Vacant churches a tough sell for realtors

More churches are popping up on P.E.I.'s real estate market but the buildings are proving a tough sell.

Most churches would have to be moved to another location

With shrinking congregations and amalgamations, more churches are coming up on the P.E.I. real estate market. (CBC)

More churches are popping up on P.E.I.'s real estate market but the buildings are proving a tough sell.

Realtor Jeff Newson has never sold a church before, but now he's trying to sell two — the United Churches in Kingston and in New Dominion.

Realtor Jeff Newson says he's had interest in the two churches, but financing has fallen through. (CBC)
Both have been vacant ever since their shrinking congregations amalgamated with the Cornwall United Church.

The challenge with both churches is that the trustees don't want to give up the land. A purchaser would have to pay to move the buildings elsewhere.

So, while there has been lots of interest already and even some offers, the financing just hasn't come together, says Newson.

"The biggest part is to be able to have access to the money to actually buy the church and move it, put it on foundation without having a mortgage. It's a tough mortgage to get," he said.

The churches' trustees have the buildings on the market for just $10,000 each, hoping to entice someone looking for a unique house or business.

"If we don't manage to sell them, then there's other decisions that have to be made after that," said Kevin Sanderson, Cornwall Pastoral Charge's chair of property and trustees.

"What do you do with these buildings? And those decisions are hard decisions. They could be expensive decisions if we have to take them down."

The pressure is on to sell fast.

This former church was moved piece by piece from Brackley to Rice Point and is now a cottage called Harrington House. (Steve Bruce/CBC)
With more and more Island churches losing members and closing their doors they could become less of a unique buy, says Sanderson.

"These buildings are of extreme value to the right person, and that's kind of where we're heading. We hope that to happen," he said.

But real estate agents are banking on the fact there are buyers out there like Chris Jette, an architect who, along with his brother, bought an historic Presbyterian church a decade ago.

The brothers moved the church in pieces from Brackley to Rice Point and turned it into a popular 4.5-star cottage called Harrington House.

"It just breaks your heart to see these things deteriorate and fall into the ground, and losing that heritage as well. So, here was an opportunity, and I thought, 'Great, we can achieve quite a bit here.'"