Templeton CA church converted to an Airbnb vacation rental

For more than a century, the property on the corner of Crocker and 7th streets in Templeton served as a house of worship.

But in July 2022, after some major renovations, the property reopened its doors as Church Huis, a vacation stay managed by Hacienda Vacation Rentals.

Kelly Cook, a Templeton banker and owner of Church Huis, said she invests in real estate on the side for “retirement purposes” and wanted to find a way to incorporate an Airbnb into a space that was not used for residential housing.

“This was originally a church and it was vacant for quite a while, so I purchased it and turned it into a vacation rental so everybody can enjoy downtown Templeton in all its glory,” Cook said.

Before the renovations, the property was “pretty beat up” and had stood vacant for an unknown amount of time, Cook said.

Cook said the building is comprised of a single structure that was expanded over the course of its lifetime, starting as a small pioneer home in the late 1890s or early 1900s before eventually adding the larger structure of the church, which greatly expanded the building’s footprint and added features like a bell tower, sanctuary and side offices.

Both the pioneer house and church additions were fully overhauled with a new interior structure, paint and walls, dividing the worship space into an open living room and kitchen on the church side of the house, while new walls were used to create bedrooms where more of the sanctuary used to be, Cook said.

The pioneer and church dwellings are attached by a double door, and the building can be rented entirely or as two individual units.

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Laura Dickinson ldickinson@thetribunenews.com

Airbnb still has features of a church

Despite its new purpose, the property has retained several key features of the old church, including its stained glass windows.

Outside, the building has a deep backyard and garden, while the back wall of the house is decorated with a mural of tulips, which Cook said have close ties to his family’s history.

“‘Huis’ is Dutch for ‘house,’ and my family immigrated from Holland,” Cook said.

Internal decorations came from anywhere Cook could find them, she said, including Amazon, Goodwill and vintage stores, while Cook enlisted volunteers to help with the furniture.

“I have a husband, but he has a business and a full-time job, so he was never here. So my little kids and myself put it (all) together,” Cook said.

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Laura Dickinson ldickinson@thetribunenews.com

In total, the house has five bedrooms and three bathrooms between the pioneer and church parts of the building, with three bedrooms and two bathrooms in the church house and two bedrooms and one bathroom in the pioneer house.

Hacienda Vacation Rentals owner Melissa Crandall, who manages Church Huis along with 16 other rentals throughout San Luis Obispo County, said working with Cook has been a “property manager’s dream.”

Crandall said Cook did all of the renovation and decorating herself, and just a week and a half after their first meeting, Church Huis was ready to open for business.

“Having a growing business, you want to be selective with the properties that you know will do well,” she said. “Kelly’s property is historical, so that’s a really unique tag, and also the way that she decorated it (and) the way that she upgraded the house and the location is just a perfect vacation rental for anyone to have. We were lucky to get it when we did.”

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Laura Dickinson ldickinson@thetribunenews.com

Templeton property performing well as a rental

The property has performed well despite opening in the middle of the summer, and at that time Crandall said it is relatively quiet in the vacation rental space because most summer vacation plans have already been made.

Cook and Crandall met through one of Hacienda Vacation Rentals’ other clients. As partners, Cook owns the property and takes care of many operational costs, while Crandall said she takes care of the property and meets with its guests.

“As an owner, Kelly is really sensitive to the comments that we get, and she’s willing to put in whatever she can to help us with the best feedback and the best vacation stay that our guests could want,” Crandall said.

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Laura Dickinson ldickinson@thetribunenews.com

All rentals are booked through the home’s Airbnb and VRBO pages, where prices can fluctuate depending on the time of year and how much of the dwelling a guest decides to reserve.

Cook said the building’s unique history has helped make its first month of availability a success.

“People want that ‘bucket list stay’ — they want to stay in a place that they’ve never been before,” Cook said. “Saying you came to the coast or to Paso (Robles) to taste wine is a big deal already, but to stay in a church? People seem to like it.”

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Laura Dickinson ldickinson@thetribunenews.com

This story was originally published August 22, 2022 11:19 AM.

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John Lynch is a housing reporter at the San Luis Obispo Tribune. Originally from Kenosha, Wisconsin, John studied journalism and telecommunications at Ball State University, graduating in 2022.


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