Why Are So Many Churches for Sale?

Have you noticed how many churches are for sale these days? In almost every major American city, from Chicago to Seattle to Atlanta to Los Angeles to  Brookline, Massachusetts you can buy a church. In fact, everywhere I looked, I found a church for sale.

What’s the story here? Are churches under financial distress? Maybe churchgoers have just migrated to the suburbs. Or perhaps local churches have gone the way of the corner hardware store, replaced by their big-box brethren. We shouldn’t hold on to the past, but I’m not sure if I would feel a little forlorn — or a bit more hopeful! — when setting up my teapot and my TV in a place that had been the site of weddings, funerals, baptisms, confessions, songs, prayers, ritual.

Discussion

  • http://stylestruggler.blogspot.com/ Pauline W.

    I love the style of the one in Brookline, but Atlanta is a bit more within budget!
    Generally speaking, I would be a little spooked at bringing my teapot and TV to a religious site…

  • Derricknevans

    My guess; economic drawdown – po folks aren't in a giving mood, no money to suppport the 'building' fund.

  • Philip Gvinter

    While I have no idea about congregant membership trends I do remember that aggressive mortgage financing was offered to commercial as well as residential clients. Interestingly enough no license was needed to engage in commercial lending so any mortgage broker who had a residential license, or any entrepreneurial individual who established a relationship with commercial lenders could act as the intermediary arranging the financing. The loan program guidelines were, like their residential counterparts, significantly more lax than sustainability would call for. Financing for commercial properties was available with LTVs of 90 or 95% with stated income documentation for both the business and the owner guaranteeing the loan. Credit score requirements were in the mid to high 600s and the loans were most often structured as interest only balloons with a 5 to 10 year duration or 5 to 10 year balloons with a 30 year amortization schedule. Church buildings which did not have a steeple and which could be used for other purposes had similar guidelines. Churches with a steeple were capped at 80% to 85% LTV. This likely encouraged many congregations to borrow beyond what they could afford. All of these programs went away during the summer of 2007 as the subprime mortgage market began to unravel and the quality of the loans being securitized began to come under higher levels of scrutiny.

    • http://blog.redfin.com GlennKelman

      Brilliant comment Philip. This really explains what's going on.

  • Barbara Bailey

    I'm sure that there are a lot of legal reason why the church's are suffering, but the bottom line is that faithful church members have to pay their own mortgages and put food on their own table. Tithing 10% of your monthly income is not that easy anymore. As a result, contributions and offerings on Sunday morning are a lot smaller.

  • Starchy

    whatever the reason “churches” should pay real estate taxes

  • Richard

    If churches had to pay property taxes they wouldn't be able to serve the needs of the poor which is a BIG part of their ministry.

  • dave lee jones

    its not only in america, here in wales (that bit of land  on the side of england) every where i turn i see a churches up for sale. i dont know what the reasons are in the usa. but here in britain its just a lack of faith,people here have become greedy and want everything for nothing they do not believe they answer to anyone, most churches in europe were built on a mamonth scales and are very old stone buildings which means they cost a lot of money to run.which without people attending it is impossible to keep the doors open, it is so sad to watch these wonderful crafted churches being sold off without so much as word said against it.i was brought up as a christian and its so hard to except that my country as turned its back on god