International Living: The Swings & Roundabouts Of Overseas Ownership
Of all the island destinations in the Mediterranean Sea, Malta is surely the one that is the easiest to overlook. Dwarfed by the likes of Sicily and Corsica and smaller even than any of the Balearics, you would surely miss it if you blinked. At its longest point Malta barely stretches to 30km, yet it ’s still the largest island of what is in fact an archipelago. Of the other four main islands, Gozo and Comino are inhabited, Fifla is not.
For all its apparent remoteness, the Maltese Archipelago is situated more or less in the middle of the Mediterranean, quite literally at what was once the shipping crossroads between the Middle East, Africa and the rest of Europe. As a kind of melting pot for those neighbouring cultures, the islands have a very distinct flavour. Although Malta has been an independent state since 1964, it had, until that time, experienced 150 years of British rule. A very British presence also lingers in the form of tearooms, pubs, fish and chip shops and the ubiquitous red phone box. Alongside Maltese, English remains the official language amongst the islands’ sparse population of 400,000.
Small it may be, yet Malta’s tourist trade is booming. Traces of a long history, dating back as far as prehistoric times, can still be found here. Its clutch of World Heritage site, amongst them arcane temples and medieval citadels, are also major crowd pullers. So, too, is the vibrant nightlife and a folio of sporting activities which encompasses anything and everything water born.
For the less physically inclined, Malta’s beaches are a dream. All-year-round sun also means that you needn’t be off them for long. The summer season, which stretches right into mid-October, is hot but tempered by cool sea breezes. Even as winter sets in, you can still expect five hours of sunshine and temperatures nudging past the mid-teens.
Part of Malta’s unique appeal is its size. Even on the briefest visit, the close proximity of the islands means that you’re likely to achieve everything on your to-do list. A frequent ferry service operates between the three main islands and on land there is an efficient bus network. In comparison with other European countries, local rates for car hire are substantially lower.
Visit Malta once and you might want to join the thriving community of ex-pats already living there. The permanent residents scheme allows foreign nationals to settle on the islands with no minimum or maximum lengths of stay. Applicants must be able to demonstrate only a modest annual income or capital assets again of only modest means. Either way, the value of any property that is purchased on the islands forms a part of the evaluation.
The home which an applicant buys isn’t asked to be excessive. But you can also choose to rent. As a resident, applicants are obliged to import a minimum sum of goods into the islands annually, but it ’s not beyond what anyone would ordinarily do. Tax rates are very reasonable. As a general rule, overseas nationals who are granted permanent residency are not permitted to work on the islands, unless they are making a unique contribution to the tourism or catering industries.
All this ease-of-access undoubtedly account for the abundance of retired overseas wealth in Malta. As well as the broad appeal of the low rates of tax, permanent residents enjoy, amongst other things, high LTV local mortgage facilities, a legal system which is English fluent and the prospect of no local or council taxes. Additionally, permanent overseas residents are exempt from capital gains tax arising outside the islands, even if the gain is remitted within. Thus, residing permanently in Malta is realistic. However, owning a buy-to-let property might be the most sensible and cost-effective way of funding you own off-season visits to the islands. After all, perpetual sunshine means that you can enjoy a string of holidays throughout the winter months.
Malta Property Websites
Visit legal-malta.com, which is an excellent site that covers every conceivable legal and financial aspect to the purchase of property in Malta, including a guide to obtaining an AIP permit; a permit to acquire immoveable property. Air Malta is the island’s primary airline (airmalta.com). A good selection of online Maltese property pages cassar-cooper. com
Join The East London Property Rush
The eurozone crisis has scared European investors. From Dublin to Berlin and Athens, taxpayers have been cleaning out their accounts and looking for any safe haven they can find. Swiss francs and gold have been popular. But there have also been some surprises. Demand for East London property has surged. It ’s not just worried continental Europeans either. Young professionals are migrating to areas such as Shoreditch and Victoria Park, while the emergence of a technology hub around Old Street has also pushed up demand. Meanwhile, Olympic regeneration is lifting forgotten parts of the area and the £16bn expansion of Crossrail means that it will be better connected. The upshot? Buy a run-down place from auction, which foreigners won’t want to hassle with, do a quick refurb and place on the market.
Are We Overpaying For Holiday Cash?
Banks must be wondering if the bad press will ever end. With the mis-selling of payment protection insurance costing banks an estimated £5.5bn, a fresh complaint over misleading customers is all they need. Publicly funded watchdog Consumer Focus has now filed a complaint with the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) against banks and currency providers, saying that it is “unclear how much of the estimated £1bn a year charged in currency exchange fees” is warranted.
The watchdog claims that it can cost anything from £10 to £30 to turn £500 into euros, “even though the service provided is essentially the same”. Advertising slogans quoting “0% commission” and high charges for using credit and debit cards abroad have been called “unnecessary, complex and confusing”.
The group wants simpler charging structures for using cards overseas and a more transparent explanation of exchange rates, which it hopes will allow customers to make better informed decisions on where they go to change their currency. The OFT says it will provide a response on or before 20th December of this year. Ryanair has caused a bit of a rumpus with news that it is launching a pre-paid card (the Ryanair Cash Passport), which will be the only way to avoid paying booking fees. Pre-paid cards work in a similar way to pay-as-you-go mobile phones: you load them up with cash and then use the card to spend until it ’s empty.
However, the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) has pointed out that “pre-paid cards are not covered by the UK compensation scheme”. This means that if the companies providing these cards were to go bust, customers could lose all the money they’d stored on the card. So if you’re planning to get one keep an eye on how much you keep on it.
Planning A Little Trippy?
A new mobile app enables travellers to plan trips with a little help from their friends. The app, called Trippy, links the users with friends in their social networks who have information on a particular city, either through living, studying, or travelling there, who can offer recommendations.
The app is based on the idea that friends have an understanding of the likes and dislikes and the personal circumstances of the person planning the trip .
It also allows users to access their itinerary while travelling, along with their friends’ tips for each venue. Each venue is plotted on a map, complete with its address and phone number. Users can also create a trip album and share photos directly from the venues that their friends recommended.
Hotels can be booked directly through the Trippy website, which is how the company plans to generate revenue.
Although there are many companies building applications on the social graph to deliver personalized recommendations, the travel industry has been slow to adopt the technology.
Competitors include Gogobot, a similar travel site that is also aiming to tailor travel recommendations based on a user’s social network, although there is less emphasis on the collaborative aspect.