New loves snap up fairytale buy of Waikato church

The 103-year old Puriri church southeast of Thames was sold at auction by Bayleys Hamilton today.
The 103-year old Puriri church southeast of Thames was sold at auction by Bayleys Hamilton today.

A Waikato couple are living out their very own fairytale - by buying a church.

Bayleys real estate agent Lee Carter told the Herald the 103-year-old Puriri church was today bought by Lesley Spencer and Dallum Brown - who have been together for seven weeks - at auction in Hamilton.

The couple had initially put in a pre-auction offer of $131,000. However, after a few frantic bids they managed to keep hold of it, eventually buying it for $141,000.

Spencer, who moved to Thames from Auckland 18 months ago, said they were "over the moon" with their new purchase and overwhelmed with the publicity which could prove interesting.

"We've both got people that don't even know about us or the church so it's like, 'okay, now it's going national' . . . but you know, there's so many sad news stories why not put something out there like this. It's a love story about two people, it's a love story about a church."

As for their new purchase - that was still sinking in.

"We still can't believe it ourselves. It's a long term process but it's going to be really cool.

"We've just been together seven weeks so we're totally crazy. The thing that we've been going with is that it's a giant leap of faith with us and the church but we're just going for it you know. There's a slight hiccup in the fact that we're both still married and have to get divorced but that's okay, we'll work on that."

Not only will the church eventually turn into their new home - it will also prove handy for when they get married.

"We totally have the right wedding venue."

The church was currently just a shell but they hoped to be able to transform it and move in within a year or sooner.

The church was owned by Max and Beverly Deane who bought it in 2001 for $36,000 - the day before it was due to be demolished.

Max Deane said the auction went better than they expected and they're thrilled with the end price.

"It went for more than we hoped, a very nice couple have brought it ... we're so pleased because all we were interested in is that they retain it and they're going to do it up and love in it and live in it. They've only been together seven weeks and they want to eventually tie the knot there too."

Deane said he and Beverly shared a bottle of champagne with Spencer and Brown at the church this afternoon after the auction.

However, there was a stage earlier this month where they had thought of keeping the church for further generations but then realised the large amount of interest in the auction due to the publicity it had generated.

Bayleys had received 117 inquiries about the auction this week alone, he said.

The quaint 100sq m church on State Highway 26 was on the market after sitting empty for almost three decades. The church was officially deconsecrated in 2012.

It sits on the edge of the Hauraki Plains, about 10km from Thames and Paeroa.

Carter said Spencer and Brown were currently renting separately in the Thames area and were looking forward to beginning the new chapter in their lives.

"They've been together for seven weeks, they're a new couple and wanted to buy a property together. They're both renting at the moment and want to do it up and have always wanted to live in a church so it's a bit of a fairytale for them, which is awesome."

Carter said they were "stoked" with the buy after initially making the pre-auction offer then managing to hold on to it, eventually buying it for $141,000.

"They're rapt."

Carter said the Deanes "never sold anything in their lives so I think they've had a pretty good sales experience and they're really pleased with the amount of exposure the property's had".

"Ultimately they're just happy that someone's bought it that's going to restore it and turn it into a home."

The church had a rateable value of $171,000 but the Deanes accepted that it was unlikely to go for that price.

The couple have spent $8000 on a new roof and $8000 on surveying, as well as rates which are currently $1648 a year.

Mr Deane earlier told the Herald he and his wife were prepared to favour any buyer who planned to restore the heritage-protected building.

- NZ Herald

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