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To sell burial plots, use broker or do it yourself with caution

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 and I bought two plots near them. But we’ve since gotten divorced and have both moved out of state. — Looking to Sell

Dear Looking: Life changes such as relocating, family disputes and divorce, along with the growing popularity of cremation in the U.S., are causing more and more people to sell previously purchased burial plots they don’t intend to use. 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 are a few tips.

>> Contact the cemetery: Your first step is to contact the cemetery and find out whether they would be interested in buying back the plots, or whether you’re allowed to sell them yourself to another person or family. 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, you can use a broker. There are a number of companies, such as 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 list them yourself on sites such as TheCemeteryExchange.com and 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. Find out what the cemetery is selling their plots for today and ask at least 20% less. If you’re pricing is 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 try to get your personal financial information. Phone calls can be more genuine than emails and text messages, but be cautious with all communications.

>> Donate them: If you don’t have luck selling your plots, and if money isn’t an issue, you can donate them to groups such as a religious congregation, a local veterans group or an organization that aids the homeless. For a tax deduction, you’ll need an appraisal, which a cemetery or broker could supply for a fee.


Jim Miller is a contributor to NBC-TV’s “Today” program and author of “The Savvy Senior.” Send your questions to Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070; or visit savvysenior.org.


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