If you were to dig up the ideal house only to find that it borders a cemetery, would the “quiet neighborhood” argument leave you unmoved? Many buyers seem uncomfortable with the idea of repairing their homes near tombstones, sometimes causing realtors to break a sweat. But for others it is not death to drink! What is the meaning of these reservations? Let’s try to find some answers.
Posted at 12:00 p.m
To reignite the challenge of your life, all you have to do is speak to real estate agent Gabriel Laflamme about the Laval house next to a graveyard that popped up in his listings five years ago: it’s the property that has given him the biggest head start. to struggle throughout his career. “When some came to visit, they got out of the car, saw that it was next to a cemetery and then immediately fled without even entering the house,” he recalls.
In a much less dynamic pre-COVID-19 market than it is today, the single-family home required long workweeks and 70 to 90 visits – triple the average at the time – before it finally found a buyer. And that despite a price that was adjusted from the outset and was below the district average.
“You have to be patient to find the right person because the circle of buyers is much smaller. Some are more affected than others: it depends on the culture, the personal history…” observes Mr. Laflamme. His other tools: highlight the property’s assets while being transparent, with a hint indicating the proximity of a graveyard. Arrangements such as natural hedges that obscure the view of the steles can also help. But everything also depends on the market context, agent RE/MAX points out: 2020-2021, with demand at its peak, the same property would have flown away in a week…
Not disturbing, even touching
If many buyers are uncomfortable with the idea of moving into a home next to a place of eternal rest, this is not the case for Véronique Lamontagne’s family, who in 2017 purchased a property on the edge of Jardins Memorial Back River Cemetery, in the Ahuntsic neighborhood of Montreal . The graves just over the fence? Nothing to worry about.
It wasn’t really a problem for us. What is certain is that during the visit, when we opened the curtains of the room, we told ourselves that it was special, but that played no part in the decision.
Véronique Lamontagne, who bought a piece of land on the edge of a cemetery
“This has made the house a little cheaper than other properties in the neighborhood,” says the woman who moved in with her husband and two daughters. The oldest, 7 years old when we moved, was at a loss at first, but then quickly got used to the thought of these neighbors like no other.
“I can imagine some people finding that a bit morbid, but it’s how we know that our lives have a beginning and an end. I don’t find it disturbing,” says Mme The mountain. Is the neighborhood as quiet as we like to joke? Generally yes: funerals, occasionally, are brief and discreet. On the other hand, maintenance work (lawn mowing and leaf blowing) is sometimes done in the early hours of the morning. Mourning relatives also pray at the graves of the missing. “It’s touching, but not disturbing,” emphasizes Mme The mountain. Unusual Fact: Rumors have been circulating in the neighborhood about “witchcraft rituals” taking place at night in the cemetery, but the resident says she’s never seen anything with her own eyes.
Did the small family fear that the proximity of the burial site could harm a possible resale? Not really: She’s mostly happy to take advantage of a lesser price and knows he’ll also be easily discouraged if he decides to move – which isn’t in his plans. “I can imagine that if we don’t adjust the price, it could take longer, but that doesn’t worry us too much,” she philosophizes.
The clash of times
However, a large part of the population (around 80% according to estimates by the broker Gabriel Laflamme) does not appreciate the proximity of the corpse. What is behind this cold?
The anthropologist Luce Des Aulniers distinguishes a priori between cemeteries-gardens, beautifully laid out and planted, and cemeteries-necropolises, where the accumulation of graves can create an unattractive effect of oppression. “It’s almost a metaphor for the weight of the dead carried by humanity,” the academic specialist on the subjects of mourning and death puts it, but specifies that some may be reluctant to associate a cemetery with any cemetery Place, rub shoulders, style…while others happily tune in as part of a “culture of closeness.”
“It’s a sensibility that varies greatly depending on the era,” she adds, pointing out that the Notre-Dame-des-Neiges cemetery, which at the beginning was far from urban density, is now surrounded by inhabited spaces is. There are certainly hygiene and pollution issues, but they are not at the forefront of concern.
“Currently, this sensitivity is reinforced by the fact that the cemetery implies a completely different relationship to time than our everyday life, our ability to live and live in. In the face of this shock, it may seem like an insult, even if it can be a source of very beautiful aesthetic and artistic manifestations. This relationship is found in our everyday psyche, this perfectly understandable resistance to avoiding death,” states the UQAM anthropologist.
The latter also underlines the role of the cultural heritage of these places, but also the pedagogical one, the “education towards a certain community of destiny that reminds us that we are mortal. […] It faces its supra-individual reality, while we live in an ultra-individualistic society it is a reminder that embraces our existence.”
And the beliefs? Of course some are still alive. “There are all kinds of ethnocultural myths, personal or collective mythologies, that organize afterlife stories that persist,” Mme Des Aulniers, who states that the notion of the sacred is not necessarily religious but can be associated with mystery.
According to the anthropologist, cemeteries remain powerful triggers of memory and imagination, which “raise the question of the place of the dead in the light of the conquest of earthly space and our affectivity”. “It’s a beautiful open field!” “, She believes.