For Sale: Cemetery Plot. Slightly Used

When you move away or need cash, it’s a good idea to get rid of any local property that you no longer need or want. For some families, that includes the deeds to unused cemetery plots in faraway graveyards. Or slightly used cemetery plots.

By “slightly used,” we mean a three-person plot with two spaces vacant, or, in the case of one site offered for sale on Craigslist, a plot where a toddler buried decades ago has long since decomposed. Most sellers who cite a reason say that they’re selling plots because they have moved away and want to be buried closer to their new homes. Like much New York real estate, some transactions pass through brokers.

“I don’t feel that [my family members] are actually there,” one woman selling two plots at a Long Island cemetery told the Atlantic. “All it is to me is a concrete vault with a name on it. The cheapest and easiest thing is to cremate me and throw me over the ocean.” Plus, those two graves are part of a larger family plot, and she doesn’t want to spend time with everyone buried there.

The problem is that buying and selling graves isn’t always, strictly speaking, legal. The Atlantic looked into the market for buying and selling cemetery plots in and around New York City, where eternal real estate can be predictably pricey. In New York state, the law says that plots in for-profit cemeteries can only be sold by the cemetery itself. In theory. People who want to get rid of their plots for any reason can sell them to another party if they first offered to sell them back to the corporation running the cemetery, and it declined. However, the state officials who oversee such transactions say that they don’t recall any recent prosecutions for illicit grave-flipping.

Shopping for Secondhand Graves on Craigslist [Atlantic]

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