News Opinion Article from the Final Arrangements News Journal
Funeral Homes have been sold a bill of goods when it comes to what the Internet can and will do for them.
A Really Wonderful Call.
©The Final Arrangements News Journal
It isn’t every day a funeral director can go beyond the call of duty for a family in need but in the future The Cemetery Registry, TCR, may just do that for some funeral homes in the United States.
The Cemetery Registry, the Internet’s North American multiple listing of cemetery property available from private owners, is now capable of delivering a needed grave site, mausoleum crypt or other cemetery property on an at need basis.
Since most private owner property carries a substantial savings to what the same type would cost from the cemetery directly, a funeral director would have more funds available for the family to use on the actual funeral that normally needs to be saved for the cemetery expenses.
The Cemetery Registry’s Registrar Office reports that the number of private owners now doing the extra homework to insure their property can be used for an at need situation is growing each day. TCR encourages new registrant property owners to take this extra step in order to increase the marketability of their property. Property registrations since January of 2004, when the option was made available, show 60% of owners are doing the vetting and coming online for sale as “immediate use” availabilities.
“There is a bit of work for an owner to do before they can carry the immediate need designation and we have been pleasantly surprised by our clients willingness to prepare their property for delivery to a funeral director and a family in need.” Said RW Ward, client relations’ director for The Final Arrangements Network. The Final Arrangements Network is the custodian of TCR’s database of private owners.
In order for an owner to carry the immediate need designation, TCR requires that owner to have contacted the cemetery where the property rights are and secure the necessary arrangements to insure the property can be transferred to a new owner within a 24 to 72 hour window if the need arises. TCR asks a registering owner to verify that indeed their property can be transferred this way and only after the owner has in writing stated they can meet the criteria, does TCR add the designation to the registered listing.
“This at need service is what will make some of the estimated 1.5 plus million private owner cemetery properties much more liquid in the marketplace.” Ward stated. “Private owners can now truly compete with the cemetery for a sale in way they never could before. With TCR’s always available Internet presence, finding these valuable and substantial fund saving offers is actually quicker and easier than going to the cemetery itself.” Added the director.
A funeral director can now, quickly check to see if they could save a family funds to use for the funeral by simply going to TCR, at the FAN website, where it’s housed. TCR’s search functions allow one to link into the appropriate state and city were property is needed. TCR’s database was tested for its search ease and uses a progressive series of expanding information beginning with a listing of States that leads to an array of Cities and Cemeteries with property and finally the individual offers with the contact information, descriptions and pricing.
A search takes less than a minute and can be done from any computer with Internet access. Since the properties in TCR carry contact information, the entire search, negotiations and transfer generally can start and finish within a few minutes. Any paperwork and property transfer documents, generally, can be done by fax by the owner with the help of the cemetery in just a few hours.
A family may not have to visit the cemetery or even be in the same city or state where the property is being bought to make the transfer. TCR registered clients can get help from TCR with the transfer, if they ask for it. The help of a funeral director usually means as smooth a transfer as if the property were being bought from cemetery inventory can be accomplished. The thousands often saved are then available for funeral service needs.
“We are expecting that within the coming months most of the offers in TCR will carry the immediate need notice. Our problem is having enough offers to cover the expected need. There will be approximately 1.7 million properties needed for the 2.4 million deaths in the US in 2004. Those who must purchase at need will require approximately 680,000 burial or entombment spaces. TCR won’t be able to accommodate but a very small percentage of those but we know our ability to provide more of this need in the future will do nothing but grow.” Ward indicated.
The main problem for TCR is not buyers but rather coaxing valuable cemetery property out of owners.
“We have a steady stream of individuals and families wanting to buy cemetery property. It’s those 1.5 million sellers out there who are reluctant to try again. They have been burned and burned badly by trying to sell property using newspapers and even pay as you go Internet listings, but they usually ended up paying more advertising renewal fees to stay listed than the property was worth. What TCR has done is change the entire way these properties are made available and made staying visible affordable for the seller.” Said Lori Campbell, The Final Arrangements Network's New Corporate Communications Director.
Campbell pointed out that TCR not only promotes the immediate need aspect of a seller's offer but brings the kind of services to buying and selling cemetery property most people would recognize as the sort of services one expects from a real estate company representative in buying and selling a home but without the commissions or fees attached.
“We don’t have fees for the buyers we do searches for nor do we collect any commissions or advertising fees from our seller clients for finding them a buyer. The only charge involved, for anyone, is a registration-processing cost when a property has been accepted for listing in TCR. It is a one-time charge that covers the cost to get the appropriate paperwork done and the listing into TCR’s database. This small charge helps keep the registrations from being taken over by less than reputable individuals who may try to take advantage of our buyer clients if there weren’t the charge and verification requirements we use to make sure the registration is a real one.” Added Campbell.
“Whether the immediate need notice The Final Arrangements Network is using for some of its TCR registrations makes a difference or not, it is the first time that private owners will be playing on a level field with the commercial cemeteries that, heretofore, have gotten the vast majority of the at need business.” Campbell concluded.
Final Arrangements Network estimates show that a funeral director who used the TCR database to match a private seller with a client’s cemetery choice would generally save a client 35% to 45% of that cost. In a medium sized city this translates into $600 to $1,500 of additional funeral funds.
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