WHEN Kurt Marx founded a Lutheran church in 1953 in Vancouver, he moonlighted as a carpenter to earn the salary that his tiny congregation of German immigrants could not pay. By the late 1960s Oakridge Lutheran Church ministered to hundreds with services in German. Today the worshippers are fewer, older and praying in Mandarin. But the property the church occupies is now worth a fortune. A dilapidated bungalow a few blocks away is on the market for C$2.7m ($2m). So Oakridge Lutheran is cashing in. It has asked city hall for permission to tear the church down and replace it with shops, housing and a smaller house of worship. It hopes to start construction this year.Sales of church property happen in many places, but business is especially brisk in Canada’s western metropolis. There are two main reasons: a surge in property prices, which exceeds that in almost every other Canadian city, and an influx of Asian immigrants, who bring their own religious traditions. West-coast hedonism may be a third factor, suggests David Ley, a geographer at the University of British Columbia. Pews in churches with European roots are emptying faster than those in other parts of Canada. They are the principal sellers. All this makes Vancouver’s sacred-property market “unique”, says Leonardo Di Francesco of Churchrealtors.com, which has sold more than 100 houses of worship over the past two decades.In this sectionSpot the differenceSteeples for saleThe second frontThe difficulty of dealing with TrumperyReprintsOften the buyers are burgeoning Asian communities, in part because it is hard to get permission to rezone church property for secular use. Terrorised by drug addicts, the nuns of the Gold Buddha Monastery in Vancouver’s seedy Downtown Eastside district sought safer quarters. Mr Di Francesco’s firm found them in a Salvation Army unit, whose hostel for jobless men had emptied out and whose programmes for disadvantaged youth attracted fewer participants. Now the main hall at the Salvation Army’s former premises is adorned with 10,000 golden Buddhas. The basement bowling alley provides storage for prayer books and ritual drums. This year, a Hindu community in eastern Vancouver sold its temple for nearly C$2m to a growing Chinese Christian congregation; the Hindus wanted even bigger premises.
Specialist sales of of places of worship - Churches, Temples, Mosques.