Got copper........................make sure you keep it.

Real Estate Agent with RE/MAX By The Bay

This past weekend I showed a very rural property in an adjoining county. It was in a remote location with 9 acres, a fairly new house, barn, pond, fenced and cross-fenced. The proverbial little piece of country paradise.

My buyers loved much we wrote an offer. Since it was a foreclosure and the owner is a faceless bank in another state who has never even seen the property much less lived there, there was no property condition disclosure to review.

Monday morning I get a call from the listing agent: "Jim, there's a problem with my listing you wrote the offer on." "Over the weekend someone broke in and cut all the electrical wires in the attic and also the copper water supply lines underneath."

So now this house has no wiring and no plumbing.

Theft of copper wiring and piping has became a huge problem in this area; even new houses are being targeting.

Scrap copper is selling for about 2 bucks a pound now so it's very simple and easy for thieves to go in, cut all the exposed pipes and wiring in the attic and in crawl spaces, burn the insulation off the electrical wire and make a trip to the scrap metal yards. You can probably steal anywhere from 10 to 30 pounds of copper from a modestly sized house; at 2 bucks a pound that a minimum of $20.00 up to $75 or a hundred dollars.

Plenty for a few six packs, couple of large pizzas, and a bag of dope for a party. In the aftermath there is several thousand dollars worth of damage left behind for homeowners and sellers to deal with.

Any copper thieves in your neck of the woods???


Posted by

Jim Lee , REALTOR®, Certified Residential Specialist (CRS)  RE/MAX By The Bay

150 Mirona Road, Portsmouth, NH 03801 Phone: (603) 431-1111 x3801

Visit New Hampshire Maine Real to search homes, get Seacoast area information, and find out how great living on the New Hampshire and southern Maine Seacoast really is.


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Vicky Poe
Realtor/ Auctioneer
Good Ole Rocky Top
I know a number of builders who have had trouble with thieves making off with tools left on site.
January 30, 2007 08:30 PM
Brett Tousley
Tri Cities Real Estate | (509) 420-0013
NW Home Brokers LLC

It's amazing to me someone would take the risk, and put out all that effort for a few bucks in copper.  You'd think these "criminal masterminds"  could come up with a more profitable venture. 

January 30, 2007 08:49 PM
Jeff Dowler CRS
Carlsbad CA Homes for Sale (760) 840-1360
Solutions Real Estate
Well that's a new one for me. But I can't say I am really surprised.
January 30, 2007 08:56 PM
Roberta Murphy
Carlsbad Real Estate and Homes
San Diego Previews * Previews Luxury Real Estate
Jim: That may be another explanation of why San Diego homebuilders are planning a move to plastic piping for home plumbing.  
January 30, 2007 09:45 PM
David R. Fuller
Yeah hear in phoenix. The Sheriffs office just had a news release about it. I had a listing (tri-plex) get hit causing about $25,000.00 worth of damage.  
January 31, 2007 12:06 AM
Mitch Todd
Coldwell Banker

Never even heard such a thing!   No copper stealing here in Marin.   But, I did see a news article about Aluminum guardrails disappearing...

Mitch in Marin, CA

January 31, 2007 12:26 AM
Patricia Beck
Colorado Springs Realty
RE/MAX Properties, Inc., GRI, CDPE
Jim, I have never heard of this going on in my neck of the woods.  I am shocked to hear people do this for a few bucks and the amount of money it costs for repairs can't be cheap.  Are they doing anything about this in your area?  Thanks for the post it's good to know what people are doing out there.
January 31, 2007 12:27 AM
William Collins
Director of Property Management
ERA Queen City Realty


Thanks for the post. If your client is still interested in the property, it would be worth having three contractors provide written estimates for the cost of rectifying the damage. Submit them for a credit from the lienholder. Otherwise, they'll throw a nominal discount off the asking price. Good luck!

February 01, 2007 05:33 AM
Anonymous #34
It is happening out here. I have heard of some people stealing it from the utility company and getting killed because they were trying to get it off a high voltage transformer. My father in law is an electrician and he had the doors ripped off his supply rigs to get to copper.  
January 31, 2007 07:52 AM
Leanne Paynter • Broward County Real Estate
United Realty Group, Inc.

How many scrap metal yards can there be in any one area?  If stealing copper and other types of metal is becoming rampant, why aren't the records of the scrap metal yards being investigated?

