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For less than the price of an average house in St Thomas, you can buy a house of God

An historic St Thomas church built in 1877 has been put up for sale for less than the price of an average home.

Offers on the 143-year-old Trinity Anglican Church start Thursday next week

Trinity Anglican Church, with its landmark steeple, has towered over much of St Thomas' skyline for generations. (Colin Butler/CBC News)

For less than the price of an average house in St Thomas, you can buy an historic house of God.

Built in 1877, Trinity Anglican Church is one of the city's oldest congregations and on Thursday the 143-year-old house of God will go up for sale on the province's Multiple Listings Service. 

Faced with mounting bills and a declining membership, Trinity Anglican Church made a decision to sell 18 month ago, once it secured a merger with St. John's Anglican Church on Flora Street, to become the St Thomas Anglican Church. 

The merger and the forthcoming sale is part of a larger trend, as churches test their ability to hang on amid changing demographics, rising real estate prices and developers looking to pay top dollar for prime land.

Given the mutual benefits, it makes the prospect of selling too tempting an option to turn down for some churches. 

Church being sold at 'fair' price

Trinity Anglican Church is one of the most iconic buildings in a city known for its architectural gems. (Colin Butler/CBC News)

The asking price is $400,000, which is about 10 per cent lower than the $441,783 price of an average home in London and St Thomas. 

Andy Sheridan, the broker of record for Elgin Realty Brokerage, said the price was determined by church officials after weeks of consideration. 

"We think this is fair to the buyer and the seller," he said. "We tried to adjust for expenses and the church people didn't want it stay on the market forever."

Sheridan said the land parcel at 55 Southwick Street is zoned as R4 residential, which means if you bought it, you could technically convert this house of God into your very own house. 

Offers start at 10 a.m. Thursday, June 25

The asking price on Trinity Anglican Church, a 143-year-old house of worship built in the Gothic English country style, is $400,000. (Colin Butler/CBC News)

However, the veteran real estate agent noted that if you don't have most of the cash, it might be tough to convince a bank to give you a loan.  

"At the end of the day you need some capital to buy this and at the end of the day it's hard to borrow money for something like a church because no one wants to lend money for something like this."

So what can you do with an old church? Sheridan said the building could be converted to condos, apartments, offices, even commercial properties — with city hall's blessing. 

Sheridan said offers start on Thursday, June 25, at 10 a.m. when the property is listed on MLS and while he agreed that $400,000 for your very own church is a rare bargain, unlike a regular home, he's not counting on a bidding war. 

Not counting on a bidding war 

Built in the style of a Gothic English country church in 1877, Trinity Anglican Church in St Thomas was one of the city's oldest and most recognizable houses of worship. (Colin Butler/CBC News)

"A residential home with a good price will definitely get a good bidding war, but we'll see."

"If there are any offers we're expecting them at that point, we just didn't want the first person to rush through and have everybody else say, 'shoot, I didn't have a chance.' The church people want to be fair to everyone."

For the superstitious, Sheridan said the building comes with no ghosts and no surprises buried in the yard, which can sometimes be the case with Victorian-era houses of worship. 

"Nothing has come up in that regard, there's no one buried in the yard, nothing like that," he said. 

About the Author

Colin Butler

Video Journalist

Colin Butler is a veteran CBC reporter who's worked in Moncton, Saint John, Fredericton, Toronto, Kitchener-Waterloo, Hamilton and London, Ont. Email: colin.butler@cbc.ca

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