Cemetery Plot Buying and Selling

The funeral industry has witnessed many changes to tradition in recent years, one of which is the purchasing and selling of cemetery plots.  The costs for a burial plot can vary enormously from area to area, and even within a cemetery.  In order to secure plots, many families buy cemetery plots well in advance to plan ahead for funeral arrangements and guarantee family burial plots.  

Over the last few decades, when we traditionally buried our dead, many families planned ahead and purchased cemetery plots to ensure they had reserved space to secure their family heritage in the designated cemetery of their choice.  Over the last few years the funeral industry has changed significantly, and cremation is fast-becoming the preferred disposition choice.  By 2035, it is forecast the cremation rate will reach almost 80%.

Cemetery Plot

How is cremation re-shaping the cemetery industry?

As the nation shifts towards cremation as an alternative to burial, this presents changes and new challenges for the cemetery industry.  Some cemeteries have adapted by adding memorial scattering gardens within their grounds or adding new sections including cremation niches or a columbarium to their existing portfolio.  This is a fundamental shift for the cemetery industry.  Full-size burial plots cost more than a small cremation niche, and therefore there is a decline in revenue for cemeteries as we convert to cremation.

How do I sell a cemetery plot I no longer require?

In many cases, a family inherits cemetery plots that are no longer required and wish to sell their burial sites.  This has become especially the case with the recent downturn in the economy in the United States, and families looking to release cash from ‘property’.  As the price of some burial plots can amount to thousands of dollars, selling an unwanted cemetery plot or mausoleum, has proved a significant way to release family equity.  

Buying a cemetery plot for sale and transferring ownership

Likewise, for those undergoing the unfortunate process of burying a loved one, purchasing a cemetery plot for resale from a private individual, can prove a significant way to lower the total expenditure.  Purchasing a cemetery plot for sale can prove a lot less costly than purchasing directly from the cemetery.  There is an abundance of cemetery plots now coming onto the market for sale.  It is very important to ensure the title deeds to the cemetery plot are legally transferred as explained below.

Rules and regulations for selling (or buying) a cemetery plot

It is estimated that there are in excess of a million cemetery plots in the U.S. that individuals no longer have a need for.  In the past attempting to sell a gravesite was often quite difficult.  Firstly, it came with a sense of a ‘morbid’ type of product resell, and then there was the issue of how and where you advertised.  The only real way was to place adverts in local paper obituary sections, which could be costly if repeat adverts were required. Word of mouth via funeral directors or church ministers was perhaps the preferred method, although again restricted.

Now there is a whole cemetery plot sale and transfer of ownership business, largely borne out of the boom of the Internet and electronic commerce.  There are multiple companies that specialize in helping a family locate a cemetery plot that is for resale and acting as brokers for those individuals who wish to sell a burial plot. 

Of course, as with any business, one must be mindful of the ‘sharks’ in the business, and we would strongly recommend you ensure you are dealing with a reputable company if you are seeking to buy or sell a cemetery plot.  Some firms merely take a commission fee for the sale and/or purchase, whereas a professional cemetery plot brokerage agent will ensure that the whole process of the transfer of legal ownership is undertaken as well. 

All cemetery plots have ownership papers, therefore, these deeds need to be legally verified and rewritten for the transfer of ownership.  A statement of sale should also be provided for both seller and purchaser. 

Cemetery brokers need to have a license in certain U.S. states, although in many states it is not illegal to operate as a cemetery plot broker without a license.  As with funeral legislation, the rules governing the resale of cemetery property can vary between states, and if you are unsure about the laws governing the sale of a burial plot in your state, it is advisable to check first with your State Government’s Cemetery Regulations and Licensing. 

These regulations inhibit cemeteries in some states from engaging in this resale practice, so if you are approached by your local cemetery offering to sell your burial plot for a fee, be sure to check it is legally permissible in your state.  Legislation governing the funeral industry is strict for a reason, it is to protect the public, especially in an industry dealing with vulnerable, distressed purchasers!  A Cemetery Broker, similar to a Real Estate Agent, will derive his commission from the sale value of the property, and fees are ordinarily between 5% and 15%. 

A great benefit of these online cemetery plot resale companies is that you can search for an available plot, or sell an unwanted plot, from the comfort of your own home with a prearranged agreement for the cost for these services. As mentioned earlier, with more Americans needing to release cash from property-owned, and more needing to reduce the costs of their funeral expenses, the selling, and purchasing of cemetery plots is becoming a growing business.

Tips for selling (or buying) a cemetery plot

Due to the cremation trend, and the economic downturn, there ARE far more families seeking to sell plots than those looking to purchase.  Therefore, before you embark on a mission to sell your cemetery plot, you need to set realistic expectations!  Realistic in terms of the value of the plot, and its re-sell value, and realistic about the prospect of selling and the time-frame.

The Internet offers an easy and unique way to advertise a plot for sale, and there are several cemetery plot/exchange websites that you can check out.  Do check the terms and integrity of a cemetery plot sales website, especially before you pay out any listing fees.

It is always worth checking with the cemetery where the plots are held.  Some cemeteries will buy back any unwanted plots but be warned, it may be in the fine print that they have the right to buy back at the original cost!  In fact, one of the first things you must do before embarking on any project to sell a cemetery plot is to investigate the terms of your perpetual contract with the cemetery.  Believe it or not, some cemeteries have some rather strange (and in some cases archaic) rules about what you can do with a plot that you own!

Finally, some of the ‘old-fashioned’ modes of selling cemetery plots may still hold valid today.  Funeral and cemetery purchases are such a unique purchase as they are generally not considered until the need arises.  This, therefore, can make funeral products and services difficult to market.  Traditionally word-of-mouth would be a significant way that funeral services were communicated.  You could consider communicating your intention to sell your cemetery plot to local church circles or funeral homes.

Online Cemetery Brokers:

Plotbrokers.com

Gravesolutions.com

Bayercemeterybrokers.com

Written by

Sara is the Editor in Chief for US Funerals Online and has been researching and writing about the death care industry in the US for the last 10 years.