Many Americans own unused burial plots that they wish to dispose of. Life changes such as moves or divorces may leave owners without a need for the plots. Adult children often inherit spaces in family plots that they don’t intend to use. When someone needs to dispose of an unused cemetery plot, it can be challenging because most cemeteries will not buy them back, and there is no established resale market. Fortunately, there are now several online listing sites that help connect burial plot buyers and sellers.
If you have a plot you no longer want, first talk to someone at the cemetery to make sure you have the legal right to sell. If you bought the property jointly with someone else, or if multiple adult children jointly inherited cemetery property, permission of all the joint owners must be given. You can ask if the cemetery will buy back the burial plot, although many won’t. Church- or synagogue-owned cemeteries may have more lenient policies regarding buying back burial rights but they may charge a service fee, perhaps 10%.
If a cemetery won’t buy back the plot, you can turn to Craigslist.org, eBay.com, or newspaper classified ads. But usually a more effective solution is to use a cemetery registry or broker. Beware of any service that requires a large upfront fee. It will likely take months or even years before the plot sells, so don’t go with a service that has monthly or annual costs.
Here are some options:
Because there are currently so many more sellers than buyers in the secondary market, buyers can typically acquire plots for less than 50% of a cemetery’s current plot price. Before finalizing a purchase from an individual, buyers should contact the cemetery to ensure that the seller has the legal right to sell, inquire about the transfer fee (ranging from $15 to well over $100), and ask if there are any additional costs that could arise, such as perpetual-care costs. In addition to the considerations discussed on our Buying A Cemetery Plot page, inquire about the cemetery section of the plot for sale; some private sale notices might not mention that the plot is in a section affiliated with a particular religious faith.
Once buyer and seller have reached an agreement, the cemetery will provide legal documents that the buyer and seller will sign. The cemetery will then issue burial rights to the new owner.
Sellers who are unable to find a buyer may choose to donate the plot(s) to the local police or fire departments or to their financial institution.