Archdiocese sets process to market properties

Preparing to market property from suppressed parishes, the archdiocese has developed a process it says will both expedite the sales and ensure fair and open bidding. In addition, a real estate industry expert has been brought on to oversee the marketing process.

Every property will be on the market for a minimum of 90 days but could remain on the market for six months or more, according to Tom Walsh former vice chairman of CBRE/ Lynch Murphy Walsh Advisors, who has been placed in charge of overseeing brokers for property sales.

"We wouldn't start packaging the properties together until they're actually closed, so the first group of properties that we're working with were closed in August, and if there's an appeal process or something like that going on, we won't go near the property until it's free to be sold," Walsh said.

The property will not be marketed until it has been “declared for profane use and has cleared all the canonical hurdles,” he added.

The first step in selling parishes was to secure the properties, according to David H. O’Brien, director of properties of the Archdiocese of Boston. The archdiocese hired The Codman Company, Inc. out of several real estate firms to close and manage parishes, under the direction of the Office of Facilities.

The second step, appraising the value, has been completed on all properties marked for sale, including Lawrence and Lowell, said Walsh.

Next, properties will be packaged into groups of five to eight. The properties will be grouped by criteria such as geographic location or likely use for the property, Walsh said.

"If you're going to go to a housing developer and offer them a particular property, you might want to say, 'I have three properties I think work well for housing. Look at all three,'" said O'Brien. "The idea is to make the process more efficient."

Once a package of properties has been created, several brokers will be interviewed and one will be selected to market the package.

"We will be interviewing about five brokers for the first assignment, and we may interview a different five for the next assignment," Walsh said.

"We will ask them what they think it's worth, what they think they can get, how long do they think it will take, who's the most likely buyer, what are the attributes of the property that are most likely to be appealing to the buyers and conversely what are the problems with the property," he said.

"From just a time point of view it would be impossible to interview every broker for every assignment. What we will try to do is interview every broker -- but not for every assignment," he continued.

O’Brien added, “It will be an open and competitive process. At the end of the day, we may end up hiring a broker who did a really good job on the first assignment. That doesn’t preclude him. In fact, we’d encourage him to come back for the next one.”

The selected broker will then have about a month to put together an offering document before putting the property on the market. After the property is on the market, an offer deadline will be set.

Once offers have been received, Walsh will evaluate the front-runners, considering their track record, contingencies in their offer and whether or not they have the means to support their bid. The offers will include the intended use of the property.

Bids will also be submitted to the archdiocese’s the Real Estate Advisory Committee for input.

Top offers will then be presented to the archbishop at a meeting of the archdiocesan finance committee, at which time they will receive final approval or disapproval.

The archdiocese is employing the methodology used by institutions, pension plans, insurance companies and banks, he added.

The archdiocese is not required to sell the properties to the highest bidder, and will take the Church’s social mission into account on all sales, according to assistant for canonical affairs Father Mark O’Connell.

Part of the social mission of the Church is to provide affordable housing, and many of the properties present themselves for that use, said Walsh.

Walsh was chosen to oversee the brokers because of his expertise, according to O’Brien.

Walsh has been in the commercial real estate brokerage business for over 35 years. In addition to his experience at CBRE/ Lynch Murphy Walsh Advisors, Walsh has served as chairman of the Boston College Real Estate and Finance Council and earned several industry honors.

He is one of 12,000 people in the world to receive the designation of Councilor of Real Estate from the American Society of Real Estate Counselors. Walsh is currently the chairman for the New England chapter of the society.