It has been three years since the pandemic upended our lives but the real estate market is still reeling from the shock to the system as our relationship with our homes and offices have changed irrevocably. And this change is most visible in the office market as companies have streamlined their space requirements by allowing their staff to continue to work from home. This has inevitably led to a rethink of the property supply. “What you used to take for granted two or three years ago is not [valid] anymore,” says Ruben Vassallo, CEO of Vassallo Group Realty. While the Group continues to see an increase in demand for residential and commercial properties there has been a “total change in the office market”.

“Companies don’t require such large areas anymore. I don’t think this will change in the near future,” continues Ruben. With cranes dominating Malta’s skyline, the question of whether Malta has reached saturation point in terms of property supply comes only naturally. “From our side we’re limited in the supply we have, so we’re not talking about major changes in our portfolio but as a country we should study the supply we put on the market very closely. The country should start looking at what demand there is and what supply we provide. Projects should be based on research studies rather than gut feelings. We [as a Group] don’t go for the
gut feeling approach. “The country’s economy is heavily invested in property, not just us [as a Group]. Any changes affecting the country are worrying to us. Is Malta still attractive for business? Will new companies continue to come to set up shop in Malta? The market is built for new companies coming in but if they stop coming then it’s just an internal competition.”

He conceded that in some sectors, such as hotels, Malta was reaching oversupply but construction was continuing regardless of an MHRA study which showed there are too many hotel rooms. “As a country we don’t truly study the research available. The office sector faces the same issues, probably a bit worse. We are seeing a lot of offices going up and demand going down. Demand for the residential market is still there. We have been through a very big building boom in Malta but going forward things need to change and we must admit that,” explains Ruben, adding that Malta would do better to focus on “quality rather than quantity”. After closing “a very good year”, Ruben and his team are now looking forward to a “very busy” six months ahead with the completion of Dar San Gużepp in Gozo and a new home for alternative care in Senglea scheduled to be finished in 2024.

VGR will also be overseeing the expansion of some of CareMalta’s properties and starting the construction of a new seafront apartment block in Bugibba. Dar San Gużepp will not be the only project in Gozo as the Group is awaiting the permit to commence works on transforming a former discotheque in the heart of Victoria into a specialised service delivery by HILA. Adapting a property for a completely different use presents numerous challenges, not least the question of whether or not to preserve the old building itself or start completely afresh. “This is a very particular building but we will keep the exterior as a focal point.” Santa Rosa in Mosta presented a similar challenge as it occupies the site of two traditional townhouses. Here, Ruben was inspired by his grandmother’s house and that feeling of love and support he always felt when entering her home. “I remember the entrance to her house was pink and I wanted to recreate it. We kept the facade and the main entrance so that when you enter, it feels like home.”