SPOKANE, Wash. -

There are hundreds of vacant homes across the Spokane area that have become a favorite hunting ground for metal thieves.

Nate Gubbe maintains foreclosed homes until they are ready to be put back on the market. So far this year, on at least 20 separate occasions, Gubbe has found someone had broken into a vacant property.

"They came back and took the wood stove out of it. There was a nice wood burning stove there," he said.

On the first burglary the thieves went for copper wire and plumbing. The metal is worth about $2.75 a pound right now, but that's a fraction of what it will take to repair the damage to appliances.

"This is really silly what they've done here because they have pulled a total of four feet of wire out of this but to fix it someone's going to have to come in gut it and re-do the whole furnace," Gubbe explained.

In one vacant home, thieves pulled all the copper wire through the circuit breaker box, even took the air conditioner for the copper tubing inside.

"This [is] almost a daily occurrence for vacant homes being broken into. Literally thousand of dollars in damage, wiring and copper pipe stripped from everything you could possibly think of in these homes," Spokane County Sheriff's Deputy Craig Chamberlin said.

There are several ways metal thieves determine which houses are vacant, including uncollected newspapers and flyers left at the door. You can also be proactive and contact police if you see something suspicious to try and catch thieves in the act.

"Nine times out of ten, if it looks suspicious to you, if you don't recognize that person walking down your road ten o'clock at night, two o'clock in the morning that's definitely something you need to let us know about so we can come contact those people to find out what they're doing in your neighborhood," Chemberlin added.