El Cerrito United Methodist Church

Property: 6830 Stockton Avenue. El Cerrito, CA 94530

Unique Challenge

The El Cerrito United Methodist Church (ECUMC) was blessed with a religious facility comprised of a 200-seat sanctuary, chapel, classrooms, day care area, and business offices totaling over 15,000 square feet of building area. The facility was limited only by the relatively small size of the urban parcel (approximately 16,000 square feet), which meant that there was a limited amount of parking available. Of more significant concern was the deferred maintenance of the building, which, due to the shrinking size of the aging congregation, was becoming a financial drain on the church.

When contacted by Reverend Chris Shiber of ECUMC, the congregation had already gone through a discovery process regarding their future ministry and had determined to become a “Church without Walls”. This translated to their decision to sell their physical building and continue their ministry by meeting at the parsonage and use their resources (time, money, etc.) to invest in the lives of others in the community. DCG was charged with two main tasks.

  1. Interface with a church in the area, which had previously expressed interest in the property, to determine if a mutually acceptable process, terms and conditions could be arrived at to facilitate the transfer of the church.
  2. Communicating with the governing board to alleviate concerns regarding the implications of selling the property. Due to the hierarchal structure of the United Methodist Church, ECUMC would need the permission and approval of the United Methodist Church’s West Coast governing board to sell the property.

Solution Provided

DCG tackled the first task by meeting with the El Cerrito Chinese Christian Church (E4C). E4C was a neighborhood church which was experiencing tremendous growth over the last several years and was quickly outgrowing the current space they were leasing. With the assistance of DCG, E4C seized the opportunity to submit a purchase offer to ECUMC. DCG represented both parties in a process that included an Exclusive Right to Negotiate (an “ERN”), a jointly authorized appraisal of the property, a host of inspections of the physical condition of the property, negotiations with AT&T, which leased space in the building for a cellular tower, and ultimately extended and very complex negotiations of the price, terms and conditions of sale.

Additionally, upon receipt of the offer, the West Coast governing board of the United Method Church scheduled a meeting to make a final decision on an approval or denial of the sale. At this meeting, DCG explained the sales process, the capacity of the interested buyers, and the benefits that selling the property would provide ECUMC as well as the United Methodist Church’s organization as a whole. At the conclusion of the process, the governing board approved the sale and E4C was blessed to have a facility that could not only be their “own”, but could accommodate their future growth. Proceeds from the sale assisted ECUMC to locate to smaller worship space (at the parsonage), replenish some of the funds ECUMC had recently used, and provided an over $1,000,000 lump sum of cash to United Methodist Organization.

It’s important for churches to have access to excellent, reliable real estate advice, especially when making hard decisions like having to sell long-held and long-loved property. DCG provided just such advice. It mattered that everyone there trusted God to guide us all.

Rev. Christine Shiber, Pastor, United Methodist Churches