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Looking to buy a burial plot? It’s harder than you think

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I remember wondering as a child, “what happens when a cemetery runs out of room? What happens if they all run out of room?!” Pretty basic questions from a child who was still working out how the world works. But lately, these questions have returned and like many of you, I’m looking for answers dammit!

People don’t like to talk about death – and I get it. The thought of your loved ones leaving this earth is too grim a thought for most, but there is a benefit to thinking about this pragmatically in the present.

As the demand for homes continues to rise, so too does the demand for burial plots. These mini blocks of land are becoming increasingly hard to come by, especially in populated areas like our capital cities.

With burial plot prices predicted to keep increasing dramatically in most Australian cities, it’s little wonder that an estimated 70% of Australians have opted for cremation over a traditional burial. And as the majority of big city cemetery land was set aside more than a century ago, with minimal plots added more recently despite our growing population – the 6-feet-under problem remains.

Future graveyards: problematic or problem solved?

Burial space, unfortunately, continues to be an overlooked planning issue in Australia. The last significant changes made in Australian cities within the cemetery scene took place in the late 1800s – a problem if there ever was one, considering our death rate is predicted to double in the next fifty years.

If we were to look at this ideologically, governments and private operators would come together to address the issue. With financial backing and the best people with the right credentials leading the way, new technologies and innovative processes could be introduced to provide more burial space – without taking up precious vacant land.

In some countries such as North-East Asia, urban high-rise cemeteries take the place of wide-open space – building up rather than plotting outwards. Perhaps this is the answer to the Aussie burial plot shortage?

While this may sound like a ‘quick fix’, we soon face the issue of development. With significant barriers such as high land values, limited land up for sale, restrictive zoning, and an obvious priority to house the living, cemetery expansion in urban areas remains a hurdle no matter how innovative the architectural design.

A ‘deeper’ solution to a growing issue

While there’s no denying that ‘rent-a-grave’ is a rather crass idea, there is a sustainable and ethically sound spin on this that may be of interest if you’re planning to buy a plot. Hear me out folks.

With most burial sites, the plot is purchased in perpetuity – meaning the grave remains in this spot – untouched to the end of time. But what experts in the field are suggesting is that buyers could in fact buy their plot as a renewable tenure.

This regulation already exists in some places throughout Australia. The renewal of interment rights occurs after a fixed period, meaning that once the tenure is up (whether that is 25, 50 or 100 years down the line), the person’s remains are recovered and buried deeper within the grave. Why? Because less lateral land is used, making ‘easy’ space for new occupants of future generations. From a practical perspective, this makes a whole lot of sense (pardon the ‘hole’ pun).

At the moment, only Victoria, ACT, Northern Territory and Queensland offer burial plots on a perpetual tenure basis. Only recently has NSW introduced an ‘opt-in’ renewable tenure, and in South Australia and Western Australia, the renewal of interment rights occurs after a specific period of time.

With the cost of some of the more ‘premium’ graves priced higher than many luxury apartments per square metre due to high demand, it’s a good idea to start thinking about yours or your loved ones’ future burial plot plans now – as hard as it may be.

With burial plot prices ranging anywhere from $13,600 in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs to a whopping $52,000 in Waverley – before funeral costs are introduced, there is no harm in doing a little research now to save you time and money later on. In these locations, the burial plot has blue-chip waterfront views and a price to match.

I know it’s an ugly topic, guys, but we’re here for you. If you have any questions or are looking for some tips on how to secure the right burial site for someone you love, give our team at Kitty & Miles a call or shoot us an email – we’ll be happy to guide you towards a purposeful purchase. 

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