About 20 years ago while still living in northern NJ, I'd heard of a tow truck driver caught on camera spilling oil on a roadway so he could get more business because he'd pretend to be "just passing by" right after an accident would happen.  Also, auto repair people have been caught lying about what needs to be repaired in order to make more money.  Makes you wonder who may be behind at least some of this stolen copper, huh?  I say follow the money... the BIG money.

I recall seeing a show (NBC's Dateline?) that highlighted the problems with new home communities being targeted... and not just by people who don't have much money.  They caught on camera a couple loading up their luxury SUV with sod of all things!  Sod!!!  A few agents down here are finding that their new, but vacant homes (available to show only by Supra electronic lockboxes) are having certain relatively inexpensive items stolen, including the light bulbs in the bathrooms!  Any agent who does that must really be hurting for money!

January 31, 2007 08:04 AM
Maggie Dokic
CDPE, SFR, Pinecrest | Palmetto Bay |
Special Miami Homes
Amazing.  The big jobs make sense but I guess, like you say Jim, even though they don't get much, it's enough for them to get their "fix" that day.  Pretty sad.
January 31, 2007 08:09 AM
Jim Lee
Portsmouth NH Realtor, Portsmouth, NH
RE/MAX By The Bay

Thanks for the tip William. I think we're going to let the owner repair HIS problem and not let it become my buyer/client's problem.

Leanne, there's currently not very much incentive for scrap yards to police where their scrap comes from. It's also a low priority crime for local police forces, somewhere down around shoplifting and jaywalking. Unfortunately even though the monetary amount of the materials stolen is small, the damage done stealing the stuff in the first place usually runs into the thousands.

Maybe we need to work on a new law incorporating the total damages done into the materials amounts; that should elevate it to felony status.

January 31, 2007 08:55 AM
Tony Marriott
Associate Broker, REALTOR
Haven Express @ Keller Williams Arizona Realty
Seems like I'm hearing more and more about this issue these days.  I knew the problems builders were having with appliances being stolen out of new construction.  We had all our ceiling fans stolen from our house during construction!
January 31, 2007 09:20 AM
Anonymous #39

I put my ex-wife in our house every Sunday during construction.  No takers.

Should have put a copper tube through her head.

January 31, 2007 11:00 AM
Anonymous #40

Here is an excellent article on copper and aluminum theft


January 31, 2007 11:04 AM
Kristal Kraft
Denver Real Estate - 303-589-2022
The Berkshire Group Realtors

A representative in Colorado has introduced a bill about this very topic.

January 31, 2007 11:54 AM
Patricia Aulson
Realtor - Portsmouth NH Homes-Hampton NH Homes

Very interesting blog I enjoyed reading it.  Nothing like that happening in my area, SEACOAST NH/?ME &MA What a shame , what will they resort to next.  Security Systems might be a help along with people in the house.  I'm sure the thieves knew the house and realized it was vacant.


Patricia Aulson/REALTOR/Seacoast NH/ME & MA      URL: 



January 31, 2007 01:05 PM
Karen Hurst
Rhode Island Waterfront!


I have a foreclosure in my state also without copper. They also took most of the radiators! And the covers on the electrical boxes!   Guess we should be checking EBAY.

January 31, 2007 03:01 PM
Vicki Lloyd
(949)457-0281, Lake Forest and South Orange County, CA
The Real Estate Professionals
Here's another one that's hard to believe - In the Hemet area, there have been thefts of firehydrants (cost the city about $1500) that are stolen, melted down, and sold as scrap metal (value about $200!) 
February 03, 2007 03:42 PM
David Petrovich
S.P.O.C.H. a 501c3 Charitable NP

There is a lot of redevelopment going on in the City of Camden, NJ which at one time and may still be the murder capital of the USA.  Recently, an electrical subcontractor was working late in a construction trailer in an enclosed, high security area. Long story short, there were giant spools of copper wire. Burglary noises.  An inquisitive contractor.  A gunshot.  Blood. The contractor was wounded, but is now recovering.

Tip to copper thieves:  I know that T-Mobile installers of inter-city sub-stations abandon a great deal of wire as it is too heavy to save. Next time, just ask!

February 22, 2007 12:57 PM
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Jim Lee

Portsmouth NH Realtor, Portsmouth, NH
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