Thieves Gut Copper From Homes

The theft of copper and other metals has been so rampant in communities with a large number of homes left vacant as a result of foreclosures that real estate practitioners are painting “No Copper, Only PVC” on the outside of the homes, in the hopes that criminals will stay away.

“I had a property under agreement. We negotiated. The offer was accepted. The buyer came back to the property three weeks later only to find [thieves] had gotten in and stolen the copper, so we had to go back to the bank and renegotiate,” says Marc Charney, president of in Brockton, Mass.

After haggling, the bank cut $5,000 off the $105,000 price.

Lenders are increasingly unwilling to lend if there is any hint that the property has been stripped of pipes and copper wiring for fear the surprised buyers will default, leaving the bank holding the property. It may then likely be considered only worthy of a tear-down.

At least 15 U.S. states – from California to New York – drafted legislation in the past year to deal with the problem, passing everything from tighter regulations on scrap metals traders to tougher penalties for metal theft.

Scrap metal traders say that nearly all of the stolen metal is shipped to China and India.

Source: Reuters News, Jason Szep (03/31/2008)