Adam Dow Real Estate

What every buyer needs to know

Buyers Guide

There's a cemetery on my property

Most states have laws that protect the rights of family members to visit, repair, beautify and protect private family plots, plus gain access to them from the nearest public roadway at will. 

As for home resale, it’s a fact that some potential homebuyers are superstitious about an on-site graveyard. That might limit your universe of buyers. On the other hand, some buyers might feel the small cemetery actually adds to the historical context of the land.

Burial at home was once common in the country, and family cemeteries and plots can be found on many historic properties. But while they have intrinsic appeal to genealogists and historians, their effect on housing values depends a lot on who is buying.

Most buyers looking at antique homes embrace the history, and gravestones are sometimes part of that story. People often make the mistake of thinking that when they buy property with a private cemetery on it, they own the plot - but they don’t, at least not to the extent that they can do anything they want with it.

It is illegal to dismantle cemeteries or remove gravestones. Property owners must go through a lengthy legal process before altering such a site, often requiring that they obtain permission from relatives. Other avenues include seeking a court order to have the graves moved to another cemetery, or trying to deed the land to a municipality so as to shift responsibility for its care.

There are two morals to this story: (1) do your due diligence before buying any property; and (2) if you buy property that contains a family cemetery and someone wants to visit, react reasonably to the situation.

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