VBL Group is the largest private owner of real estate in Valletta, with assets used for residential, office, retail and hospitality purposes. Co-Founder and former Chairman Dr Andrei Imbroll currently serves as its CEO.

VBL is in the business of developing and managing real estate in Malta’s capital, Valletta. What attracted you to this particular market?

When VBL was first set up, back in 2012, Valletta was a place which primarily elicited nostalgia, packed with majestic crumbling palazzos with barely a soul wandering the streets after dusk. On the other hand, the city still stood proudly on the world map as Malta’s capital and welcomed every tourist visiting the island – but just for those couple of hours it took to walk down its main streets and visit the world-famous cathedral. This displacement between capital cities was clearly visible, and so was the opportunity. Valletta lacked private investment, a plan and a vision, and with these three elements VBL Group was founded. We foresaw the reality before us today, with the gap narrowing between Valletta and neighbouring EU capital cities, both in terms of the ‘capital city experience’ as well as in the subsequent appreciation of property values this brings.

Valletta is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, creating headaches as well as opportunities for development. How has VBL navigated through what is surely a complex legal and regulatory environment? And have Malta’s authorities been supportive?

Every single law and regulation safeguarding Valletta and the beauty that it holds should be celebrated every single day, as the steadfast development restrictions have allowed Valletta to be developed in a sustainable manner. As a group we are well-versed in all elements of property development; working within the restrictions of a UNESCO World Heritage Site certainly adds challenges, but these challenges have led to Valletta being virtually unspoilt.

With the various business lines we are involved in, we are dealing with numerous authorities on a daily basis. I would say that a business like ours, that is particularly non-intrusive, has the support and trust of the local authorities, with the level of bureaucracy certainly reducing to a level which is manageable.

Can you identify any pros and cons, or particular benefits and challenges, that foreign investors in Maltese real estate should look out for?

The Maltese real estate market is a very strong and dynamic one. Malta’s population is still growing – one of the few in Europe – offering a good foundation for further growth. As in any other market, though, supply and demand are key. We have chosen to focus on Valletta primarily because of that safety net. Valletta’s supply is defined, both by its geographical nature, being a peninsula, as well as by the protection afforded to its skyline by UNESCO. This ensures that Valletta’s upward trajectory will continue as long as we remain sensitive to its history and culture.

The same cannot be said for the rest of Malta. With the advent of high-rise developments, the increase in supply might create volatility on the market. Identifying the right real estate segment or location is the main challenge for a foreign buyer who does not have a deep local knowledge of the real estate sector.

If you had to give foreign investors looking at Malta’s real estate a word of advice, what would it be?

On the macro level, I would say to buy where your square metre value cannot be diluted, particularly by oversupply. When it comes to the finer detail, I would advise all foreign buyers to ensure they engage advisors that are exclusive to them. Buying property in a jurisdiction one is not familiar with can be tricky.

This feature was first carried in the Malta Invest 2024 edition. Malta Invest is the first-ever comprehensive international investment guide focusing on Malta as a destination. It is produced by Content House Group.

Featured Image:

by Inigo Taylor

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