Church Conversion Q&A

Find out some of the common pitfalls when looking at church conversions, with regards to buying and renovation projects.

Church Conversion Q&A

Earlier this year, you told us that converted churches topped the list of homebuyers’ favourite building conversions in a poll we conducted on the site.

But what should you consider when investing in a church conversion?

Church Conversion Q&A

What should people look for when buying a converted property?

Much of this is a matter of personal taste as the properties vary so much, from conversions of big neo-gothic churches, usually in towns and usually separated into flats to small rural chapels, which make great detached homes.

But given that buyers are obviously after something a bit special, be sure that the conversion has actually preserved the essence of the original space and maintained the unique ecclesiastical features.

If the interior feels like any other home, the developer has missed the point.

What advice can you give people who are thinking of buying?

Unless you have a large budget and a lot of time, be sure that the renovations are done how you want them.

Quite apart from matters of planning permission in what may be a listed building, it is expensive to alter the configuration of the space and can be extremely awkward to reach high ceilings and walls.

Make sure the developer has considered matters such as insulation, both for noise (especially where there are a number of flats) and heat, as these old buildings are difficult and expensive to keep warm.

What difficulties could people face?

Strangely enough, the first question people always ask is: ‘Are there any graves?’ If you have children in your family, their friends always think the place must be haunted.

What’s more, people who have been used to it being a church often have difficulty accepting that it is now private property and still believe they have a right to poke around.

Are there any hidden costs or hidden issues that people should be aware of?

Beware of structural conversion and legal issues. The property could probably be listed and might have maintenance and other obligations imposed as part of the sale or decommissioning.

Living in a church, they will obviously be a focal point of the community and be of considerable interest, which is important to remember if considering any changes to the exterior.

There may be general survey problems relating to period buildings. Rising damp, dry rot, wet rot, lead roofing (an important one for churches) and whether the steeple is in good repair or not as this would be expensive to renovate or potentially dangerous in a storm.

Why do you think converted churches are becoming so popular?

All over the country, there are streets of houses that look exactly the same. It’s no wonder some people are yearning for something a bit different and a bit special.

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