...specializing in churches and religious property
MONEY or MISSION? - Cheryl Gosa
I was interviewed by the "Atlanta Business Chronicle" for their story on how churches are dealing with the basic dilemma of selling their property for the most money or to a buyer who is more in line with their mission. Often churches have been operating for decades, if not centuries, on a spot that is more than historically valuable, and when the time comes to close its doors for lack of resources for staff, or lack of resources for maintenance of aging buildings, or lack of interest in communities where demographics are changing or culturally churches are less vital, the question arises: do we want more money or to pass along our property to a new owner who will carry on God's work as we have done for many years?
Money or Mission? Along with that basic question comes the question about marketing and pricing: do we want to sell for less now or hold out for more money later? Are we on a timeline to sell quickly to the highest bidder or more slowly so we can choose a buyer that suits us for religious reasons? Some churches do not have the luxury of time; others do.
When a church property is located in the path of development, for instance, in Atlanta anywhere intown, developers come calling even before the property is listed or announced through the grapevine to be for sale. Developer dollars are strong and often do not require the buyer to acquire much financing - cash is king. The allure of quick dollars from a developer is often too much to ignore. On the other hand, developers need time so if a quick sale is wanted, it may not be to a developer. But in a vicious circle, more dollars does not equal less time as developers must obtain zoning changes or special use permits. In those cases, when the church is in a hurry, it might be better to sell to a cash buyer who is a church and who will close quickly and carry on with a religious use.
A church can move on with a buyer who wants to operate as a church but often there is less by way of proceeds for the selling congregation. In any case, it is an agonizing decision for some churches and an easy one for others, particularly when the congregation has dwindled, aged or run out of money to support the longtime mission of the church. So is it money or mission? Or both?
Whatever happens, a church needs an agent to help manage both the sadness of the group and the expectations of the congregation about what proceeds they might realize when all is said and done. An agent can filter offers and vet buyers in a way that those closest to the property cannot do at the same time they are managing a grief process or a contentious inhouse battle. Atlanta Church Lady stands ready to help! We know churches and have worked on the inside of congregations. We understand how churches think and fell and operate. We are more than commercial real estate agents. We are ministers and ushers and committee members. We know churches! We understand both Money and Mission!
Churches are the original co-working spaces. - Diana Campbell
Churches are the original co-working spaces. Think of it, have you ever been to a church that doesn’t rent classroom, office, or fellowship space? The Atlanta Church Lady Team consults with religious facilities throughout the Atlanta Metro area. We’ve helped dozens of clients buy, sell and lease their facilities. We visit churches routinely, simply to learn their history, understand their communities, and gaze at pipe organs and stained glass. We’ve each spent our lives as congregants. Collectively, we’ve seen more churches than most. Nearly all churches leverage their facility for sustainability; support community functions; or to incubate nascent enterprises. To do so, churches rent out (or give) underused spaces within or on their facility, essentially becoming landlords and property managers of numerous short term and long term leases - lasting hours to years. While acknowledging the church’s place in the history and evolution of co-work spaces, there is much for churches to consider in the context of new technology, changing neighborhoods, and growing demands to maintain facilities.
For all recorded time, places of worship including churches have been strategically located in the centers of culture, commerce, and city life: location, location, location! There has always been a practical need to leverage religious facilities and, unfortunately, an inherent temptation to misuse them: recall the accounts of Mark 11:15, Luke 19:45 and John 2:15. Rightfully so, churches have had to be vigilant in maintaining sanctity and mission alignment. Innocuous collaborations like child care, the arts, non-profits, became low hanging fruit. Indeed, Atlanta’s own Morehouse and Spelman Colleges were incubated by Friendship Baptist church after the civil war. Emory University and Emory University Hospital have roots in Iman Park United Methodist Church, says their historian. Similar church incubation stories of important institutions abound.
In our contemporary landscape, particularly in bourgeoning cities, there are several many viable industries and professionals that could be appropriate for a church to consider. Tech start-ups, call-centers, or independent consultants are to name a few. These and other professionals are seeking “third spaces”: not home, not a company office, but a communal space. Ideally, there would be no better place to have an inspired work day than within a place of worship! Imagine a harrowing day or joyous one including 10 minutes of meditation in a sanctuary. Picture a tough ethical decision pondered over the water cooler with a spiritual leader. There is a bold new world of options that churches might consider and a number of spiritually-focused reasons why.
There are real capacity challenges and limitations but there are solutions as well. If a church could staff a professional property manager and a facilities manager they may not be concerned with maximizing the use of their space in the first place. While a sizable church will have a facilities manager, consider the landscaping-handyman-jack-of-all-tools volunteer negotiating a lease and writing a contract. It could work, but probably not for long. Fortunately, there have been technology advances in management tools. Security systems like keyless entry locks, cameras and remote device monitoring are easily accessible and affordable. Co-working management software handles booking, invoicing and communication between co-workers: Optix, Coworkify, and Dovetail are three popular ones. Lastly, every church can afford to build a meaningful long-term and strategic relationship with a REALTOR. At no cost, REALTORS are advisors who keep a pulse on relevant trends. At no upfront or out of pocket cost, REALTORS can market property and screen potential tenants.
