Dear 100 Hour Board,
Today I was driving by a church building (belonging to another Christian denomination) with a "for sale" sign. It made me wonder what would happen if the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ever needed to sell one of its church buildings. Does this ever happen, and if so, how do they go about selling it? I can't imagine seeing a "for sale" sign in front, so maybe they'd find a private buyer of sorts; would they just sell the land and take down the building? Or sell the whole thing as is? Thoughts?
I don't know the process of selling the church buildings but I do know it happens. There was a Baptist Church near my home town that was in an old Church of Jesus Christ building. I went there once for a humanities assignment (visit a church of a different denomination) and it was really weird to see all the seats taken out from the pulpit and replaced with a full band including a sound shield around the drummer. There was also a big cross hanging where the projector screen usually comes out. It was an older style building but it definitely looked like one of our church buildings.
Funny that you ask, but I have actually helped the Church sell buildings and land. They sell property all the time and all across the world and so your scenario actually happens quite frequently.
The Church usually has a long-standing contract with a commercial real estate brokerage in the United States who handles their transactions. When the Church sells property it is called a disposition project. They ask for an opinion of value by a licensed real estate agent or the equivalent and they match it with their internal valuation to make sure they don't list it for a price that they are not willing to sell it for. Here's a picture of a Church building in Preston, Montana that sold a few years ago (I got this picture from the commercial real estate assisting the Church at the time):
If the valuation is high enough, they will agree to sell it. This approval can take weeks or months. The real estate agent(s) involved are actually encouraged to put a sign on the property so that people who pass by the building or land will know that it is for sale. Typically the property is also listed on multiple websites for sale to attract as many potential buyers as possible. The standard process is to list the property for 30 days before responding to any offers as to give each buyer an equal chance of submitting an offer and doing some preliminary research in order to submit a reasonable offer.
Another tidbit of information that you may not be aware of is that when the Church decides to sell a meetinghouse they decommission the building. Essentially decommissioning a building involves removing the steeple, removing Church signage from the building and property, and filling the baptismal font.
Upon receiving offers, the Church has an internal review process that can take weeks or even months to respond to buyers. It can be frustrating to buy property from the Church because the process can take quite a long time.
One question you might or might not ask is: "Why would the Church contract with a commercial real estate brokerage in the United States even when they are selling property in Europe, Africa, or other continents and countries? Great question! Well, the Church prefers to have one point of contact for all of their transactions instead of having hundreds or thousands of points of contacts across the world. It helps the Church keep track of all their disposition, acquisition, and leasing projects straight, and it helps keeps transactions from being held over longer than normal.
Anyways, this is probably more information than you anticipated, but it's currently my job and I am loving it! Do you have any other questions regarding Church real estate or real estate in general? I'm happy to answer more questions like this!
-Sunday Night Banter
Another personal anectdote: my wedding reception was held at a venue originally built in 1903 as an LDS chapel. Since it's an older building, though, it doesn't really look like a standard Church of Jesus Christ building.