How to Sell Cemetery Property
Yesterday I was on the phone with a client who wanted to sell his cemetery property, two grave spaces at Rose Hills in Whittier, CA. While he and his wife were married, they thought it would be a good idea to be prepared for death and take the burden off their kids. That was twenty years ago, they have since divorced, both retired and both moved out of the area. He moved to a Chicago suburb to be close to their daughter and the grandkids. Neither of them plans to be buried here, the cemetery won’t buy the burial/interment rights back. I’ve heard this story or something similar time and again.
After having listed and relisted the property on Craigslist for several months, he was fed up with scammers and flakes. He was just about to list his property on a paid cemetery listing site, when I reached out to him to ask if he would like to list with us. We discussed the market, and the options I could offer. I saved him a listing fee, and gave him a guaranteed return when his property sells. In his case I’m confident it will sell quickly.
Buying burial plots in advance is a great idea, if you will use them. But life happens, people move, get divorced, or owners change their mind and decide they no longer need the plots. Finding a buyer is often tricky, because most potential buyers don't realize there is a secondary or resale market for burial rights or that they can even be resold.
What should you do if you no longer want the property?
· First, call the cemetery to establish if you have the legal right to sell it. If anyone else has rights to the property, they will need to sign off on the sale too. This happens when you have multiple buyers, or several adult children inheriting it. All property on one deed will require the signature of all rights holders, otherwise the transfer can’t take place.
· Second, ask if the cemetery will buy the grave/niche/crypt. Most cemeteries won’t buy back and if they do it will typically be at a discount from 10% to 50% of the original purchase price. Some cemeteries will offer to consign or list the property for you, but they make more by selling their own property and salespeople often are paid less to sell these, therefore they just sit unsold and basically off the market not competing with the cemetery.
· As mentioned before, you can list it for sale online on sites like Craigslist.org. You can pay for a newspaper classified ad, or list on a paid cemetery registry/broker or place an ad on eBay.com. Of course, I’m biased and think you should list it for FREE with us.
o The listing should detail the name of the cemetery, a property description with the full location, number of spaces and the price.
o Manage your expectations, there is no waiting list for cemetery property. Sellers can expect to wait months or years before their plot sells, therefore I don't advise choosing any service that has monthly or annual fees.
o Understand why a buyer has even found this alternative to buying from the cemetery. Generally, it is because they couldn’t afford what the cemetery was offering and they have an immediate need. This means they need a quick reliable transaction at a price they can afford. Keeping in mind the other cemetery expenses involved, like opening/closing, vault, vault setting, etc.
· The cemetery will provide documents needed by both the buyer & seller and require a transfer fee be paid. If you have questions feel free to call our office 1(888) 881-7568.
A cemetery is a business like any other, the inventory is the ground property, mausoleum crypts, or cremation niches. Once they sell out of all their spaces they have nothing left to sell, (there's more to that but I won't bore you with other revenue sources for a cemetery). To determine pricing, the management keeps track of sales history, inventory, market share and projected sales. They hold all the cards, they know if sales are up, down, or sideways. By tracking this information, they determine if they will raise, maintain, or lower prices.
Once an area is sold out of nearly sold out, another section is made the active portion, typically at the same or a slightly higher price than the previous area. While the previous area's price is then dramatically increased.