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Final resting places for sale, a surplus during recession
Burial plots become marketable commodities in tough times
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The recession has caused many people to sell their jewelry, cars and homes in an effort to make ends meet. Now cemetery plots are among the unexpected items popping up often in classified ads.

Billy Hendrix, director of public relations and operations for Memorial Park Funeral Homes and Cemeteries, said there is a surplus of available lots nationwide.

“It’s really starting to be more and more prevalent,” Hendrix said. “They consider that as an asset they don’t need right now or something they could do away with and try to turn into a source of revenue or some cash to pay bills.”

He said though he has seen a lot of such sales in Hall County, it has not hurt his business.

“Locally, here, it’s not affecting us much,” Hendrix said. “But people are doing it.”

Katie Kay, 74, of Oakwood, and her husband, David, are advertising their two mausoleum crypts at Memorial Park for $7,500.

But the recession had little to do with the decision. Kay said due to health concerns, she and her husband decided to move to Asheville, N.C., to be closer to their child.

“We certainly intended to stay here and eventually use them,” Kay said. “But things do change.”

Kay said she is selling at a loss — despite the crypts being in a desirable location.

“We just started the ad this week and we haven’t gotten any calls,” Kay said. “We figured with the economy the way it is, it’s best to just get the price we’re asking for it.”

In some areas, the supply of lots for sale far outweighs the demand.

“A classified page in one paper down in South Georgia is just full of nothing but cemetery plots for sale,” Hendrix said. “... Now there are starting to be third-party brokers out there basically brokering cemetery plots. It’s a big deal.”

Hendrix said like other property, many cemetery plots appreciate in value over time.

“All in all, what we’re finding is a lot of people are falling into the economic crunch,” Hendrix said. “There’s people making money now, where they bought property for nothing that’s now in a premier section of a cemetery or really sought-after section. They see it as an opportunity to sell it and make a little money on it.”

Another reason people are selling their cemetery plots is that cremation is seen as a sensible alternative to burial.

According to data from the Cremation Association of North America, the percentage of deaths resulting in cremations has increased each year.

In 1985, 14.9 percent chose cremation, and in 2007, the most recent year in the study, a little more than 34 percent chose cremation.

Hendrix said the average cremation costs about $2,200, as opposed to $8,000 for the average burial.

Hendrix said while cremations are definitely becoming more popular nationwide, there has been a more gradual increase in Hall County.

“People are choosing cremations because of expenses,” he said. “Slowly we’re seeing an increase, but it’s hard to really track.

“This is a very Bible-belt community with traditional values, and with that comes the traditional burials.”