As the price of homes continues to fall and the price of basic commodities continues to rise, police are noticing an interesting phenomenon: Scavengers are ravaging abandoned properties, stripping them of everything of value and leaving behind nothing but the drywall and studs.
Real estate brokers and local authorities say once-proud homes coast-to-coast are being stripped for copper, aluminum, and brass by thieves. Much of it ends up with scrap metal traders who say nearly all copper gets shipped overseas, much of it to China and India.
Which is all well and good, but what's most amazing is that there are places where home prices have fallen so far that the scavengers are actually buying the houses and stripping them for legal profit.
In areas hit hardest by foreclosures, such as the Slavic Village neighborhood of Cleveland, Ohio, copper and other metals used in plumbing, heating systems and telephone lines are now more valuable than some homes.
"We're seeing houses sold for $100 that are distressed houses that should not be recycled," he said. Some boarded-up homes in his Slavic Village community have "No copper, only PVC" painted on the boards to stop would-be thieves.
Scavengers are also attracted to houses with easily removed window air conditioners and garbage disposals.