House with Hammet: Shell or finished? A guide for first time buyers

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Should you go for a property that’s still in shell form, or finished? While deciding if your property must have a sea view is a matter of personal taste, figuring out if a property is better bought in shell form or fully finished takes a little more homework. 

Do you feel a tug at your heartstrings every time you see a shiny property advertised on your social dashboard – be it Facebook or Instagram? With estate giants such as Remax, Franksalt and Dahlia hopping on the digital marketing brandwagon and making their catalogue of properties available online, a quick google search is all you need to find an overwhelming amount of listings.

Now, a real estate agent can properly guide and help you choose the right place, but if you’re not quite at that stage (of hiring one) yet, it’s helpful to know what kind of properties are more suitable to your plans and lifestyle. It’ll narrow down your search, and allow you to have a clear vision of where you’re headed.
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Understand the difference between a “Shell” and “Complete” home

A Shell home or a property in ‘shell’ form is a striped down, “bare bones” version of a place. It’ll include basic excavation, foundation, framing, siding, roofing and sometimes the installation of windows and doors.  The inside of a SHELL home is typically left unfinished save for sub-floor and stud walls. A shell home tends to have plumbing and electricity installed, but not always.

On the other hand, a complete home is typically considered to be turnkey construction, meaning that it is completely finished both inside and out and ready for occupancy. Finishes are cabinetry, flooring, wall surfaces, tile, HVAC, plumbing fittings, light fixtures and accessories- the entire lot. 

Figure out what expenses you can afford

Many mistakenly purchase expensive homes, and can barely afford the payments. Avoid becoming “house broke”. Ideally, loan payments should be no higher than 35 percent of your net monthly income. 

Now let’s say you’re making €1750 a month (the median – at least according to our national statistics). That means – ideally – what you commit to paying every month doesn’t go above €612.5 a month. To be fair, in all likelihood, banks won’t allow you to commit more than €550 at this wage level. So, without considering down payments, that caps the maximum loan you can take to around 125 to 150k. This is just a rough estimation here, but a decent point of departure.

Ask: What’s the difference in price between the two?

Many people prefer to purchase real estate in Malta in a finished state rather than one which is still in shell form. The difference in price between a shell and finished property caters for the works carried out by the previous owner, including labour, installation and the actual purchase of several goods (kitchen, bathrooms etc).

A finished house will have a higher price tag than a shell, that’s obvious, but it will likely cost less than the total costs furnishing and finishing a shell includes. With a finished property, especially if it comes with older furniture, you have the capacity to customize and build on what’s already there.

However, for those who are not in any rush to settle into their new property in Malta, the purchase of a shell property maybe ideal. The difference in price allows them to use those funds (and possibly less) towards customising the property to their exact requirements. 

Remember: Not all that is finished is equal

Summing up what value a house’ finishings carry can be a serious challenge if you’re not familiar with the pros and cons of different materials, makes, and techniques. Take flooring, you can getwood, carpet, stone, tile, vinyl – the list goes on. Not all options cost the same, and not all will age in the same way either. Similarly, a place may have sturdy antique furniture that’ll be easy to upcycle, or it can include cheap furnishings that’ll age poorly.

The only real way to find out if a finished house is worth it is to go ahead and take a look, ask questions, and write down your answers. Just get a friend who’s familiar with the property, carpentry, and design industries to help you compare and contrast.

Plan: How soon will you need to move into the property you’re buying?

What’s your present living situation, and how comfortable is it?

This is super important. A finished property allows the new owner the added advantage of being able to move in almost immediately, whereas a shell can take many months to finish yourself. 

So if you are on a tight budget, but have no time constraints, you technically have the opportunity to gather more cash to spend on making your new home exactly the way you want it. Moreover, you can take your time to curate your home. The best antiques, furniture units, centrepieces and designs won’t be available at the showroom next door, you’re going to find them by visiting garage sales, auctions and travelling around the globe.

Consider: How familiar are you with design, carpentry & manual work? 

Are you comfortable with DIY (do-it-yourself) projects?

If you are not quite sure how to finish a property, you need to look into where you can source the labour and so on. Malta has no shortage of turn-key contractors and interior designers, so getting professionals to your side won’t be hard, but it will definitely cost you. 

One way to seriously reduce how much money you spend on finishing up a shell property is to take it upon yourself to do a chunk of the work, this can include building furniture, painting, laying the tiles and so forth. All of these require a keen eye for detail and a grasp of different techniques, so we don’t recommend you to try the ‘DIY’ route unless you have a friend or two who can lend an experienced hand. 

Be realistic: How busy are you as an individual?

What other plans or projects do you have in mind?

From setting up meetings, deadlines and dates, to coordinating between different workers, to ensuring the right supplies are available at the right times, doing up a shell requires heaps of hard work and time. If you can’t really manage such a project, we’d recommend that you hire an interior designer who can also manage the project.

A simple consultation with a designer takes you five steps closer to having a solid plan, check out these local designers here.

Alternatively, you can use our search engine to get call-backs from available designers registered on our system! 
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Our team at House Malta is always on the look-out for spaces, places, and things that are being built up, torn down, modernised, restored, or re-purposed – be it by a big team or a one-man(or woman)-army.

DO YOU HAVE A STORY, A PERSON, OR A PLACE IN MIND?

Send us a message on our Facebook page or via email, [email protected]
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