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Tricia Heagle
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  • Minnesota
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Experience with Church Conversion - Rookie asking

Tricia Heagle
  • New to Real Estate
  • Minnesota
Posted Apr 4 2024, 09:33

I am curious to hear if you have converted a church property into a short term or long term rental? What were unexpected things? What went well? What did you do with all of that space/how did you divide it, if at all - multi family, short term rental, other?  What would you tell a rookie about converting a church?


I'm looking into a church that has been zoned as residential. The current owners gutted the inside down to the support walls. It's a blank canvas. 

Thanks for your insights. 

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Jonathan Greene#1 Starting Out Contributor
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  • Mendham, NJ
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Jonathan Greene#1 Starting Out Contributor
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  • Mendham, NJ
Replied Apr 4 2024, 12:26

Do you know why they gutted it and stopped? There is usually a reason beyond the renovation cost too much and if they say they just decided to go in another direction, that is always a lie. For any STR in today's market, you really want to go all-in on the experience. Since the space is usually open where the pews were, it gives you a lot of options for games or unique things for the space. If you are hoping to get multiple groups or families in there, you will need to create some formal bedrooms for privacy.

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Stuart Udis
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  • Philadelphia
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Stuart Udis
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Replied Apr 4 2024, 15:39

@Tricia Heagle Check the zoning. When you say the property is zoned "residential", what exactly does that mean? For a single family use or mult-family? Once you get past the zoning hurdle, its important to engage an architect who can lay out units.  Each Church is different with respect to design but they are generally more expensive to renovate than some other structure types that may lend themselves better to a conversion. Another reason why engaging an architect early is helpful is to ensure the layouts are permitted from the perspective of code requirements. Most investors walk a building, identify windows and other benchmarks and rely on these elements in coming to their own conclusion on unit layouts and unit count. By way of example, the local code may require max distance from common stairs or building exits and something as simple as that can really interfere with the layouts you are contemplating in your head. 

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Tricia Heagle
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  • Minnesota
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Tricia Heagle
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Replied Apr 5 2024, 07:16

@Stuart Udis Wow! I love your insights! The info says it's an H2 Zone and can be single and multi family or civic and institutional use. That's one of the reasons I'm drawn to this property. I am getting in touch with the city to ensure I can move forward with a STR with this location.

The way you speak about an architect, makes me think that there's a bigger difference than a construction contractor. I think I would look for a company that has an architect and construction so that just maybe things are a little more streamlined. Or maybe they know how to communicate well vs two completely different companies. Again, rookie. I'll know a lot more when things shake out! 

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Tricia Heagle
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Tricia Heagle
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  • Minnesota
Replied Apr 5 2024, 07:25

@Jonathan Greene
From what the realtor told me, the couple who owns it they were going to turn it into a primary residence in the upstairs. They would add a garage door off the ally, add a ramp into the basement to put a car collection. I don't know why things came to a halt. The inside is down to it's support walls. I have a unique idea for this space! It would be great if it works out. 

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Stuart Udis
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Stuart Udis
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Replied Apr 5 2024, 07:26

The contractor and GC don't have to be affiliated. However, start with the architect. That's far more important at this stage. You will need to confirm the design works within the zoning and building code requirements first, then you can loop in the GC. Once  the arhitect is through with the preliminary work, the GC can help value engineer the design before the final permit application submission is made. That's generally best practice.  Also, with conversions, even if the municpality does not require MEP drawings, I highly recomend spending the money to have an engineer prepare them. It will firm up quotes from the subcontractors, make your contracts much stronger  and also make the project move far smoother with better communication between the trades and reduce the risk of change orders. 

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Tricia Heagle
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Tricia Heagle
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Replied Apr 18 2024, 09:12

Thank you @Stuart Udis. That is all really helpful information. I appreciate it.