Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Bank loans tough to get for fire stations and churches

Fire Station #37 is a designated landmark.
Image courtesy Colliers International
Fire Station #37 is a designated landmark.

Bored with regular, run of the mill houses? Looking for something unusual? How about buying a fire station or a church for a home? 

Seattle-area real estate appraiser Richard Hagar says although places like this could be fun to live in, banks are usually skittish about loaning money for anything out of the ordinary.

KPLU's John Maynard asked Richard Hagar why someone would want to buy a fire station or a church as a private, residential home. Hagar says many people like the unique character of these places.

"Hey, some people want to slide down a fire pole from their bedroom to their living room. I've also seen car buffs buy fire stations for their giant garages."

But with all the character and charm of these places, Hagar says  that doesn't mean properties like this have a wide appeal when it comes to buyers and that worries banks.

"If it's a nice house in the suburbs or a solid neighborhood in the city, then banks will let you buy it for five percent down. But if you say 'fire station,' they get concerned about resale. So their solution is, instead of five percent down, they want 20 percent or 50 percent as a down payment. "

Then there's the insurance

Hagar says it's highly likely that the home owner's insurance would be higher. Again, he says , it's about falling out of the norm, and being "different."

Landmark status is also a consideration

Hagar points out that a lot of these churches and fire stations are historic landmarks. So that limits what changes a homeowner can make to the place. Maynard says these type of properties are perfect playpens for eccentric millionaires who just want to buy them for the novelty of it and have cocktail parties there.

"I've seen that, too," says Hagar. "That's another way to enjoy those fire stations with their smokin' garages and polished floors!"

John Maynard started working in radio in the seventies as a DJ at Seattle’s KJR AM which at the time was the dominant AM station in the Seattle market. After a brief stint as a restaurateur and night club owner, Maynard returned to radio with Robin Erickson, creating the hugely popular “Robin and Maynard Show.” In the more than 20 years under that marquee, Maynard flew with the Blue Angels, piloted the Goodyear Blimp, sang with Donny Osmond and hung out in a Universal Studios bar with Kojak (Telly Savalas).
Richard Hagar's real estate career spans more than 30 years. He currently serves as a real estate investor, real estate agent, appraiser, and an SRA with the Appraisal Institute.