Churches go up for sale as costs to maintain them increase
Johanna Yoho knew the North Side church she attended since childhood couldn't hang on much longer.
With membership and collections dwindling, Mt. Zion Lutheran Church merged with another congregation in 2006. Afterward, a consultant recommended conducting services in the newer and larger Brighton Heights Lutheran Church and putting Mt. Zion up for sale.
"When we hand the keys over to the (buyer), that will be bittersweet," said Yoho, 48, of Observatory Hill, who was treasurer of Mt. Zion.
About 70 churches have changed hands in Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, Lawrence, Mercer, Washington and Westmoreland counties since 2007, according to RealSTATs, a South Side-based real estate information company. Dozens more across Western Pennsylvania have posted "for sale" signs.
"Selling churches is not an easy thing," said Tom Conroy, a sales representative with Howard Hanna Commercial, who is handling the sale of the Mt. Zion church building to another congregation and expects the sale to close soon.
But it's a sign of the times.
The former St. Nicholas Church on Route 28 may be sold to Lamar Advertising, parish officials said last week. The parish said it reached an "agreement in principle" to sell the 108-year-old church, which closed in 2004.
Restoring buildings that were constructed 100 or 200 years ago can be costly. A roof could cost $50,000; one stained-glass window could cost $20,000, according to preservationists.
"Smaller churches have a difficult time surviving the aging process," said Danny Muzyka, president and founder of Service Realty, which handled the sale of hundreds of churches in Texas, Colorado, California, Washington, and Arizona.
Read the rest here.