Buying older property in Malta – the watch-out list

  • 30.July 2012
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Malta and Gozo boast a considerable number of older Maltese properties which find themselves consistently on the Malta real estate market and top the popularity lists of such. There are several benefits in buying property in Malta that is older, not least being the prestige which comes with owning a property which possesses a long and possibly coloured history.  Older properties are usually blessed with several unique and identifiable features. However one needs to keep a watchful eye for certain typical sore points which such older properties usually include. Here’s a list of things to notice, observe and ask advice about when you are purchasing older properties on the islands.

• One of the most common problems in older properties is humidity in ground floor and basement areas. In the past it was not customary to insulate the foundations from rising damp. The way most old buildings were built was not generally conducive to any permanent damage from humidity, however modern living does not co-exist happily with humid walls. Therefore when viewing an older Malta property , look at the lower part of walls in ground floor areas and see if you notice any signs of rising damp or any signs of mould. This will manifest through flaking paint, uneven wall surfaces, and blotchy marks. Where walls have been covered with panelling, wallpaper, are hidden by furniture or have been recently whitewashed, make sure you have access to a revealed part of the wall so as to assess if humidity exists or not.

• Another common problem also linked to humidity of a different kind is that caused by water seepage. This time instead of looking downwards you have to look upwards at the ceilings which are exposed to the elements from the exterior. Any ground floor rooms which have a roof and any upper floors which have a roof, must be observed for signs of seepage in ceilings. Again one of the clearest indications of water seepage is soiled whitewash, stains in corners, signs of water seepage trickling down walls or rusted metal beams where beams exist. Water seepage is a very serious problem which may or may not be resolved easily and it is always best to request the assistance and advice of an experienced architect.

• Water systems in older buildings usually need to be completely re-fitted most especially if such buildings have been closed and unoccupied for a number of months or years. Disuse or abuse over the years would have caused the old system of metal pipes to rust and become irretrievably clogged and damaged.

• Old drainage systems also have a reputation of becoming badly blocked and if these need to be replaced, one has to estimate the repercussions of such an overhaul to the entire house.

• Old electricity systems are generally speaking, considered rather unsafe. Again expert advise is important in determining whether the electricity system needs to be changed, entirely or in part.

These hints are not meant to scare prospective buyers from purchasing older properties, since some such properties are genuinely in good shape and only need minor interventions and regular maintenance. Whichever the case, remember that professional Malta real estate agents can always recommend reputable experts to help you decide what needs changing or altering and what can live happily on the way it has done for so many years.

Written by Marika Azzopardi

Marika Azzopardi is a freelance writer and journalist. A frequent contributor to national English language papers and magazines, she writes about a bevy of topics including art, people and life in general. She is also the author of children’s books and short stories, delving into adult fiction from time to time.