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Important Things to Know When Selling Church Property

Bible Verse MATTHEW 5.20

If you are moving on from your existing church building, you must be prepared for a selling process that is unique from typical real estate sales. To help you prepare, here are seven important questions you need to answer:

Who owns a church property?

One of the most important things to make sure of at the very beginning is who has the right or the authority to make the decision to sell your church.

If you are an autonomous or independent church where congregation members can have the final say on leadership and other administrative matters, then deciding to sell can be more straightforward.

However, if your church belongs to a particular denomination, ownership of the building and property may be listed under the concerned denominational body.

In this case, a more thorough internal process will be required to sell the church property. This should involve consultation with and approval from the church’s congregation members. The consultation process may result in formal bylaws or any other documented procedure to facilitate the sale.

What is “relegation to profane use”?

A key term to understand when selling a church property is “relegation to profane use.” This happens when a church and the property on which it is built is sold for use other than sacred worship.

Church law requires that the property be used for dignified and appropriate purposes. In other words, the building and the surrounding property will be available for secular use but may not be used for any immoral or offensive activities.

If the property is sold to a new owner but will still be used for sacred worship, no relegation will be required.

What happens to the sacred objects housed within the church property?

All sacred objects must be removed from the property, according to Church law. These include everything from the altar, to stained glass windows, and other religious statues and artifacts.

Each item must be catalogued and made available to other churches that can find use for them in their respective locations or buildings. The distribution of these sacred items is done to ensure that the legacy of the former church is preserved and given due recognition.

Where must the money earned from the sales go?

If the church property belongs to a denominational body, any funds earned from the sale can be used only for either of the following:

  • to purchase a new building and property for the church
  • to support a local community mission
  • to benefit local nonprofit organizations

What paperwork will be involved in the sale of a church property?

Like any real estate sale, church sales today require their fair share of paperwork as a means of protection from risk and liability. Documents you should expect to accomplish and submit include:

  • Your listing agreement with your real estate agent
  • Real estate condition report or disclosure statement
  • Offer to purchase or lease
  • Final closing statement, to be prepared by the title company

How is the sale of a church property completed?

The Archdiocese of Chicago details the following steps in the process of selling church properties:

  • The church must consult and seek approval for the sale from the local Vicar.
  • The Archdiocese’s Real Estate Department will originate the sale form and have the property appraised to confirm its value.
  • All contracts and closing documents must be signed and validated by the Department’s Director of Business Transactions, COO, or the Archbishop.

The entire process can take as long as 180 days as adequate time is given to complete due diligence.

Note that all property sales in excess of $7,500,000 is subject to the approval of the Holy See in Rome.

Do you need a real estate agent to sell a church property?

While the Archdiocese of Chicago’s Real Estate Department is authorized to assist you in the negotiation stage of your sale, as well as in the handling and filing of your paperwork, hiring your own broker is more practical. Having your own agent gives you a dedicated professional partner who can respond to your inquiries and attend to your needs as soon as possible.

When choosing an agent, look for one who has specific expertise in church real estate. Compared to residential and commercial real estate professionals, church brokers have a deeper understanding and appreciation for transactions involving properties used for religious purposes.

Church Building Consultants Realty is the best real estate brokerage for your needs if you are putting your church property for sale in the Chicago area. Inquire about our services today by calling 630.344.9449 or sending an email to Dan(at)ChurchBuildingRealty(dotted)com.