Properties that could provide an answer to homebuyers’ prayers
Church property always prompts interest from buyers, but watch out for restrictions on what you can do with them. Sharon Dale reports.
CHAPELS, churches, presbyteries, manses and vicarages are all blessed and in more ways than one. In a flat, apathetic market, these properties are guaranteed to excite interest from would-be buyers.
“People like the idea of living in a rectory because it has kudos and then there are buyers who specifically want to convert a church or chapel,” says David Chary, of Sanderson Weatherall, Leeds, who is an expert in these sales.
He acts for the Anglican Diocese of Ripon and Leeds and the Diocese of York along with the Catholic Dioceses of Leeds and Middlesbrough and various Methodist Circuits.
All denominations and building types are welcome, says David, who adds that the best sellers are the old vicarages in prime locations, though there are surprisingly few still in church ownership.
Most of them were sold in the 1960s and 1970s and clergy moved to more modern accommodation, according to the Rev. Canon John Carter , communications officer for the Dioceses of Ripon and Leeds.
Selling up isn’t necessarily a sign that congregations are falling. Most sales, says Canon Carter, are down to logistics and running costs
The Rectory at Romaldkirk, near Barnard Castle, built in the 1960s, is on the market for £425,000 as the vicar is moving to a property that is more centrally located for the parishes he serves.
“There hasn’t been a huge decline in the number of clergy houses in recent years. Our diocese has 160. It’s that we have replaced the old vicarages we have sold with more modern ones that are better located and more energy efficient. That does matter, as most of the cost of the heating and lighting falls on the clergy,” says Canon Carter.
“We work on the basis that an effective vicarage should have four bedrooms, two reception rooms and an office where the vicar can work and meet parishioners in private.”
The most sought-after Anglican property on Sanderson Weatherall’s books is the Archdeacon of Leeds’ residence in West Park Grove, Roundhay. The diocese is buying a replacement for the sevenbedroom property, which is on the market for £725,000.
“It is quite a common scenario that the diocese will buy or build another, more sustainable, property. At St Joh n’s in Ben Rhydding, near Ilkley, they sold the Edwardian vicarage and got permission to build a new house in the garden with a ground source heat pump. The cost of building a new property was less than the receipt of the old one, which made good business sense,” says David, who also has an evangelical church and a number of chapels for sale.
Anglican churches rarely come onto the market because most are consecrated, which limits alternative use. Catholic churches and Methodist chapels are less of a problem as they don’t usually have graveyards.
The Ashwood Centre in Headingley, is a former United Reformed Church, used for community worship. The listed building, complete with tower, spire and stained glass windows, is up for sale for £650,000. It was designed by Cuthbert Broderick, architect of Leeds Town Hall, and has potential, though a plan to turn it into 18 apartments was turned down in 2004.
The smaller, more minimalist Methodist chapels can make ideal homes, but, as with all ecclesiastical property, there may be restrictive covenants.
A standard covenant for a vicarage next to a church is that you can’t play music on a Sunday morning that might disturb the divine service. Another one is that you cannot use the property for gambling or retailing alcohol.
“The buyer of the vicarage we had for sale in Askrigg came up against this problem as he wanted to use the property