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Bank loans tough to get for fire stations and churches

Seattle Fire Station.jpg
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!"