...specializing in churches and religious property

Atlanta Church Lady

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!

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!


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!