The step of buying a church building for your congregation is an exciting thing. Maybe your congregation is growing, or maybe you’re ready to move on from years of leasing into a permanent church home.
But if you’re unsure what resources exist to help you find that new church home, instead of being an exciting time, it can be a time full of questions. Here’s where to start.
Is a church a specific kind of real estate?
First of all, it helps to have a basic understanding of commercial real estate types. A church is classified as a “special purpose” facility for real estate and legal purposes.
What exactly does that mean? The term special purpose refers to a property with a unique physical design, built with special construction materials, or having a layout that restricts its utility to the use for which it was constructed.
However, when you’re in the market for a church, it’s good to know that there are a variety of options for converting existing commercial buildings for church purposes. In other words, your search doesn’t need to be limited strictly to those special purpose church buildings. You could retrofit a space in an industrial complex or shopping center.
How is buying a church different from buying other types of commercial real estate?
Even if you do opt to set your church up in a space that was built for a traditional commercial purpose (such as a store or office space), you should consider working with a church real estate agent, rather than a commercial broker.
That’s because the experience of buying and selling church real estate is different from a typical commercial real estate experience. A real estate agent that specializes in buying and selling church real estate will have an awareness of church ministry and governance, including the decision-making processes involved.
When you work with someone who has dedicated his or her career to helping churches with matters of real estate, they are more attuned to the need to be sensitive to the way the process affects church members, as well.
Here are some additional questions to ask as you evaluate your real estate options in your church buying journey.
- Does your real estate agent have an understanding of church finances and budgeting?
- Do they have a grasp on the requirements of your various ministries, and can they help you identify the right property fit for purpose?
- Do they understand your mission and purpose, and can they help you sort through your purchase options with that mission in mind?
- Are they experts in the local market, and can they help you locate properties in a location that is in an ideal community for furthering your mission and growing your church community?
- Do they have experience with various forms of church governance and boards that influence the purchase decision?