Many of us who call Malta home run our own business. If you’re planning to join the burgeoning class of entrepreneurs, you may also be on the hunt for office space or some type of commercial real estate in Malta.
Commercial property in Malta is a bit less widely available than the residential equivalent. It also tends to be more specialized, obviously, depending on the type of business you run.
Compared to renting or buying a residential property, there is an even greater expectation of caveat emptor and that both parties know what they’re doing when it comes to commercial property.
For all of those reasons, it is crucially important that you do your research, have a plan and seek advice whenever possible. This guide will help you draw up your plan and make essential decisions like whether to buy or rent in Malta.
Types of Malta’s Commercial Real Estate
In Malta, properties must have a permit that classify them into one of 19 “use classes“. These range from residential dwellings to hotels to food and drink establishments.
Restaurants for Sale and for Let in Malta
Restaurants need a Class 4D permit (note that 4C permits allow for food and drink to be sold and served but no cooking is allowed on the premises) to operate in Malta.
As well as permits, look out for details like whether a restaurant has a patio (also known as a terrace or back yard) and the state of the kitchen fixtures.
There is a fairly even split between for-sale and for-rent restaurant properties in Malta. As with residential space, whether they are in the north (more expensive) or south (less expensive) is a good first indicator of what price range they’ll fall into.
Offices for Creative or White Collar Businesses
Look out for things like whether a particular office space is equipped with air conditioning, separated washrooms (versus shared with other tenants), proximity to a bus stop and elevator access.
Note that especially in the case of office listings in the Valletta area, some agents may take creative license and prominently feature the names of nearby neighborhoods for office space in second-tier areas.
As usual, the listings for blank office spaces will often include renderings or photos of what a designer thinks the space might look like when furnished rather than what it actually does now.
Office space for rent in Malta come in all shapes and sizes from a hot desk to a multi-floor set of a variety of rooms. You’ll most likely find that most are serviced offices, meaning you can simply rent the space and focus on growing your business.
There are a few offices for sale in Malta. Some, such as those with a dedicated reception and waiting area suitable for a doctor’s office, clearly have a specific purpose in mind. While a minority have a general-purpose setup.
A Class 4A permit is required for offices in Malta.
The Geography of Commercial Real Estate in Malta
Because Malta combines a thriving and traditional local culture with a great deal of interest from expats there is a broad spread between its different areas when it comes to commercial property. For instance you might find:
- Open concept offices with contemporary finishes in a new development in Mriehel.
- A blank space in Paceville that is suitable for conversion into a coworking space.
- The penthouse office in a historic building in Valletta.
- Warehouse space with a garage-style loading dock in San Gwann.
Restaurants and other tourist-friendly commercial real estate tends to be more expensive the closer to the sea you get.
Commercial Property for Rent in Malta
Renting office space in Malta follows a fairly standard process. Note that:
- In Malta, commercial real estate rental agreements list the rent based on a per square meter, per year rate.
- Future rate increases are often baked into the original agreement.
- Landlords will often want you to sign on for at least two years, but it may be possible to negotiate this down.
- You should keep a close eye on what extra costs, especially maintenance, you’re responsible for paying.
- Options to sublet all or part of the space and to have first refusal on nearby spaces (so you can expand) need to be clearly stated.
Buying Commercial Property in Malta
You may want to buy your Maltese commercial property for a variety of reasons. Maybe you are confident that you’ll stay the same size over the long term or want more latitude on making changes to fixtures.
Important things to know before choosing to buy a commercial property for sale in Malta include:
- EU citizens who have not lived in Malta for a minimum of five years may need a permit to buy property here.
- Non-EU citizens are only rarely issued permits for buying commercial property in Malta.
- Transfers are subject to an 8% withholding tax on the value of the property (less brokerage fees.)
- No annual property taxes are levied in Malta.
- If you choose to eventually rent your property, rental income is subject to taxes on the usual progressive income tax scale.
Malta’s Commercial Real Estate: Rent vs. Buy
When it comes down to it renting versus buying is a business decision first, but considerations about legal requirements and regulations come a close second. For instance:
- If you do not satisfy the citizenship (any EU country, including Malta) and residency (five years in Malta) requirements it will be much simpler to rent a property.
- In fact, buying a commercial property may be legally impossible for those who don’t have an EU passport.
- The relatively high transfer tax (which applies to the higher of the assessed value or the sale price) means that you should really want to hold onto the property you plan to buy for several years.
Malta’s Commercial Property Market in a Nutshell
The rule that location is the first, second and third-most important factor for real estate applies doubly for commercial spaces. It makes sense to seek out professional advice and keep in mind that:
- Malta’s commercial property will vary drastically between new and old, north and south, seaside and inland, as well as a few other factors.
- Price is usually calculated on a per-square-meter basis.
- If you’re not an EU citizen or haven’t lived in Malta for five consecutive years it may be much simpler to rent rather than buy commercial property in Malta.
Reach out and I’ll be happy to help if you have further questions about this very important decision.