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Oklahoma, Texas experience a mismatch for church marketplace

Church property sales were pew and far between. So it took me awhile to get used to the idea of a market for “religious service properties.”
by Richard Mize Published: August 2, 2014

It always startles me to see a church building get bought or sold.

“Hey, wait, that’s a church!” I think, before realizing: Of course. Churches come and go.

Just not in my personal experience. I grew up in a church founded in 1890, First Baptist in Muldrow, worshiping in a building constructed in, I think, 1961.

In Texas, I attended a church founded in 1881, First United Methodist in Wichita Falls, in a building constructed in 1931.

In Oklahoma City, I joined a church founded and built in the 1950s, Mayflower Congregational-United Church of Christ.

And now, I’m pastor of a church founded in 1894, Carrier Congregational Church of the United Church of Christ, with a building constructed in 1928.

They are steady as they go, propertywise, building and rebuilding or adding on pretty much in the same place.

The idea of a church building becoming used for something else came hard to me for a long time, just because of my upbringing and personal experience.

I remember being mortified to learn that a former Episcopal church turned nightclub (!) on Classen Boulevard had been considered a public nuisance (!!) — and hey, I deny that I am now or have ever been a prude.

But the churches, if they have life, sometimes they pack up and go for the same reasons people do.

Bradley R. Carter spelled it out in property terms, not pious language, late last year in an article, “The Valuation of Houses of Worship During Prolonged Periods of High Unemployment,” in Real Estate Issues, published by The Counselors of Real Estate, based in Chicago.

Carter, a principal of Greystone Valuation Services Inc. in Atlanta, goes into different property characteristics and architectural features of former churches, such as layout, size-to-seating ratio, land-to-building ratio, floor plan and design — and how each is considered in adaptive reuse.

But it was the three basic reasons church buildings are bought and sold, as outlined by Carter, that got my attention — and got to me a little because when I think “church” I think “people” before I think “building.”

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by Richard Mize
Real Estate Editor
Real estate editor Richard Mize has edited The Oklahoman's weekly residential real estate section and covered housing, commercial real estate, construction, development, finance and related business since 1999. From 1989 to 1999, he worked...
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