It is fair to say that long-term buoyant property markets are few and far between at this moment in time. So, it may be time to look away from the traditional crowd, somewhere a little different such as Malta. While not on the primary list of many property investors, the economy is buoyant, the property market is active and many expect this to continue for some time to come.
At this moment in time the Maltese economy is growing at around 7.5% per annum although it is likely to slow a little in the short term. This is a country which has been extremely proactive in attracting new businesses/industries such as online gaming for example. As a consequence, the number of foreign workers in Malta has increased from just 5,000 in 2004 to 45,000 in 2017. The population has also increased dramatically as a consequence of migration and, also bearing in mind the size of the island, there is growing demand for housing.
Reasons to be optimistic
The Central Bank of Malta has been talking about house price increases and reasons why these are likely to continue. Factors to take into consideration include:
Individual Investor Programme
Malta currently runs an Individual Investor Programme together with citizenship and residency programmes all of which require the purchase of property.
Tendency towards homeownership
At this moment in time first-time buyers are able to climb onto the Malta property ladder and further strengthen the tendency towards homeownership as opposed to rental. Whether this will change as new industries grow and more foreign workers move to Malta remains to be seen.
Low interest rates and growing disposable income
Like many countries around the world, the Malta housing market has benefited from historically low interest rates. When you also factor in low unemployment at 3.5% and growth in disposable income, this is a perfect scenario for house price growth.
The fact that the Malta population continues to grow, and there are only a physical number of properties which can be built on the island, has created continued growth in demand for accommodation.
Holidaymakers and retirees
Even before the introduction of new industries such as online gaming, Malta was a magnet for holidaymakers and retirees. The strong connection with the UK has also been instrumental in attracting a wider audience.
At this moment in time house price growth is averaging between 7% and 10% per annum with a similar trend in rental charges. Even though the market cannot grow at this rate forever, many property experts believe there is still significant pent-up demand for years to come. As a consequence, international property investors have begun to turn their attention to Malta with particular demand from South African investors. It would appear that the relative stability of Malta is a welcome breath of fresh air for those who are more used to investing in South African property.
It may have taken some time to put together but there are very attractive building blocks in place which should see significant growth in the Maltese property market for some time to come. Natural population growth tethered with a significant increase in overseas workers will create a strong flow of homebuyers and renters. In some ways the biggest challenge may be controlling this excessive demand (compared to the worldwide situation) and avoiding the excesses of a boom and bust scenario.