There are currently some 30 churches on sale in NSW, according to recent newspaper reports.
It can be difficult to value a church property, especially if there is not a similar property in the area to which it can be compared.
Adam Drummond of Fitzpatricks Real Estate in Wagga Wagga faced this dilemma when he recently added a 1918 church to his books.
“Pricing has to be based on nothing else but market feedback and, as such, we marketed the property as ‘preview now’, which is really no different to an auction campaign, but without the public bidding,” he said.
So what makes former churches such interesting properties for buyers and how do you go about selling them? Churches come in many shapes and forms, but there are certain architectural features that are typical of this type of property. It is important to identify these for the buyer as they add important value. Adam suggests you look out for the following features:
People love the country charm leadlight windows add to a period house, but when it comes to churches that have been transformed into a residence, leadlight windows become even more desirable. Leadlight windows in these types of properties have a certain majesty about them and historical significance that draws a buyer into the story of the home.
What type of church residence is complete without cathedral ceilings? Cathedral ceilings soar into the open internal space of a home, creating a sense of splendour in the living areas. They provide a place to retreat and unwind in a temple-like abode or a place to add a loft or mezzanine level to a space that cries out for more thought.
Original doors add an element of character and history to church-style properties. Their heavy timber bodies are solid and magnificent with huge, handcrafted carvings and original key lock handles. They are part of the first impression of the overall experience in entering such a magnificent property.
Pews and bells
Original elements of the traditional church experience, such as timber pews and brass bells, add character to these properties. Buyers love to discover little secrets from the past and usually plan on incorporating them into their unique style for the house when they eventually make it their home. There could be a restored pew against a wall that fits in beautifully with the surrounding furniture, or a brass bell serving as the doorbell for visitors.
A carefully restored original timber floor is more desirable than brand new flooring laid unceremoniously over the top. Original timber flooring tells a story through the scratches from hundreds of parishioners’ shoes scuffing across the aisles or worn marks where a bride and groom once stood exchanging vows. Few buyers will want to cover up these signs of history and tradition.
When a Parish Council sells a church, it may be necessary to deconsecrate the property. The act of deconsecration removes a religious blessing from the property that had previously been consecrated by a minister or a priest. The procedure differs from denomination to denomination, so contact the relevant religious organisation for more information.
This article was first published in the April 2013 edition of the REINSW Real Estate Journal.