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Across the land: Burial plots become prime real estate



PHUKET: The current world population is 7.3 billion, but it is expected to hit 8.5 billion by the year 2030 and 9.7 billion by 2050, according to a new United Nations DESA report, titled ‘World Population Prospects: The 2015 Revision‘.

Asia Pacific is also now home to half of the world’s population of elderly persons, defined as people aged 60 years or older.

With an aging society weighing down its future, Asia is looking at more elderly people dying with less and less space available to bury the dead. Combining cultural, traditional beliefs for dealing with the departed, city planners and private companies are seeking modern ways to bury the departed with efficiency and respect.

Integrated death service providers are all the rage now, offering a wide range of services from funeral consultation and planning to transportation, embalming, cosmetology, cremation, funeral services, burial plots, ash burial plots, tomb design, landscaping, site maintenance, and so on.

In Japan, locker style columbarium are known as ‘nikotsudo’. The Ruriden Byakurengedo columbarium has modern wall-to-wall Buddha statues representing 2,000 digitized burial plots and guests can visit their deceased loved ones using an electronic ID card.

The Arlington National Cemetery in the US has begun implementing a digital, geo-spatial technology to improve operations and provide a better experience for families and friends of the departed, whether visiting the departed in person or online, making it one of the most high-tech cemeteries in the world.

Hong Kong investors are looking to turning a cruise ship into the world’s first seaborne columbarium. Hong Kong, known for its scarcity of space even for the living, has been seeking innovative ideas to deal with the critical storage of ‘urn’ spaces. It is expected that 48,000 urn spaces will be created to store the cremated remains of the deceased.

Usually when we plan to invest in real estate products or investments for our future, retirement or children, we think of purchasing a brick and mortar, physical structure or building we could live in, rent out or sell for capital gains. We hardly think of ‘investing’ in a burial plot or urn space for when we die.

Unbelievably, waiting lists for burial plots and urn spaces in Japan and Hong Kong are longer than waiting lists for purchasing a brand new condominium. Some private investors purchase burial plots or urn spaces and seek to sell them later at a profit. Similar to real estate, investment in burial plots or urn spaces follows the same principles: location is key.

Innovative death service providers have created ‘burial plots or urn space packages’ for individuals, couples and families, who even after death wish to remain together as a couple or family. Such packages can be paid in full, with monthly payments or even in installments during the lifetime prior to death. This usually provides assurance to the deceased that their families and loved ones do not experience any financial strain during this sad time.

Amy Koh is the sales manager of Engel & Voelkers Phuket. To contact her, or for more information, visit

— Amy Koh


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