House Hunting in Malta



Down a cobbled lane just beyond the village square, this mid-19th-century palazzo in the central town of Birkirkara once housed the law courts for Malta, a central Mediterranean island nation south of Italy and north of Libya. The four-bedroom home, in a district with landmark protection, has the limestone walls and stone arches typical of historic Maltese architecture.

Above a trio of arched double windows, and beneath a wrought-iron balcony, carved stone corbels stretch along the facade. Double doors open onto a long reception hall with a fireplace and a barrel-vault stone ceiling. Flanked by the living and dining rooms, each with a highly polished mosaic tile floor, the reception hall extends to an interior courtyard and a large elevated patio at the far end of the palazzo. The ground floor is also home to the kitchen, a powder room and a bedroom.

€840,000 ($1.13 MILLION)


The main staircase off the reception hall opens onto the “piano nobile,” or “noble level,” as the second floor is known. Flanked by elaborately carved limestone sculptures, it is one of three staircases, adjoining a banquet-size entertaining hall with a beamed ceiling flanked by decorative corbels. Also on this floor are three master-size bedrooms, a library and two rustic red-and-beige-tiled bathrooms, each with a tub and a hand-held shower.

Birkirkara has close to 26,000 residents. One of Malta’s oldest towns, it has narrow streets and alleys lined with restored period houses favored by professionals and expatriates, said Raymond Young, a senior property consultant for Frank Salt Real Estate, the listing agency. Some have been converted to social gathering spots known as band clubs. A few yards from the palazzo is St. Helen’s Basilica, the parish church famous for its large bell; the village square is the site of a weekly open-air market. “It’s quite a simple life,” Mr. Young said. “It’s a very sweet walk around.”



Since the start of the year there has been renewed interest among local and foreign buyers alike, said Joseph Lupi, a managing director of Frank Salt. Though the first half of 2013 was slow, the second half made up for it with a “normal appreciation of 5 to 6 percent.”

During the global downturn, the Maltese market “froze for a year,” then picked up, Mr. Lupi said. Malta, which has always attracted foreign residents, “was found to be a safe haven,” with buyers from France and Italy seeking refuge from high taxes.