Plot price: look at the cemetery’s real estate business.


Plot price: look at the cemetery’s real estate business.

Burial space is an investment. As grave Spaces become scarce and more valuable, entrepreneurs are turning their graves.


Buying a cemetery plot is like buying a house. You wander around, find a good place, and then move on to your final resting place. But what happens if you move or you change your mind about where you want to spend eternity and decide to sell that plot? Stacey Vanek Smith of our Planet Money podcast has this view of the cemetery’s real estate business.

STACEY VANEK SMITH, wired: Amber Carvaly is a funeral director. Her company is only a few years old. This is a startup. Amber is very young for this business. She is in her early 30s. She’s a bit crunchy. She has this long red hair.

I mean, you don’t look like a mortician.

AMBER CARVALY: yes, I don’t think so.

VANEK SMITH: you have so many?

Carly: yes, I’ve always been.

VANEK SMITH: I was in a cemetery in Los Angeles, and of course there was amber in the Pierce brothers memorial park. A 6 foot by 8 foot block is as much as a house. Square foot square foot, this is the most expensive real estate on earth. It comes down to a very famous resident.

Marilyn Monroe. Marilyn Monroe’s grave is very simple. It can hardly be simpler than all the hicks.

Cavalli: yes, all the hicks.

VANEK SMITH: Marilyn’s tomb is set in a very flat mausoleum, just a square stone with her name on it, and a dozen fresh lipsticks. It stands out from the surrounding rocks.

That’s why it’s pink?

Cavalli: I’ve been told – I don’t know if it’s a legend or a myth – it’s because all the hicks have turned pink.

VANEK SMITH: Marilyn is a good company. Hugh hefner, Rodney dutchfield, Natalie wood and Truman capote are also in this cemetery. This is a very unique place. To get the plot here, you have to know someone.

BARON CHU: hi, my name is BARON CHU from CHU Poon Brokers.

VANEK SMITH: so you’re basically a manor estate agent.

Zhu: very similar, yes.

VANEK SMITH: baron can sell you a double plot for $600,000 near Marilyn. That is not his most expensive property. He has a basement in town, over a million.

What facilities does it offer? Like, why does it cost so much?

CHU: a private entrance, an 18-foot ceiling, marble from floor to ceiling, and a surname as big as a highway sign.

VANEK SMITH: Baron has been working in the graveyard of real estate industry for 15 years, and says such as Los Angeles and New York City land prices are almost always rise, this is because in these cities are all real estate prices – population has been growing, and the space is very precious. The baron says the cemetery property is a very good investment. Demand is stable and supply has been falling. After all, once someone enters the cemetery, they don’t leave. So even in cheaper cities, serious plots start at about $1,500.

Amber Carvaly’s commitment to the Los Angeles cemetery plot is almost always the most expensive part of burial. More and more she saw her customers skip that part completely and choose cremation. But she doesn’t think the need for cemetery space will disappear forever. She says the cemetery always plays an important role in her business.

Cavalli: it’s a place for me to think that everything in this world is universal. It’s like standing on the edge of the ocean. They’re just great places.


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