What Are Your Options If You Want To Sell A Cemetery Plot? An In-Depth Guide

As a small business consultant, I often assist entrepreneurs looking to sell assets they no longer need. One unique item that sometimes comes up is how to sell a cemetery plot. While it may seem strange, there are good reasons you may want to or need to sell a burial plot you own. In this comprehensive guide, I‘ll explore the full process so you can make the right choice.

What Exactly Are Cemetery Plots?

Before weighing your options to sell, it‘s important to understand what cemetery plots are. A cemetery plot, also called a burial plot, grave plot, or gravesite, is a designated space in a cemetery that has been mapped out and can be used to bury a casket or urn.

Cemetery plots are typically sold by the cemetery itself. According to the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA), the average cost of a burial plot in the U.S. is $2,695, though prices vary greatly by location and specific cemetery.

When you purchase a plot, you are acquiring burial rights but you do not own the land itself. The cemetery retains ownership and maintenance responsibilities. There are a few types of burial plots:

  • Individual Grave – Contains enough space for one adult casket burial. Approximately 2.5 ft x 10 ft.
  • Companion Graves – Side-by-side plots for couples or close family members.
  • Family Plots – Designated spaces with multiple gravesites for family burials. Often includes a family monument.
  • Mausoleum Crypts – Indoor burial spaces in a mausoleum building. Above ground and more expensive.
  • Cremation Plots – Smaller plots designated for urn burial. May fit 2-4 urns.

Why Would You Want To Sell A Cemetery Plot?

There are a few common reasons you may need or decide to sell a cemetery plot you own:

  • Relocation – If you have moved out of the area, you likely no longer need a plot close to your old home. Selling it can give you funds to buy a new plot near your current location.
  • No longer needed – A family plot may no longer be needed if family situations change. For example, if you purchased a 4-grave plot but now have no other family members in the area to bury there. Plots can‘t be divided up, so the entire plot would need to be sold.
  • Financial reasons – The funds from selling an unused plot can be useful if you need money for other reasons. One plot can sell for upwards of $5,000 in some areas.
  • Dissatisfaction with cemetery – You may opt to sell a plot in order to buy one in another cemetery you now prefer.

According to the NFDA, cemetery plot transfers and resales account for about 5% of all plot sales. So while uncommon, there is a market if you need to transfer ownership.

Option 1: Resell To The Cemetery

The most straightforward option is to resell your cemetery plot back to the cemetery where it is located. Most reputable cemeteries include buyback or return policies in their purchase contracts. However, buyback rates are typically well below original purchase value.

According to industry experts, cemeteries will usually only offer to repurchase a plot at about 80-85% of the original price. So while not ideal for recuperating your costs, reselling to the cemetery ensures a relatively simple transaction.

Here are some tips for reselling to the cemetery:

  • Review your purchase contract – See if a resale clause is included guaranteeing buyback at the same price. This is rare, but some contracts do include this.
  • Contact the cemetery management – Inform them you are interested in reselling your plot back to them. Be ready to provide ownership documentation.
  • Negotiate price – While you likely won‘t receive 100% of the original value, try to negotiate the highest repurchase price possible. Remain respectful.
  • Draw up a legal buyback agreement – Once a new price is agreed upon, the cemetery should draft a legal contract solidifying the transaction details.
  • Close the deal – After signing the contract, you will hand back ownership rights in exchange for the agreed-upon buyback payment.

While likely a 15-20% loss, reselling to the cemetery is a no-hassle option to easily transfer your plot back to their control.

Option 2: Use A Plot Resale Broker

If you want to aim for recovering more of your original investment in the burial plot, using a professional plot resale broker is an option.

Plot resale brokers act as agents to market and facilitate sales of unwanted cemetery plots to new buyers. There are a handful of reputable resale brokers across the U.S. specializing in connecting plot buyers and sellers.

Some benefits of using a broker include:

  • Wider marketing reach – Brokers use vast advertising networks to reach interested buyers.
  • Handling negotiations – The broker will negotiate with potential buyers on your behalf.
  • Ensuring valid sales – Brokers verify legal transfer policies to ensure the transaction is valid.
  • Completing paperwork – The broker will handle all required transfer paperwork.
  • Higher resale value – Brokers aim for the highest possible resale price, often at or above original cost.

