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Fischer: Reflections on our one and only final resting place

By Jen Fischer - Special to the Standard-Examiner | May 24, 2024

Photo supplied

Jen Fischer

For the record, I am currently living in my final resting place. This is the fourth final resting place I have lived in. Each time I have moved, I swear it is going to be my last. Of course, as all of us who are currently residing on this planet are well aware, we actually have one more final, final resting place: the permanent address, the last home, God's Acre. This will be our forever home, the eternal piece of real estate. This particular plot of land, once purchased, will no longer gain or lose value. There is no economic or physical life to this property, and there is no tax identification number assigned. In fact, this is the only piece of property that will not be assessed for tax purposes. This is good news since the resident/owner no longer has any income earning potential.

While my intent is not to sound glib or flippant about the subject, I believe the topic deserves to be examined from a property value perspective. After all, this is property we are talking about, and it is not cheap. Much like any other property, there is a premium on the location of the plot. A location with a good view will cost a little extra. Ironic, in a way, but important for those who are left behind. Of course, any added improvements will also increase the total cost of the final home, including those fixtures (items of personal property that have been permanently attached) buried beneath the soil. A coffin or an urn are examples of fixtures. A gravestone is also a fixture. Much like solar panels in a home, a nice headstone or marker is something that costs money but does not necessarily add value. However, also much like solar panels, if it is something that can be a benefit to those who either live in the home or are visiting, it may be worth it if there is a long-term plan to stay there. Make that a family plot and you've got yourself a proverbial mansion.

Back in college, I wrote an article on the high cost of death in America. I researched the costs of coffins, urns, gravestone, plots and funeral services, sans the potato casserole and Jello dish luncheons post-service. I found that the average cost of a funeral in Utah is the equivalent today (taking into account the inflation rate over the course of about 35 years since I wrote the article) of about $15,000. That's about $750 a square foot for an 8-by-2.5-foot piece of property plus improvements. Few people would agree to pay this for a home. It would make the cost of a 1,200-square-foot home about $900,000. While that is not unrealistic in some areas of our state, it seems pretty steep to me.

While I was writing this article, as a young, inexperienced, college-aged kid armed with my strong opinions donning a large pair of rose-colored glasses, I was outraged by the cost. I felt the funeral industry was taking advantage of the public and we were all victims of a giant death production conspiracy. I questioned why the American public was not outraged by such a large anarchic scam.

As adulthood hit me head-on, I have come to change some of my strong, self-righteous and opinionated attitudes about many things. In the past few months, I have had the unfortunate opportunity to participate in two of these types of land purchases. As I lay both my mother and my younger sister to rest, I have found a level of peace and comfort in the way in which it was handled. I am grateful that I have a place to visit and remember. I am grateful it is beautiful and well kept. I partook of both the funeral potatoes as well as the Jello salads that were prepared with care and love from those who wanted to offer comfort and love and were helpless to fix the sorrow. Both these beautiful people deserve a peaceful, well-cared-for place to rest, and I am happy to pay what it costs.

Jen Fischer is an associate broker and Realtor. She can be reached at 801-645-2134 or jen@jen-fischer.com.

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