to buy a house in Malta. If you’re a EU citizen, you can simply move here and buy a house (in theory). If you’re not, you either need to get a permit for the purchase or you have to been residing in Malta for a minimum of 5 years.
Next step is figuring out what you can afford. Price of properties can be anywhere from €80.000 and upwards depending on locality, area and the state of the property. Personally I’m a sucker for townhouses and villa’s. Typically they are priced from €150.000 and up to several millions.
You have two ways of finding what you’re looking for, either you try to find the property yourself, that might save you some money because the seller will inflate the price to accommodate for the fee of a real estate agent. However, if your agent is a good hustler, he or she might actually be able to negotiate a better price than you would get you a better price than you would on your own. Which real estate company should you use? It doesn’t matter, everyone shares the same pool of properties (I know, crazy) so it simply comes down to finding an agent who understands you and your needs.
Getting a bank loan in Malta, especially as a foreigner, can be a bit of a sodomizing experience. While locals have to put up a 10% deposit on their loans, if you’re not Maltese you will have to pay anywhere between 20-30% depending on the current rules of the bank when you apply. Generally, if the property you’re buying doesn’t have any weird things going on with it, if it meets legal requirements according to MEPA and sanitary laws, and if your finances are good and you have a steady job, you should get a loan. Before that, the bank issues a sanction letter, which basically means they have agreed to give the loan if the searches from the notary and everything else is okay.
Some banks use their own architects (which can cost anywhere up to €600 and more) but a regular architect would charge you around €100-200 for getting the documents and plans ready for your property.
So, you’ve found the property you like, you can afford it and you want to get ready to buy. This is when you contact a notary who will draft up a promise of sale. You and the current owner both sign it and you HAVE TO make sure that the purchase is subject to bank loan (and if you want to be extra careful) and MEPA permits (if you’re planning on renovating). I have my own personal super notary, her name is Maria Spiteri and takes great care of her clients while maintaining an extremely efficient and professional work process. (Let me know if you need a notary and want her contact details.)
The notary will do all necessary searches to determine who the house has belonged to in the past and making sure the lang registry, location, rights and everything else is accurate. Since 2014 the law has changed to allow all EU citizens and locals to buy their first home tax free, this is something your notary applies for. But, you cannot have previously owned any other properties anywhere in the world.
Once the notary is done with the searches (usually takes 2-8 weeks depending on complexity) you are ready to sign the deed and buy the house. If you’ve bought a renovation object, this is when the big challenge begins. Finding the right workers, getting the job done timely and professionally. None of these things are to be taken for granted. Take your time, shop around for people to work with and go with your gut, work with people you get along with and who behave in a proper way. Be careful of hidden charges or general salesman bullshit. They do this for a living and often capitalize on your misfortune, try to minimize that.
Initially, I started writing this as a story about my own project but I hope it can be useful for you. If it is, feel free to share it and if you have any questions or comments, post them below.