The downside when using a plot resale broker is that they will take a fairly sizable commission from the final sale price – typically 30-35%. However, in many cases, even with the broker fee deducted, you may net more funds than reselling to the cemetery directly.

If going the broker route, here are some tips:

  • Research brokers – Search organizations like the International Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association for reputable brokers. Thoroughly vet broker candidates.
  • Interview brokers – Speak to 2-3 brokers before deciding. Ask about their pricing structure, advertising reach, past sales, and reviews.
  • Review contract – Before signing an agreement, go through their contract thoroughly. Understand their listing price, commission rate, timelines, and termination clause.
  • Market aggressively – Opt for the most inclusive, aggressive marketing package from the broker to maximize interest and potential sale price.

Though pricier, a qualified broker will take care of the entire sales process and work to get top dollar. Around 80% of broker-listed plots successfully sell within 6 months.

Option 3: Advertise And Sell The Plot Yourself

If you want to avoid any broker fees, you can advertise and sell your cemetery plot independently. This takes more effort but allows you to keep 100% of the sale proceeds.

Some tips for selling a plot yourself include:

  • Set a sales price – Determine your asking price based on comparable plot sales in the cemetery location. Add room for negotiation.
  • Create listings – Write clear, detailed sales posts to share online and in print publications. Include key details – cemetery name, plot location, dimensions, price, and your contact.
  • Advertise the listing – Promote the plot sale through local avenues like community centers, religious institutions, or social media groups relevant to the area.
  • Post on industry websites – List the plot on sites like GraveSolutions.com and FinalArrangements.net which are dedicated to plot resales.
  • Consider print ads – Running classified ads in local newspapers can reach older individuals more likely to purchase plots.
  • Screen buyers – When inquiries come in, vet buyers to ensure they can finalize the transaction. Confirm funding and ability to cover transfer fees.
  • Hire an attorney – Use an attorney to officially transfer plot ownership and record the deed once a sale is secured.

Independent plot resales require more effort but allow you to keep all profits. About 50-60% of self-listed plots sell within a year.

Talk With Family and Friends First

Before advertising a plot for sale publicly, consider letting close family members and friends know you have one available. There‘s a chance someone you know was already considering purchasing a plot in that cemetery or may want to take advantage of the opportunity.

Often relatives will be willing to pay a reasonable resale price to keep the plot in the family versus buying from a stranger. While it takes an extra step, selling to someone you know can provide peace of mind. You‘ll want to draw up a legal purchase contract even with family and take care of official deed transfer.

Know The Laws And Transfer Process

When selling a cemetery plot, it is essential to follow all laws and regulations that govern plot ownership transfers. While rules can vary some by state, there are important steps to legally transfer a plot title, including:

  • Notifying the cemetery – Inform them of the pending sale and ensure there are no restrictions.
  • Documentation – Supply documentation proving you own the plot and have the right to sell it.
  • Draw up a purchase contract – Have an attorney help craft a detailed contract to cover all terms, conditions, and contingencies.
  • Pay outstanding costs – Settle any remaining burial fees with the cemetery before transferring ownership.
  • Record deed transfer – File paperwork to officially record the plot deed in the buyer‘s name with local authorities.
  • Meet timelines – Transfers must be completed in a reasonable given timeframe after death. Limits prevent speculative resales.

Following the proper legal process ensures the transaction goes through correctly and avoids issues down the road. Consulting an attorney can help guide you and handle the required documentation.

Weigh the Options Thoughtfully

Selling an unused cemetery plot you own is a big decision that involves careful consideration of the options. There is a legal process that must be followed to properly transfer a plot deed. While rarely an easy process, you can successfully sell unneeded plots for a fair price through ethical practices.

Evaluate reselling to the cemetery, using a broker, or selling the plot yourself based on your priorities like convenience, recovering costs, and control. With research and patience, you will find the best option to divest your cemetery plot ownership responsibly.