What to do when you buy a fixer-upper in Malta

  • 01.October 2018
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Are you looking to own a slice of local Maltese history? Well, many properties on the market are literally more than a couple of centuries old, exuding the quaintness and mystery of old island life. Old houses are truly beautiful and make it easy to dream of living it out in one of them, but while it may be easy to think you’ve got yourself a bargain, consider if you’ve got yourself a fixer-upper instead.

Fixer-uppers are exciting projects for those who may have the resources or grit to undertake the journey. It’s a slow process that may take some years to complete, if truly ever, but at the end you’ll get a dream house all to yourself!

So, here’s some help on how to kickstart and survive the journey.

Find the right house

Finding the right fixer-upper is challenging, not only because of the given factors of location and budget. Will you go for a townhouse, apartment, house of character, farmhouse or something else? You may feel overwhelmed with all the options, but don’t worry, our team RE/MAX sales associates will provide you with the best advice.

Each type of property presents different possibilities and limitations, for which it is important to familiarise yourself with the market and what you envision your house will look like once finished. Remember that owning an old property in Malta means that you own a piece of history; you have a duty to save it, not destroy it, so factor this in your plans!

Think finances

Purchasing a fixer-upper, although immensely rewarding, is no easy feat. Consider the finances need not only to purchase the property, but also fix it up, pay for notary research and architects amongst other things.

If you’re purchasing the property via bank loan, you will need to provide additional documentation for a higher loan to cover renovations. Additionally, consulting a notary is a must, especially with old houses that have been passed down through generations or exchanged multiple hands, as this will show the records of any structural changes that might have happened over the years.

The architect. Your new best friend

Even at the early stages of viewing properties, it’s best to have an architect at hand to help with the viewings. Architects can be invaluable as they’ll be able to guide you on the needs of house, permits and costs, and ultimately, give you a good oversight of the journey from the acquisition to moving in, especially if you’re purchasing through a bank loan.

A structural engineer is needed to establish the structural condition of the property and guide your through PA regulations, legal notices and governmental grants.

A design architect or interior designer on the other hand can help with visualising and decorating interior spaces.

Permits, please

Yes, you don’t want to hear this, but any alterations that happen in the structure or major aesthetic changes of the house, need a permit. This is where your architect comes in—they’ll be able to guide you from the start about what permits the property might require to start fixing up. Consider the some of the older properties that may be built within an Urban Conservation Area (UCA) may have additional limitations added to how they can be altered.

All the Bobs the Builders

Another thing to which the architect is essential is in seeking out all the right people to work on your fixer-upper. Start seeking out builders, electricians, plumbers, plasterers, carpenters, painters, and whatever else your property and vision for it might require.

Remember to seek out professionals with experience in restoration and old properties, given the especially saturated local market. You’ll need a quotation from everyone and a very early start workmen are very busy people and will have to be booked in advance! Consider doing some of the work yourself; you’ll be surprised that you’ll be able to do some small works, which helps immensely with cuttings costs.

Photo credit: Rodlene Gaunt.

Isaac Azzopardi
Post by Isaac Azzopardi

Isaac Azzopardi is a young artist living and working from the Mediterranean island of Malta. His practice uses notions of alchemy, materiality and colour through painting, installation and sculpture to explore the transformative elements of contemporary urban life.