Dear Savvy Senior,
How do I go about selling unwanted burial plots in my hometown cemetery? When my parents died about 25 years ago my husband (at the time) and I bought two plots near them in the same cemetery. But we’ve gotten divorced since then and have both moved out of state. Besides that, I would like to be cremated instead of buried.
— Looking to Sell
Life changes such as relocating, family disputes and divorce, along with the growing popularity of cremation in the U.S., is causing more and more people to sell previously purchased burial plots they don’t intend to use any longer. But depending on where you live and the location of the cemetery, selling a plot can be difficult. And, if you do sell it, you’ll probably get less than what you initially paid for it. Here’s are a few tips to get you started.
• Contact the cemetery: Your first step in selling your unwanted burial plots is to contact the cemetery and find out if they would be interested in buying them back, or if you’re allowed to sell them yourself to another person or family. And if so, what paperwork will you need to complete the sale and is there a transfer fee?
Some states require sellers to offer the plot back to the cemetery before selling it to others.
• Selling options: If you find that it’s OK to sell your plots yourself, many people choose to use a broker. There are a number of companies — like PlotBrokers.com and GraveSolutions.com — that will list your plots for sale and handle the transaction for a fee and possibly a commission. If you go this route, you’ll sign paperwork giving the broker permission to work on your behalf. Listings can last up to three years or until the plots sell.
Alternatively, or simultaneously, you can also list them yourself on sites like The Cemetery Exchange, GraveSales.com along with eBay and Craigslist, and handle the transaction yourself. In the ad, be sure to post pictures, describe the area where the cemetery is located and give the plot locations.
• What to ask: Appropriate pricing is key to selling your plots. It’s recommended that you find out what the cemetery is selling their plots for today and ask at least 20% less. If you’re pricing too close to what the cemetery charges, there’s no incentive for potential buyers.
• Beware of scammers: If you choose to sell your plots yourself, it’s not unusual for scam artists to reach out and try to get your personal financial information. Phone calls tend to be more genuine than emails and text messages.
• Donate them: If you don’t have any luck selling your plots, and if money isn’t an issue, you can donate them to charity such as a religious congregation, a local veteran’s group or an organization that aids the homeless. To get a tax deduction, you’ll need an appraisal, which a cemetery or broker may supply for a fee.
Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.