The idea of living in a tastefully and thoughtfully converted church is very appealing, but the journey from making the decision to do it, and putting your feet up in the finished home, is a long and complicated one fraught with challenges and difficulties.
Some of the questions to consider include:
- How to find one?
- How much to pay?
- How to actually buy one?
- What style and size?
- Church or chapel?*
- Are there burials?
- Is it Listed?
- Is it structurally sound?
- Does it actually lend itself to residential living?
- Does it have planning consent, or can it get planning consent?
- Is it in a conservation area?
- Does it come with any land?
- Are any utilities connected?
- Is it accessible by road?
- What style of conversion?
- How much will the conversion cost?
- Who will manage the project?
- Who will do the work?
- What materials and supplies to use, and where to buy them?
- Are any grants available?
- Is the local council co-operative?
- How long will it take?
- Will you live on-site during the conversion?
There are more considerations, but these are the main questions to ask if you're seriously thinking about taking on a project of this magnitude. It may seem daunting, but it doesn't need to be. When I bought my first church, I didn't use an architect, I didn't hire a project manager, I didn't use a a firm of builders, and I didn't use an interior designer. I may have been a 'fool rushing in where angels fear to tread' (and my family were very skeptical to say the least), but I did it and it turned out to be one of the most rewarding things I've ever done!
Take a look at the progress photos to get some idea of the stages of work during my first church conversion.
*The question "church or chapel?" may seem relatively unimportant, but making the right choice at the outset can make a huge difference should you plan to sell the property at any time during or after the conversion. Although a chapel is widely regarded as a small church, there are some very large (Methodist, for example) chapels and some very small Anglican churches. From what I've observed, minor Protestant groups such as Methodist and Baptist houses of worship are generally called chapels, not churches. However, the main difference when choosing a house of worship to convert into a residential home comes when reselling: Churches are far more desireable than chapels. It all comes down to the name, even if a Methodist chapel is huge and gorgeous, it will sell for less than an Anglican church of similar style and proportions.