The church real estate loan evaluation process goes deeper than evaluating your financial information. Believe it or not, lenders are also evaluating you — the person or church asking them for money. They are looking to make sure you have a firm grasp of what’s going on within your organization and that your organizational needs warrant needing a loan.
Here are four “non-financial” areas a lender is evaluating as part of their process.
Integrity – Can they trust the information you are providing?
Capacity – Will the loan help you or hurt you?
Accountability – Do you have the appropriate level of financial oversight and management?
Awareness – Is your request reflective of what’s taking place within your church community?
Below, we dive into each of these areas in greater detail.
Being able to demonstrate sound bookkeeping practices is vital. Lenders want to see a consistent discipline of accurate accounting. This is demonstrated by money management policies, bookkeeping systems, and the people involved in overseeing the finances.
Many of the organizations that reach out to us are looking for guidance on how to implement bookkeeping practices in their church. We offer our clients a sample chart of accounts to reference as you begin the process of developing and implementing a church bookkeeping system.
Lenders rely on your financial history and growth trends as a primary reference to understand your financial capacity moving forward. Because of this, one of the most practical things your church can do is start acting like you are paying the mortgage or lease payment that you desire.
What does that mean?
Let’s say your current lease payment is $4,000/month, and you anticipate moving into a loan or lease arrangement that would require a $10,000/month payment. To demonstrate your capacity to handle this type of payment, you could pay the landlord $4,000 and deposit the remaining $6,000 into a savings account. Doing this for a consistent period will show a potential lender or landlord that you have the capacity to make a $10,000/month payment. An additional benefit will be the additional money you accumulate over several months.
It’s unfortunate, but fraud is a reality in many churches and religious organizations. While there is no way to stop someone who wants to do harm, there are ways of managing the organization that limits the ability for people to take advantage. This is where your governing documents and financial policies and procedures come into play.
A lender will want to have the sense that you have a precise method for managing the day-to-day operations. They will also want to see a clearly defined process for making significant strategic decisions and monitoring financial activity within your organization.
Being able to articulate what is taking place within your ministry will help the lender feel confident in your ability to manage the resources you currently have available.
Here are some questions to consider as you prepare to engage in conversation with a lender:
- What is your mission? What are you ultimately about?
- What is your strategy? How do you go about accomplishing your mission?
- How does the project you are requesting funding to facilitate your strategy?
- What is the geographic and demographic breakdown of your membership?
- What are your giving trends for
- general giving?
- designated giving?
- building or facilities-related giving?
- How will your project benefit the local community?
Contact Us for Church Real Estate Help
As stated above, a lender’s evaluation will go beyond merely crunching numbers to see if you fit into a particular box. Your ability to communicate these more qualitative areas with confidence and accuracy is an integral part of the lending approval process. Do your best to prepare in each of these areas before meeting with your lender.
If you need help buying a church or selling an existing building, or want experienced advice from real estate professionals, contact us online or call us at our Plano office at 972-424-2000, or in Houston at 281-540-2008.