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Treasure Hunting Empty Houses

By , October 2nd, 2007 | 12 Comments »

Do you ever wander by an empty house for sale or rent and wonder what kinds of treasures it may hold? You might be surprised.

Once, I had my secrets about houses, but now that I’m a homeowner and won’t be house-hopping anymore, I’ll share them with you. People lose the strangest things in the weirdest places. Okay, so some places are not so strange, but the things sure can be. Here’s a list of things I place value on and where I’ve found them, and a list of places I check, just in case. Unfortunately, some of these are also “hiding places,” so be cautious, especially in former rentals.

Between cabinets and the wall

I once found a vintage metal Pac-Man TV tray in amazing condition between cabinets and the wall. On E-bay, I’ve learned people will pay $27 for one, but I’m a big fan of things made of metal and of Pac-Man, so I’ve used it to adorn my son’s room.

Drain Traps

The most interesting thing I’ve found here is a hair pin. It was the size of a chopstick and has a pretty engraved turtle on it, but the coolest thing is that it is made of sterling silver, not just a plating!

Under decks

The spaces between the boards in a deck can quickly make items dropped disappear when you’re out having a grill party. In two houses, I found nearly thirty bucks under decks, in change and bills.

In central air heating vents

I have found a number of marbles in these, but I’m not exactly sure how they get through the slots. I’ve also reconned a size seven crochet hook from an air-intake once.

Behind the toilet

I always check here, but I’ve only ever found a sand-art corked vial. It was pretty and all, but not very valuable.

Top shelves

This one may seem obvious, but I found a whole camping cookware set, a thermos, and some potpourri from these out-of-sight places.

In the crawl space

If there’s no basement, many places have a space just big enough for under-house servicing. My discovery here is a collection of terra-cotta pots, placed under the porch before it was enclosed, the “five-to-eight-dollars at the superstore” sizes. And a rubber bouncy-ball that my kids have taken to.

The attic

I only once had an attic to explore, and there wasn’t anything up there of value. I do know, however, that service people (like the cable guy) tend to leave things like flashlights, screwdrivers, and maybe a pocket knife behind on accident.

The Basement

Unlike a crawl space, a basement is more frequently used, and more frequently cleared out during a move. However, sometimes a roll of wrapping paper or something else as common gets left behind.

Under stair wells

I haven’t found anything here, but when I was a kid, I moved out of a house and left fifteen new books in a nice little access door at the back of a closet under my stairs. Maybe you’ll find them.

Garage attics

This is where the men stash things, like a stuffed and mounted trophy fish.

The garage

In plain sight! I suppose the last owner moved somewhere where he didn’t need his lawn mower.

I’d list places like behind and beneath appliances, but most people think to scavenge those places before they leave. I’ve never found anything behind or beneath my stove, washing machines, or refrigerator. But you can check there anyway. Happy Treasure Hunting!

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  • yeah.. you can always find something cool, like my buddy just recently bought a place to renovate and flip – and in the attic he discovered coins that date back to the 1800’s… pretty sweet

  • Joey says:

    hahaha, this is so funny. We bought a vacated home back in 94. It was pretty badly damaged from the Northridge Earthquake. We needed to get into the attic to find out why the intercom didn’t work that was part of the house. We found 7 bricks of pot. Neither my wife or I were into it at all so I gave it my friend. He said it was the worst crap he ever “tried” to smoke and had to have been almost 30 years old, or more. Hmm, maybe I should ask him what he did with it then. Now Im curious.

  • Fred333 says:

    Cool article. I have found stuff in my grandparents house after that passed that was actually pretty valuable.

  • Annie Jones says:

    The best thing I ever found in a rental was that the cable was still hooked up. And it stayed that way the entire 3-1/2 years we lived there.

  • topbizopps says:

    I didn’t know people doing that! Funny! Must be therapeutic for ya, huh?

  • Joey says:

    OK that reminded me. Same house…

    Our first Water/Power bill was over $400, for ONE month! I immediately started regretting the house because had no idea expenses were THAT high. And to make it worse, the pool was empty. So how much worse would it be then?

    Well one day were trying to trouble shoot a bad wire in our kitchen. Turns out it wasn’t tied into the correct fuse in our box.

    So after not being able to figure out which breaker it was, we shut off the entire house. We noticed that when doing that the neighbor’s central A/C unit turned. We turned back on our power, their unit kicks back on. We could hear it.

    Turns out that particular line was wired directly into the incoming power line bypassing the fuses. Ok, problem in and of itself. But OUR FREAKING neighbor’s central A/C (and we later found out pool) was wired into OUR house!!!!

    One phone call remedied that. The neighbor and I never got along after that. Go figure.

  • Fern says:

    oh, what an interesting idea. Never really spent much time considering this, though my sister and I years ago explored one or two ‘abandoned’ farms. I rescued an old pitchfork which i later sold at a tag sale, i guess cus it looked old. Go figure.

    My grandparents used to hide a significant amount of cash behind a loose cinderblock in their basement. My grandmother showed us where it was, should anything eve happen to them. Years later, my grandfather died and we moved my grandmother to a retirement community in another state. Neither my mom nor I ever knew if the $$ was removed before we sold the house (to the neighbors across the street). Always makes me wonder…

  • liuxuewu says:

    I can’t express myself in english very well ,but i like Financial and i need your help thank you !

  • Susan says:

    I don’t know where my lucky box of goodies came from but I was presented with an assortment of stuff by an apartment manager in Oakland, CA before we moved to San Diego. In it was one sterling silver fork which weighed over 2ozs. This was 1979 and at the time the Hunt brothers had driven up the price of silver. I bundled my little 1 year old daughter in the stroller and we walked to the San Diego Coin and Silver Store. I sold that one fork for over $40. I proceeded to buy groceries and flannel to make pajamas for my daughter and husband for Valentine’s. That story reminds me of the joy of unexpected treasures in the most unusual of places.

  • dan says:

    Interesting. I will have to pay better attention when going through empty houses in the future. I wonder how many houses out there have secret compartments with hidden treasures that have long been forgotten.

  • baselle says:

    Be careful. Someone’s empty, abandoned house might be a house in probate. We had a number of things walk away from our farm by thieves.

  • Ann says:


    I recommend only going through houses you pay to reside in.

    Good point, though.


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