Walk down the streets of any town or village centre in Malta or Gozo and you’re likely to come across rows of attractive terraced houses. These traditional properties are Malta’s townhouses, built in the pre- and post-war periods or sometimes significantly earlier, as small, comfortable family homes in the heart of their communities. Despite the prevalence of new developments, many of these streetscapes have survived exceptionally well-preserved until today, offering a unique opportunity to buy property steeped in local character and tradition.
Townhouses have proved to be an extremely desirable type of property for buyers looking for everything from a well-located, luxurious conversion with historical links to an ambitious and rewarding renovation project. With their unique and characteristic architectural features, from wooden apertures and balconies to handmade floor-tiles, all of which are becoming harder and harder to find, they are an attractive proposition as homes and investments. But as with any older properties, they are not without potential drawbacks that any buyers should be aware of.
So if you’re interested in buying a townhouse in Malta or Gozo, here’s what you need to know about the advantages and disadvantages of these popular traditional properties.
Townhouses sit somewhere between apartments and larger houses in size and other respects, potentially offering buyers the best of both worlds. Like apartments, townhouses are typically quite small – with a narrow frontage and usually not more than two bedrooms – and sit right in the heart of towns and villages, close to all amenities. But they offer more living space, and with your own front door and no neighbours above or below you, they are a definite step up in terms of privacy.
It’s also usual to find back gardens or courtyards, a great addition to any property in an urban area. Typical back gardens in these homes may not be particularly large but they are a great way to add greenery, enjoy some private outdoor space, or entertain guests. Though less common, some may even be spacious enough to hold a pool or barbeque area.
For all these reasons, townhouses are a perfect combination of affordability, space, privacy and character, which makes them very attractive for couples and young families, among others.
One of the main draws of traditional properties is their unique character, which is impossible to truly replicate today. Townhouses are cultural and architectural staples of Maltese streetscapes, and even as many are lost to more modern developments, there are huge efforts underway to preserve those that remain for future generations to enjoy. These properties are usually found in older, more characteristic parts of town, so the area around your home is likely to be as special and appealing as the property itself.
Buying a townhouse allows you to own a slice of this heritage, complete with a number of characteristic features, which could include limestone facades, traditional closed wooden balconies and wooden apertures, handmade patterned floor-tiles, wrought iron balustrades and front gates, spiral staircases, wells, and quirky masonry detailing inside and out. These features are becoming rarer and more sought after as the number of these properties declines, which also means they could add significant value to your investment when you do find them.
If you’re looking for a property that’s pretty much ready to move into, you’ll find a number of townhouses on the market that have been expertly converted for modern living, with a high standard of finishing that makes them feel cozy and luxurious while embracing and maintaining the distinctive history and elements that make these properties special.
But for other buyers, the real draw of these properties is the opportunity to embark on a renovation project of their own and tailor their home to their own specific tastes, needs and desires. If this appeals to you, you can find unconverted townhouses all over Malta and Gozo just waiting to be transformed into your dream home.
Restoring an old property to its former glory while adding your personal stamp to an already colourful history is a hugely rewarding experience for those with the right inclination, and since unconverted properties usually come at lower prices that reflect their current condition, any renovations you carry out are likely to add large amounts to your property’s value.
Moreover, as part of the government’s efforts to protect and revitalise traditional urban cores, your renovation works may qualify for a rebate or subsidy that would make your project even more financially appealing.
As with any older properties, townhouses are likely to require significantly more maintenance than more modern developments. Of course, if you’re looking for a renovation project you will have already factored in the costs involved in converting and finishing the property before you move in, but projects like this can easily get bogged down in delays and extra costs, and it’s worth considering the additional expenses that may arise over the years, even with converted properties.
Older buildings tend to throw up unexpected issues more often and it’s important to be prepared, whether that means checking water and electricity systems, which may need to be changed or repaired, and being doubly certain there are no structural problems. Townhouses that are particularly old or otherwise historically significant may also require specialised works due to the sensitive nature of the property, and you may find that certain planning policies limit the sort of alterations you can carry out.
Character and history are among the most appealing features of these properties, but they do not translate into the most hassle-free home ownership: if it sounds like it might be more trouble than it’s worth, perhaps a modern property would be more suitable for you.
What people look for in a home has changed considerably over the years, and what the original architects of a townhouse had in mind is rarely ideal for a homeowner today. Furnishing and finishes can be changed and updated, but you may find that the building’s layout is a bit too quirky for your liking.
Small rooms may not suit those who like spacious, open-plan environments, and odd corners or uneven walls may pose challenges when renovating or decorating. You may find that you need to get more creative in your design or turn to custom-made furniture to make the most out of the space you have available.
Solving these problems could seem like an inconvenient hurdle or an exciting challenge, but in either case, it is certainly possible to find – or create – a successful conversion that maintains the building’s historic fabric and incorporates its traditional features into a comfortable and attractive modern living space that truly stands out. It might just take a bit more work and creativity!
Traditional streets and town centres are charming, but they are not always the most convenient place to live. Parking and even driving can be a nightmare on a busy town street or in a winding village core, where transport connections might not be as efficient if you’re not using a car. As townhouses are usually found in the older parts of town, you may find you need to travel further for amenities like supermarkets or even to commute to work every day.
As you’re likely to be sharing walls with your neighbours, you may need to contend with some noise and lack of privacy. And traditional elements of life in areas may not be to your liking: for all the excitement and character of the traditional festa, for example, the noise, crowds and closed streets it brings with it may not be too welcome when it takes over your part of town for a week in summer.
Since the availability of townhouses is more limited compared to other properties, you may find that you face a longer search, or that you need to compromise on some of the things you’re looking for to secure the right townhouse for you, and the perfect location may be one of those compromises.
The best way to make your search easier and ensure you find a property that ticks as many of your boxes as possible is making sure you have the right real estate agent to guide you. Whether you’re looking for a unique home, an exciting renovation project or an investment opportunity, your expert RE/MAX agent can give you the best assistance as you explore the townhouses available to buy in Malta and Gozo. Get in touch today at www.remax-malta.com.