Want to Buy a Church? Prime Location, Tough Timing

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BOUTON, Iowa -- Where to begin? It’s a bit out of the way, drive-by traffic is minimal, and there are only 137 potential customers in the area.

"It's a bit of a challenge--there aren't a lot of buyers," says Remax realtor, Larry Saemisch.

Why not?

"Well, it's a church," he says.

Yes, but it has a corner location, two buildings, exceptionally low taxes and a low, low price of $49,000.

But so far...

"I've had no calls," Saemisch admits.

It’s fair to say that Christ Evangelical Lutheran’s best days are behind it. It stood tall over the town of German immigrants. Bouton’s residents shopped, worked, and worshipped within its borders.

"But when the railroad left, about everything went with it," says Bouton city councilwoman, Linda Neville.

St. Paul’s Lutheran Church doubled down on its old building, but Christ Evangelical let its go.

"It's sad but it's the way it works," Neville says. "It's an older building and it was going to take a lot of money to fix it up, so they opted to sell it and move to a different location."

The congregation relocated to a former restaurant off Highway 141, and the old place in town was abandoned.

But even beneath the piles of roofing supplies it now stores, the eminence of the room shines through -- recalling the weddings held at the alter, baptisms under the bronze lamps, funerals tolled by the old bell in the steeple, and the picnics celebrated under the shade of the hackberry trees.

"Well, I hope someone will buy it and either renovate it or use it for what it was intended," says Neville, "but it's getting harder and harder to keep that realization alive."

Everyone loves an old church, but who wants to own one? Even the listing agent knows prospects are thin at best.

"I've sold one church," Saemisch confesses. "I've been in business 17 years and I've sold one church."

You’ll find few properties that present a better resumé: for generations of families this was one of the most important buildings in the world, and for a song, it can be yours.


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