Beyond the logistics of sharing space, the most important consideration is how that church defines its relationship to its community. This is no easy contemplation as neighborhoods change while virtual communities expand. A church can live stream services and have more international followers than domestic ones. Infrastructure changes, like highways and commercial corridoors, can cut off members from practical access to their lifelong church. Churches in city centers may find they have no residential neighbors at all. With gentrification comes new neighbors with entirely different needs, expectations of their local church - and sometimes, none at all. Neighbors and community are moving targets for the modern church. Before leveraging or sharing space - through traditional or novel ways - people and mission must be reconciled. Here are four critical and practical questions for church leaders and their management teams:
* What is our mission? To support it, should we share space only with mission-similar entities?
* Do we need to grow our membership? If so, should the use of the building bring potential new members and how do we engage them when they get there?
* Do we need to focus on furthering our mission? Besides money, does the use of the building bring the kinds of people that will help us further our mission?
* Do we only need money from our tenants? If so, what is the most efficient use of space that doesn’t distract us from our mission?
Churches, have always shared space. In doing so, they have provided opportunities for artistic expression, learning, and the incubation of ideas. They’ve fostered strategic organizational partnerships to further shared missions. For countless individuals, access to small inexpensive spaces was indeed a pathway to self-actualization and economic self-sufficiency. How, why and in what ways churches continue to be spiritual centers, cultural pillars and economic drivers is a matter for consideration.
The following is a noncomprehensive, short list of co-working spaces in intown Atlanta
Co-Working Space In Atlanta
1447 Peachtree St NE Suite 700, Atlanta, GA 30309
The Gathering Spot
384 Northyards Boulevard Northwest, Building 100, Atlanta, GA 30313
Atlanta Tech Village
3423 Piedmont Rd NE, Atlanta, GA 30305
We Work Tower Place
3340 Peachtree Rd NE, Atlanta, GA 30326
Roam Innovative Workplace
3365 Piedmont Rd NE Suite 1400, Atlanta, GA 30309
LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION! - Your church ought to be in pictures! -Cheryl Gosa
In Georgia, movies and television are an $8 billion dollar business annually. Churches of all sizes and shapes, all settings - urban, small town, rural, suburban - are needed for the burgeoning entertainment industry. Location managers and scouts are always on the lookout for churches. I have worked with scouts recently who are offer thousands of dollars of film budgets for days or weeks of shooting, depending on the project, and your church can be part of this growth industry in Georgia.
Since I used to be in the film and television industry myself before becoming a commercial real estate agent, and while I was and continue to be a minister, I understand what location scouts and managers are looking for and how the property will be used and treated. My team is planning a seminar for churches to understand more about how they can benefit from the entertainment industry here in Georgia. If you would like to be part of the group, please send me an email on the Contact Me page of this website and we will add you to the list for more details about the seminar. You will learn what you need to do to put your property out there for consideration and what you can expect from a film company coming through your doors.
It can be stressful but it is short term stress and there is money and publicity for your congregation in the end as you work to grow your ranks and take care of your property. Who knows - maybe they will need a minister or church members as extras! Lights, Camera, Action - churches are part of the excitement, too!
CHURCH FINANCING or SHOW ME THE MONEY! - Cheryl Gosa
Often the most difficult part of a religious property sale is getting the buyer into a financial position to actually buy the property. Prior to the recession 2008-2012 banks were lending money to churches quickly and easily. Then when the economy slowed, the first to suffer were churches whose members could not give at the levels they were used to receiving to fund the mission of the church. The congregation could not make its loan payments and eventually the bank foreclosed, as much as they hated to do it. When the recession was over, banks were burned and became reluctant to finance church purchase at all. As 2016 began, banks were slowly getting back into church loans but often requiring 30-40% down payments, an almost impossible amount of money for a smaller church to accumulate. Church financing is so important in the religious property business.
Lately we are seeing sellers offering to finance the purchase for the buyer on a short term basis. This can take the form of a 3-5 year loan at a reasonable rate with a small down payment to give the buyer a chance to establish at least a foothold and track record to eventually re-finance with a bank for no down payment. Once a buyer has a track record with a seller-lender, the re-fi is much easier. Church financing is complex but it is not impossible.
The number one thing a buyer can do is save up down payment money - at least 10% of what you want to spend and can afford to finance. The number one thing a seller can do in this regard is think about and consider church financing yourself - helping a buyer get a head start. Sometimes it is the only way you are going to be able to sell.
Atlanta Church Lady has lenders in our files who specialize in church loans and in helping churches get their financial house in order to be ready to work with a bank for a long-term loan. Just one of the many ways we can help you as a buyer and perhaps as a seller as well - sometimes financing it yourself is the only way to sell your property! Church financing is a vital area of the business and you can do it, too!