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A slice of rural paradise, going cheap

Gozo’s unspoilt habitat makes it soughtafter as a second home. Photo: Chris Farrugia Studios (CFS).

Gozo’s unspoilt habitat makes it soughtafter as a second home. Photo: Chris Farrugia Studios (CFS).

After a bumpy few years, the property market in Gozo is starting to rally and canny investors with an eye on a second home or a place to retire to might do well to buy now. The market seems to be steady rather than rising, however, so buyers need to be in it for the long haul and they should have an eye on re-sale value to protect their investment.

Estate agent Giovanni Saliba is the director of Giovanni Estates in Gozo. He says that, compared to the past few years, when at times it seemed impossible to sell properties due to oversupply and lack of demand, he is now selling around three properties a month and has plenty of serious clients coming into his office.

“My top clients are Maltese right now,” he says, “then foreign and then the retired.”

He feels that part of this might be down to a relaxing of restrictions by MEPA. “Before, to give you a permit, they would ask you a 100 questions and always postpone the granting of permits. Right now, things are more straightforward.” He also likes the policy that means first-time buyers have the 3.5 per cent duty on the first €150,000 of the value of a property waived, as long as they sign the final deed in 2014, saying that this has helped the market considerably. Buyers save €5,250 through this measure.

In Saliba’s office, hot properties at the moment are the ones with good views and plenty of outside space (ideally a swimming pool, as well as a garden). He says he sees a trend of inside space becoming less important.

Prices for these kind of homes remain decent value for money. Giovanni says that a house of character with views will cost you around €400,000 to €500,000, but if you can bear to give up the vista, you can snag a centuries-old home for around €280,000.

Apartments start at around €90,000, but a view will bump up the starting price to €125,000. The agent notes that occasionally, you’ll find a bargain if someone has inherited a house. But, generally speaking, sellers would rather sit on a place than accept an offer that they consider to be too low.

As ever, location is king and Giovanni thinks that it makes a definite difference to the resale value. “The best locations in Gozo are Żebbuġ, Għasri, San Lawrenz, Għarb, Xagħra, Nadur, Qala and Għajnsielem,” he says. He warns buyers to avoid areas that are surrounded by animals, as this makes properties hard to sell again.

He feels strongly that there is more work to be done to boost Gozo’s profile. “I think we need to advertise Gozo much more around the world. There are some countries that don’t even know about Gozo, but it has a lot of investment potential and is a good place to live securely and peacefully.”

Islands Magazine agrees. They ranked Gozo one of the best islands to live on due to the low cost of living, proximity to Europe, rural atmosphere, friendliness of the people and the fact that English is spoken.

Both EU and non-EU citizens can buy more than one property here, unrestricted

“We developed a full-on crush [on Gozo] when the expats told us you can retire there for about €27,000 per year and that you can legally live there indefinitely as a temporary resident. You can use the island as a springboard from which to explore the rest of Europe, and according to the World Database of Happiness, you can find some of the happiest people on earth on Gozo.”

Developments like Fort Chambray, designed around a historical fortification that the Knights of St John built, are also raising the profile of the island. This complex offers villas, maisonettes and apartments in a desirable landscaped community with Gozo’s largest swimming pool lying between the former barracks and the bastion walls of this beautiful fort.

It’s a Special Designated Area, meaning that both EU and non-EU citizens can buy more than one property here, unrestricted. For non-EU citizens that’s a real draw because as part of the High Net Worth Individual Scheme, they’ll pay 15% in income tax if they buy a property worth €400,000 or pay a minimum of €20,000 a year in rent.

With first-time buyers, high-net worth individuals and applicants to the Global Residence Programme and Individual Investor Programme giving the market a boost, as well as a shortage of rental properties, it a excellent time to hop on the ferry to Gozo see whether your dream island home is on the market. Take your time though; buying is still easier than selling in this little rural paradise, so if you’re in doubt about your long-term plans, you might want to hold off until you have a clearer picture of how long you want to stay. If you do take the plunge, don’t be afraid to bargain hard to get the best possible price.

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