With the economy still depressed, and lots of vacant houses sitting unwatched, there has been a definite increase in theft and related vandalism. You would think there wouldn’t be much to steal from a vacant property, but this kind of theft can be really damaging.
One example is copper wiring and copper pipes. Using simple tools like wire or pipe cutters, available at any hardware store, thieves can plunder all of the copper in a vacant property within a very short period of time. Copper brings a high price these days in the recycling market, so it’s become a popular target for burglars.
Wiring is pretty easy to pull out of the wall, but it is very difficult to put it back. Repair expenses extend well beyond the cost of the wiring itself. Labor costs for qualified electricians to reinstall missing wiring can be very expensive. Walls may have to be ripped open to access wiring pathways, which means that sheetrock will also have to be replaced. Repair costs for missing plumbing and wiring can escalate quickly. And left unrepaired, the damage will drastically reduce the market value of the property.
Sometimes, thieves are neighbors that have been watching your property sit vacant. One story comes immediately to mind from a past renovation we did on a single-family home. In order to secure the home before adding any new wiring or plumbing to the house, we had our contractor install a heavy-duty front door. The next morning, the contractor was driving through the neighborhood, headed towards the house, when he passed a young man walking down the road carrying a large door. As he passed by the odd sight, it suddenly dawned on him that this was the very door that had been installed on our property the day before!
Our contractor, who was a rather muscular guy, confronted the young man and recovered our door. The thief ran off and we weren’t able to press charges. Although I was happy to get the door back, I wouldn’t suggest anyone confronting a thief. Anyone desperate enough to steal has the potential to be very unstable.
These scenarios are all too common these days. Thefts can also include air conditioning compressors, hot water heaters, and kitchen appliances.
Housing theft used to be an inner city problem, but today it has spread to virtually every neighborhood. It’s easy pickings for thieves who only have to drive down the street to quickly identify potential targets.
If you have a vacant property, don’t risk a big loss from theft. Try to get the property occupied immediately, by either renting or selling.