Before we came to Malta, we visited a lot of the expat community forums and tried to prepare ourselves. They advised us it was going to be in our best interest to get to Malta before the start of the tourist season as the cost of rentals goes up substantially. We were also told many times that you have to be careful when, as a foreigner, dealing with landlords because they charge unfair rates (second home rates) on electric, water, etc. So we went into the entire situation with a bit of skepticism and trepidation. We were also told that rental agencies will charge you a lot of fees that you wouldn’t expect in other countries. The entire thing sounded like a mess. But we have found our way to navigate through it, thankfully!
While looking for a rental there are a few things you need to know. Rental agencies will charge you half a month’s rent for their fee, the landlord will pay the other half. If you’re from… well basically any other country that will strike you as a little weird. But it is simply par for the course in Malta. The standard rate is 1 month deposit, 1 month in advance and then the half a month fee. So if you plan to go through a rental agency, be prepared to outlay that type of money and the fee is non-refundable. Personally, since you’re not the one making money from the rental property, I think it’s entirely unfair for you to have to pay a fee to a real estate agent for this but there you have it.
Common areas for expats:
Sliema – This area is really good if you want accessibility to nightlife, shopping (things like the Tower Supermarket, they’re awesome) as well as some of the big high street stores from the UK. There’s an M&S, BHS, Zara, Next, and many others. This is a very accessible area with good transport links to the other main areas in the city. It also has a great mixture of expats and locals and wonderful seafront views in a lot of houses. Price wise it can be a bit steeper because of all of the above points, especially during the tourist season. So I’d suggest looking here when it’s off season so you get better prices.
Sweiqi – This area is just outside of St Julians and is known to be much cheaper to live in. This area has no sea front views, and is a great mix of expats and locals. Because of it’s easy access to Sliema, St Julians and surrounding areas it is a wonderful choice of places to live and since it is not immediately on the sea front it can provide larger villas, mansionettes and houses for cheaper cost. Many even have roof top patios for enjoying the sun and growing your own greens. So don’t pass this area up just because it’s not on the sea. It’s only a few minutes walk and may provide a better accomodation.
St Julians – This is an obvious choice for many expats coming to Malta, as it is in the restaurant and nightlife center of Malta. It has many of the jobs in the tourism sector as well, due to the large amount of hotels in the vicinity and bars/clubs/restaurants who are constantly looking for staff. Due to that many of the younger people who come to Malta end up staying here or in the area. This makes it easy for them to live and work in the area. The only downside in my eyes was that there seemed to be a price increase on goods in this area and the rentals were smaller for the same cost. Kai and I looked for a rental and ended up getting one in Gzira, the same price as one 1/3 the size in St Julians (though the view over Spinola bay was amazing for that one). So there are tons of opportunities to meet people, enjoy yourself and live/work. However, you may find you get less for your money in terms of space and local grocery shops. For us part of the decision to not live in St Julians was the noise of the tourists and partiers every night through summer could impact our sleep.
Gzira – I see that this gets left off a lot of lists and I know why. There are some less savoury areas of Gzira ( though honestly, Malta has basically no crime rate and so it’s more in terms of prefernece). It is set off the sea front, though the rentals are much cheaper. If you are on the side closer to Sliema you are still on the main transport routes, though traffic on the in-roads can be a giant pain at times. Here you will find many more locals than expats and more reasonable prices for shopping. From our limited time in Gzira, we did hear a lot of traffic noise from the houses so that may be something to consider through here as most windows are single paned single glazed.
Birkirkara – When we first got to Malta we wouldn’t have even considered Birkirkara but many of the other expats we met along the way suggested it as a place to look. The places found here are well away from the sea front and can prompt a bit of difficulty if you are trying to get to any of the tourist or more common areas after 10pm, due to the public transport irregularity after a certain hour. However, the rentals are much larger for the money. They may be less modern here, and older. If you are looking for modern look in St Julians and Sliema mostly. However, if you’re after something cheaper during the time you get your bearings and work in Malta you may find Birkirkara to be pleasant. Again it has good transport links, though it doesn’t have the same easy access as the sea front areas.
Some of the most common are
Don’t want to go with a rental agency? Have a look on http://www.maltapark.com (Malta Park) and look on the Times of Malta website. Both have many listings. Also keep your eyes peeled for signs posted on doors and sides of building, as most will advertise locally as well. Don’t be afraid to haggle either.
Little known fact: Real estate moves quickly in Malta for renters, especially in tourist season, however recent stats show that over 60% of the islands homes are uninhabited. So don’t be afraid to negotiate prices if you’re in a non-tourist area. But also don’t struggle too much as things move quickly. We saw ours the same day it was listed and made an offer right away and many of the websites online portals for the real estate agents are not updated with frequency so go in person if you can.