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


Land price: check out the cemetery’s real estate business.

Burial space is an investment. As serious space becomes scarce and more valuable, entrepreneurs are turning to their graves.


Buying a cemetery is like buying a house. You wander around looking for a good place and then head for your final resting place. But what happens if you move or you change your mind about where you want to spend forever 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 about the business. She is in her thirties. She’s a little crunchy. She has long red hair.

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

AMBER CARVALY: yes, I don’t think so.

VANEK SMITH: you have so much?

Carly: yeah, I’ve always been.

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

Marilyn Monroe. Marilyn Monroe’s grave is very simple. It’s not as simple as almost every hicks.

Cavalli: yes, all hicks.

VANEK SMITH: Marilyn’s grave is in a very flat mausoleum with only a square stone with her name on it and a dozen fresh lipstick. It stands out from the surrounding rocks.

That’s why it’s pink.

Cavalli: I was told – I don’t know if it’s a legend or a myth – because all hicks are pink.

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

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

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

Zhu: very similar, yes.

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

What facilities does it provide? Like, why is it so expensive?

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

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

Amber Carvaly’s commitment to the Los Angeles cemetery plot is almost always to bury the most expensive parts. More and more, she sees her customers skip that part altogether and choose to be cremated. But she doesn’t think the need for cemetery space will disappear forever. She says cemeteries have always played an important role in her business.

Cavalli: this is where I think everything in the world is universal. It’s like standing on the beach. They’re just good places.


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