With a continuous stream of tourists and expats flocking to our islands and the secondary income it guarantees, wanting to turn a property into a rental makes sense. But here’s the kicker: Turning a property into a source of income is easy – keeping it that way further down the road is much harder.
Giovanna Hammet has years of experience in real estate under her belt, having renovated and restored multiple properties in Bulgaria, the UK, and Malta. For this article, we’ve asked her to take us through key considerations anyone flipping a property into a rental should keep in mind.
1. Prioritise the right items in the bathroom
Don’t overinvest in the cosmetics: “Bathrooms for rentals rarely need designer ceramic ware, a toilet’s a toilet after all,” Giovanna tells us, “but do buy the best quality taps you can afford. Due to the water quality here in Malta chrome and steel seem to deteriorate and stain very quickly. By buying better quality you will minimise the number of times you have to change your taps between tenants.”
2. Avoid aluminium wherever possible
Avoid aluminium wherever possible in Malta. “It is unsympathetic to older properties and there will inevitably be issues with condensation. If you can’t afford, or don’t want, wooden apertures, then go for UPVC instead. It’s long lasting, maintenance free, and has all the advantages of aluminium without the problems.”
3. Keep humidity in mind
“Tenants often don’t understand the nature of humidity in Malta and don’t air the property often enough and this can lead to problems with Mildew (Moffa).” She explains, “Aluminium will make this worse. This factor may also affect your choice of paint. It is possible to buy easy wipe, mildew resistant paint (often sold as bathroom paint) which is worth using everywhere in rentals. This will help avoid complaints from your tenants regarding dampness when really the problem is air humidity.”
4. Rethink soffits
“Soffits (false ceilings) with fitted lights can look lovely,” She concedes, “but they’re a major headache when you need to change the lights, so are better avoided in a rental property.”
“While they (soffits) look fine in a modern apartment, they are unsympathetic to the style of the traditional Maltese townhouse so only use them if absolutely necessary. That said, they are usually an unnecessary expense so save yourself the money and trouble and go for wall lights where possible. It’s advisable to choose a style where it’s easy to change bulbs, preferably without having to remove the shade. The fewer opportunities to break the shade you give tenants the better, as you will inevitably have to replace it yourself!”
5. Select high-gloss paint for high traffic rooms
For high traffic rooms like kitchens and bathrooms, specify high-gloss or semi-gloss paint since the higher the shine, the easier it is to clean and maintain. Remember to buy easy wipe, mildew resistant paint.
6. Avoid gas hobs and ovens
“It’s always preferable to avoid gas hobs and ovens in rentals. Electricity is a cleaner and safer alternative.” She cites space as an important reason behind opting for electricity: “Gas tanks for cookers are required to be kept outside the dwelling and while this is feasible in a townhouse with a garden its more difficult in apartments, where it will inevitably spoil the amenity of any balcony.”
Preserving cleanliness is another reason for this: “Gas cookers are prone to problems of soot which can leave residue on your tiles and walls and pots and pans, if you provide them.” Ease of use should also be kept in mind. If your renters aren’t local, replacing and operating gas cylinders – which may be designed slightly differently than what they’re used to, might become a headache. Worst case scenario, you may have to end up changing the gas cylinders yourself.
Giovanna also recommends a split oven and hob over the combined alternative, “The split oven and hob is advisable as they will rarely both go wrong at the same time, so your tenant will never be left entirely unable to cook!”
7. Choose the right countertop
For countertops and vanities, it’s important to find an intersection between price of material and durability. Laminate is cheap, but usually doesn’t survive long in a rental. Quartz is the most durable, but very expensive. For a balanced solution, Giovanna suggests solid wood.