Can You Metal Detect Foreclosed Homes?

Metal detecting is indeed an enjoyable hobby for many thrill-seekers, and if you are one of them, you may have thought about taking your hobby to the next level by hovering around foreclosed homes in your neighborhood. But is it really legal to metal detect foreclosed homes?

The legality of metal detecting foreclosed homes depends on the laws imposed by each country, state, and city. Because of the varying degrees of legislation or ordinances per area, contacting the bank to ask for permission is a more convenient option.

Recognizing the legality of metal detecting in properties is a responsible approach to fulfilling this hobby. It may all seem too complicated at first, but you want to read on further as we break down all the details on how to be granted permission and how to find the owner of a foreclosed property.

Asking The Bank For Permission

bank

It may certainly sound intimidating to ask for permission to metal detect a property, but nothing is more embarrassing than getting in trouble with the law for trespassing.

How to Find The Bank That Owns The Foreclosed Property

A foreclosed property will usually have signage of the realtor company and a phone number to contact an agent. The first step is to contact the agent. When on the phone with the real estate agent, make sure to politely introduce yourself and honestly state your intent. 

How To Get Permission From The Bank

Once you have learned the name of the bank, we would strongly suggest, if at all possible, to visit the bank and physically be there when asking for permission rather than just calling. 

Though not guaranteed, this gives you better chances of being granted permission because of these two reasons:  

  1. They can immediately direct you to the right person who oversees the property. 
  2. They get to see that your intentions are genuine. 

Make sure to look decent, of course! When asking, make sure not to sound aggressive and honestly say that it’s just a hobby of yours. It might even be a good idea to present your business card to establish your ground.

Just, remember not to get your hopes too high and never expect immediate approval especially from banks. Take it from Tnmountains, a realtor from Tennessee, GA, who enjoys metal detecting as a hobby, who claims that it takes a lot of patience to get a nod from banks. Sometimes, individually-owned homes give better luck than those owned by institutions.

How To Ask Permission From Private Owners

Your diligence in finding for-sale properties and good charisma is all you need to get an owner’s permission, but sometimes, a little bit of enticement to the owner is what seals the deal. 

You can bring forth to the discussion that you can split any finds you would get. But oftentimes, they couldn’t care less as long as you assure them that you are not going to turn their property upside down. It is metal detecting etiquette to leave the place unharmed or be left the way they were just as when you first entered the property.

It’s also important to refrain from using any of the following words that would raise disappointment or cause a refusal:

  • Treasure
    • Never give false expectations to the owner by saying that you could find the next national treasure in their yard. It is best to be transparent and say that you are only doing this as a hobby.
    • You can also say that you can help them find valuable items that they have lost – but never promise.
  • Digging 
    • This may be hard to avoid, but don’t mention the word “digging” unless questioned. When asked, you could say that you have a cutting tool and any unearthing will be done at a minimum.
  • Shovel
    • This is pretty much synonymous with digging. Again, cutting tool is a more appropriate term.

Now that you know the recipe for getting an owner’s permission, your next step would be to find the owner of the property.

How to Find The Owner of a Property

Whether it be a foreclosed home or an occupied property, finding the owner is now easier than ever. Property owners are public records in the United States and there are websites that list all properties all over the country such as Reonomy and Landgrid.

Metal Detecting in HUD Foreclosed Homes

A keyboard and not HUD Homes

HUD homes are homes that were financed by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans that have been foreclosed and now owned by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). 

Since HUD homes are owned by the government, you would have to ask permission from your local office.

Asking Local Municipalities for Laws That Prohibit Metal Detecting

Your local municipality office should have all the answers for you, from state laws to city ordinances. It is best to contact them first before taking your hobby outside of your property.

While it is always ideal to obtain information directly from the state or local government’s website, here is a summary of what every state has imposed in metal detecting.

Trespassing Laws

While the excitement of combing a new property for finds can be intoxicating, you don’t want to run into any legal trouble. Nothing is worse than getting reported for trespassing on private property! 

Don’t ever think about skipping permits because you could face some hefty fines and even jail times for not being compliant. Remember, ignorance of the law is not a valid excuse in court. A legal charge brought against you will follow you for the rest of your life, so think twice.

Here is a comprehensive list of every state’s trespassing laws and the fines you could be facing.

Legal Places For Metal Detecting Besides Foreclosed Homes


If you have exhausted all your resources and efforts in getting a bank or private owner to say yes to your request, there are many other places besides foreclosed properties that you can legally do metal detecting. Again, every country or state law is different, so always do your research beforehand.

Although the best finds are often found in old private homes, here are some public places where you may be allowed to do metal detecting after having obtained permission:

  • Beaches
    • Many states allow metal detecting in public beaches. 
    • Among all public areas, the beach may have the least metal detecting laws compared to other public areas like national or state parks and forests.
  • Local parks
  • Some states have stricter regulations compared to others. Some states such as Iowa impose certain times of the day depending on the month when you are allowed to do metal detecting. 
  • Forests
      • As mentioned, it would vary by state. Contact the forest’s ranger before venturing out.
  • Public schoolyard
  • If you’ve been granted permission, you could get some great finds from school grounds especially if the school has been built many years ago.

Conclusion


Metal detecting in foreclosed homes is certainly legal as long as you are granted permission from the owner, often times a bank, and occasionally the government. While there are specific ways to be granted permission successfully, it takes a lot of patience before being able to find a landowner who would agree.

It is also important to know what ordinances are imposed by your local government to ensure that you are not violating any rule when doing your favorite pastime.

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