Buying your first property in Malta

  • 01.July 2009
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Buying a property is one of the most important decisions of your life. It combines your personal hopes and dreams with wanting what’s best for you and your family. Here are some tips that will help you enjoy a trouble-free journey to your new home.

Figure out how much you can spend

If you start shopping for homes without knowing how much you can spend, you will not only waste time looking at the wrong homes, but you may ultimately be disappointed at what you can actually afford. So take a good look at your financial situation and speak with your bank manager to determine how much you can afford.  This will minimize the fear of being rejected for a home loan when the opportunity arises. 

Many mistakenly purchase expensive homes, and can barely afford the payments. Avoid becoming “house broke.” Ideally, loan payments should be no higher than 35% of your total monthly income. This way, you can comfortably pay your mortgage and care for other household expenses.

Make a Wish List

Given your price range, start writing down the things you’d like in a house: number of bedrooms, garage, views etc. Prioritize each item as either a “must have” or “would like to have” so you can determine what is most important and which items you are comfortable sacrificing. Try to be realistic! Decide on the type of property. Do you want a modern apartment or a house of character? What locations are you ready to  consider?

Choose a Real Estate Agent in Malta

Do you have the time, energy, sources of information, and market knowledge to find the right property in Malta for you? That’s why it’s in your best interest to choose an experienced real estate agent  in Malta who listens to and understands your needs. Having a skilled agent on your side can help you avoid making costly mistakes, especially if it’s your first time buying a home. A real estate agent will:

     Give you a wider choice by showing you a large selection of properties

     Explain all the procedures and expenses involved in buying a property

     Negotiate the right price for you

     Suggest a reputable notary

     Keep you informed as new properties come onto the market

 Remember… a skilled and knowledgeable real estate agent will save you time and money.

The “Red Shoes” Experience

Women will relate to this. Say, you need a new pair of red shoes. At the first shoe store, you find a fabulous pair of red shoes. You try them on. They fit perfectly. Priced right, too. Do you buy them? Of course not! You go to every other store in Sliema trying on red shoes until you are ready to drop from exhaustion. Then you return to the first store and buy those red shoes. Do not shop for a home this way. When you find the perfect home, buy it.

Begin the House Hunting!

Now comes the fun part. But don’t try or expect to view 25 properties per day! Although it’s physically possible to do so, your brain will be overload and you probably will not remember specific details about any of them. An experienced estate agent will probably show you 10 of the best properties on the market. If none of these meet your expectations, the agent will analyze your feedback and prepare a new list. When viewing properties:

     Always bring a digital camera

     Take notes about the pros and cons of every property that you see

     Pay attention to the home’s surroundings. Are the views guaranteed? Do you feel comfortable with the neighborhood? What is next door?

     Immediately after leaving, rate each home on a scale of 1 to 10

     Never focus on the problems. Focus on the possibilities.

View Top Choices a Second Time

After touring homes for a few days, you will probably instinctively know which one or two homes you would like to buy. Avoid making snap decisions. Ask to see these properties again. You will see them with different eyes and notice elements that were overlooked the first go-around.

A key question to ask during your second visit is how long the house has been on the market. The amount of time will give you an idea of how flexible the owner is on price. If the house has been on the market for a month, the owner isn’t going to be very flexible. If it has been on the market for a year, flexibility will definitely exist.

Noise is another big issue to consider. If you are serious about the property, make sure to drive by during the evening and weekends.

In the euphoria of buying a property, practical issues can be missed. A big one is traffic. Specifically, what is the commute like between the house and your place of work? If you don’t have a car, how far is the house from the village square, the shops and the bus stage?

A Final Word

Once you have found your dream home it’s time to put a serious offer. The estate agent will probably do all the negotiations for you. It’s human nature to try to strike a deal, but if your offer is not accepted and it seems to be priced correctly, consider buying it at the full asking price rather then risking losing the property altogether.

Get your home inspected by an experienced architect who will impartially check the structural condition and verify all the necessary MEPA permits.  After all, it will give you the peace of mind of knowing what condition the home is truly in. Remember, there will always be another house to come along. So even if you miss one due to your cautious approach, another home will be right around the corner.

Common Mistakes

     Imagine the property vacant. Don’t be swayed by beautiful furniture… it usually leaves with the owner!

     Make sure you have enough funds to finish and furnish the property especially if it’s still in shell-form or unconverted state.

     Keep in mind the closing costs before you sign including the stamp duty and notary fees.

     Carefully consider your income level and living expenses. Take into account future considerations such as getting married, having children, etc.

·           Your dream home is certainly worth a sacrifice but don’t mortgage your entire future for it.

     If it’s not in writing, it doesn’t exist. All promises and discussions are to be in writing. Don’t make any assumptions or believe any assurances.

The Biggest Mistake of All

”We didn’t buy. We were afraid of making a mistake”. Don’t let worries overwhelm your ambitions. If you have an opportunity grabs it! Remember… dreams move on if you wait too long!

Mr. Cauchi is a property consultant with Re/Max Gozo, specializing in residential sales and property management.  (Mob: 9945-9426 / Email: [email protected])