Dying to Get Out

Like all real estate, cemetery plots are a hard sell these days

When Laura Connelly’s sister-in-law hounded her and her husband about being responsible and buying cemetery plots 40 years ago, they gave in and bought two at Palms Mortuary for $986.

Now the 84-year-old has enlisted a friend’s help to sell the crypts on Craigslist for $4,000—$2,150 under what she’s told they’d go for at the mortuary park today. The Connellys are opting for cremation instead.

“I don’t want a place my kids have to come put flowers on,” Connelly, who’s admittedly “not very sentimental,” says with a chuckle. “And it’s time to get rid of stuff.”

Dozens of Las Vegas cemetery plots are listed for sale on Craigslist, eBay and sites like PlotExchange.com. And just like any other piece of real estate, final resting places can be subject to foreclosure, refinancing, short sales and other fates that have become common in today’s market.

Loren Bayer with Bayer Cemetery Brokers believes the economy has been a major factor in helping his business jump 20 percent in the last two years, with some people simply desperate for cash. But Bayer also credits more people changing their mind about burial and choosing cremation instead — some because it’s typically a fraction the cost of burial and others because of a shift in philosophy.

“I feel like cremation is the more logical option,” says Robert Malin, who’s selling the plot he bought at a Vegas cemetery in 1998. Though the mortuary offered to trade his Vegas plot for a similar one in his current hometown of Tucson, Ariz., Malin wasn’t interested.

The number of Americans opting for cremation has been growing steadily for decades, according to statistics from the Cremation Association of North America, more than doubling from nearly 15 percent in 1985 to 34 percent in 2007. And CANA estimates more than 55 percent of Americans will be choosing cremation by 2025.

Even some people who chose cremation years ago are moving away from more traditional plans to bury their urns, selling off niches they’d purchased at cemeteries in favor of having their ashes spread in a meaningful spot.

That’s how cremation niches Stacey Ranieri and her husband bought at Memory Gardens Memorial Park ended up for sale for $2,200.

“We bought them probably in 1981, back when we were much younger,” Ranieri said. “We had a baby girl and just didn’t want her to have to deal with that stuff. But we decided we’re not going to be stuck in a black niche in a hole.”

Bayer also attributes the rise in cremations to the fact that people are more transient now and don’t have generations of family in a hometown grave like they used to.

Allice Carlo’s grandparents likely thought they started a family tradition when they bought four adjoining plots in Palm Memorial’s Garden of Peace in 1973 for around $700. Carlo’s grandmother passed away first and was buried in one spot, followed by her grandfather in another. But when his second wife died a few months back, Carlos said the family was a bit amused by grandma No. 2’s wish not to be buried alongside grandma No. 1.

“So she’s on my mantle,” Carlo says, and her spot is up for sale on Craigslist. “We decided to keep one just in case something happens and we need it, but sell the other one.”

The ads get interesting, with one seller willing to accept a motorcycle on trade for a Vegas plot next to his dad and another promising that a cremation niche at Palm Memorial Park “has not been used.”

But it turns out that final resting spots are not the easiest sell.

“I guess that’s something that nobody thinks about or even wants to think about,” Connelly says.

Even though the Garden of Peace is sold out and Carlo was told her two spots are in high demand especially for pilots and the like, since they’re in the flight path for the nearby airport, she hasn’t had many bites.

“I have had no luck with Craigslist,” Carlo says. “I only get spam e-mails and really weird e-mails. There are some strange people out there.”

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