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Making the right move

As iGaming companies grow and mature, so too do their offices, say Jeff Buttigieg, Chief Operating Officer, and Edward Agius, Regional Letting Manager at RE/MAX.

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The merger boom in the iGaming industry is also a major theme for Malta’s real estate sector. Consolidation means exponential growth, and combined companies often require double the space to house all employees under one roof. When it comes to office relocations, Malta is currently experiencing a surge in activity, and we often advise our clients to plan ahead. It’s particularly difficult for smaller companies experiencing high growth to find the right size of space to serve their current and future needs. The industry is still booming, and it is not unusual for companies to outgrow their offices within a very short period. Our advice: hire a larger space that, quite literally, offers room to grow, but sublet it until it is needed. Office space can be a drain on resources, however subletting solves the problem of having too much space that is underutilised until a company’s operations expand.

RE/MAX Malta rental apartment.

2017 Office Trends

In Malta, the availability of commercial space has increased significantly in recent years, and today the island has some of the most sophisticated office spaces in Europe. However, there is still a demand for more, and we at RE/MAX are asking developers to convert buildings into offices which are central, spacious and have sufficient parking facilities. It is important for us to offer excellent quality developments with the latest technology. We are aware that bright offices with terraces and outside areas are the foundation for iGaming companies to create work spaces that boost creativity, spark innovation and motivate employees. While the ‘white office look’, often with a splash of colour, has long been popular, we are currently seeing a move towards industrial features, including concrete floorings and walls. Today, iGaming companies are often bringing their own designers to create workspaces with the best office interior architecture. Sliema and St. Julian’s are still the preferred office locations, however nowadays, companies are spreading out throughout the island. Just a few kilometres away from the traditional hotspots, in areas such as Gzira, Msida and Swieqi, prices can be 20% lower.

Pushing for Quality

As demand for properties for the iGaming industry has continued to increase at a rapid pace, Maltese investors have discovered the opportunity of buying properties for the sole reason of letting them out. Many new properties over the last five to six years have been purchased with the main requisite of accommodating the growing industry. As Malta’s iGaming industry continues to boom, its employees are dominating the residential rental market. At RE/MAX, up to 29% of properties are being rented by people working in the sector. Co-living is also a growing trend, and we are seeing an increase in professionals in the gaming industry choosing to share rental properties.

It is true that prices have increased in recent years, however, there has also been a drive towards quality. Over the last 17 years of servicing the iGaming industry in Malta, we have seen a sharp increase in the quality of not only the furnishings, design and finish of properties, but also in the quality of the service that is being delivered to the staff, management and the executives of iGaming companies. There is growing awareness that the cosmopolitan Northern Europeans expect nothing less than the same modern, minimalist style which they are accustomed to in their own countries.

Experts for iHoming  

The influx of iGaming companies that were literally packing their bags lock, stock and barrel and moving to Malta, also caused a need for new blood within the real estate sector. We were the first company to identify this trend and hired five or six associates to specialise in and cater for this demand. The letting industry is very close to our hearts. As a matter of fact, before we founded RE/MAX in Malta, we were J&K Properties or better known as ‘The Letting Specialists’. In 1999, we opened the first fully fledged letting agency in Malta, which catered for every need of a relocating individual or company. In life one should never forget their roots, and while we have become the largest real estate company in Malta and Gozo with over 350 sales and letting agents and 24 offices, letting has always been central to the success of the company.

Our letting team has grown tremendously over the years, however we still have most of the original team intact. In just a year, RE/MAX has grown from 20 to 35 letting associates, catering for several different sectors. However, iGaming has consistently topped the charts accounting for 30 to 40% of our business. As the industry grows, so does RE/MAX Lettings. In 2017, we are planning to increase our staff by another 50% to meet the rising demand, and this growth trend extends to the entire firm: RE/MAX Malta is to grow to 450 agents, and we plan to open another 10 offices.

A Trusted Partner

Our commitment to the iGaming industry cannot be questioned. Over the years we have exhibited at ICE, organised iGaming Socials, coordinated five-a-side football tournaments, and for the past eight years we have been organisers, as well as founding partners, of the Malta iGaming Seminar (MiGS). MiGS was originally organised by five companies with the main objective to attract new business to Malta. The event has evolved into a global conference attracting over 400 delegates, international experts, major sponsors and has recently been rated as one of the top ten iGaming conferences to attend.  

We have become a one-stop-shop for the iGaming industry and have built long-term relationships with many clients that often go beyond the rental of property. We even help with issues such as finding nannies and schooling for children. While most business in this segment is rental, we are seeing increasing numbers of iGaming executives purchasing property. Malta has become their home and they are ready to invest, confirming that the iGaming is here to stay.

RE/MAX office solutions in Malta.

Growth Ahead

Malta as an iGaming jurisdiction is an excellent choice. The infrastructure is ever improving, and there are an abundance of incentives. Favourable tax and affordable cost of living result in the lifestyle being second-to-none. Malta is a place that will ensure that any employer will retain its workforce: 10 months of sunshine annually, excellent seaside accommodation, an array of different entertainment venues, restaurants galore and an airport that reaches any destination in Europe within three to four hours. A small island that sees some 2 million tourists per year, Malta is also home to several major international corporations.

Malta is doing exceptionally well in all areas of the economy. We are a jurisdiction that is miles ahead in terms of regulation, licensing, training and having the most credible people to work with. We do, however, see room for more big retail brands here, such as Louis Vuitton or Gucci for example. For the future of Malta, we expect to continue to see the iGaming industry grow, as well as other sectors such as financial services. We believe that we at RE/MAX, need to continue to be the knowledge base of the industry. By continuing to do things right, we will remain leaders, and we look forward to a 2017 that will be even better than 2016. 

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