Experts say Seattle church realty market improving



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Posted on April 27, 2014 at 11:18 PM

Updated Sunday, Apr 27 at 11:18 PM

MOUNTLAKE TERRACE -- Just one mile apart, Calvary United Pentecostal Church and The City Church had the same problem.  The Mountlake Terrace properties could no longer handle the number of people attending.  So they had to sell.

"We start off hoping to keep it as a church," said church realtor Leif Stenfjord, "That was the hope and the heart of the congregation."

Stenfjord works for Service Realty, and is trying to sell Calvary United for $2.3 million.

Not far away, Kim Hutchins with Church Property Advisors just sold The City Church property for around $5 million.

"We don't look at the real estate as being the church," said Hutchins, "We look at the people within as being the church."

The City outgrew its facility as well, and recently started renting space in Lynnwood.

Between 18 and 24 churches get sold in King County every year, Hutchins said, and there are signs the normally stable market is returning to normal after years of struggling.

Church real estate is a specialized area, given the nature of what is being sold and who wants the land.  In the past, developers were snapping up religious properties because of their size, location and parking. 

Experts say more rural or suburban churches frequently are turned into homes, private schools or become new congregations.

Another new trend is the impetous for selling.  In some cases, "they're burying more than they're baptizing," Stenfjord said. 

However, recently the reason for selling churches has been congregations have gotten too big.  They often seek large strip malls or commercial office parks where space and parking are less of an issue, according to Hutchins.

Both realtors call themselves men of faith, and readily admit selling a church is challenging when they know what is on the market will not remain a house of worship.

"Do I hate to see it go away?  As a man of God, yes," said Stenfjord, "A life of faith doesn't depend on a building.  It's about people and what God is doing with the people."