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How to Get Permission to Metal Detect Private Property

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Matt is a professional painter who enjoys fishing and metal detecting for old coins and relics.

A 1902 silver Barber dime I found metal detecting a private property permission.

A 1902 silver Barber dime I found metal detecting a private property permission.

Getting Permission for Metal Detecting

Private property around old homes, both abandoned and occupied, have produced some of my best finds metal detecting. Unless you're fortunate enough to live in a historical area with older parks and school grounds that have been overlooked, finding silver coins in public places alone is difficult. In my area, the parks are hunted out.

Metal detecting private property around old homes is the fastest way to find rare coins and relics for your collection, but first, you have to get permission.

I'll admit, I don't enjoy door knocking. Even after knocking on dozens of doors, it's still a little awkward and discouraging at times, but it's worth the effort. The oldest coin I've ever found came from the backyard of a private home.

Before you start knocking on doors with your metal detector, my tips in this article will help increase your success rate for landing more permissions. It's easier than you think when done right.

Asking for Permission to Metal Detect

When door-knocking, you'll meet some friendly property owners who say yes without hesitation and others who will be quick to say no and close the door. You have to expect to be told no sometimes, but don't let it ruin your day.

Successfully getting permission to metal detect an occupied home takes a little practice. The first time you ring that doorbell you'll be nervous, but the interaction becomes a lot easier the more you do it.

Be Confident

Acting nervous will make the homeowner feel uneasy and suspicious. You're more likely to be denied permission. Be friendly and confident, but keep the conversation light and to the point.

I always take my sunglasses off and back away from the door after ringing the bell. Tell the homeowner who you are and what you're doing. Using a business card with your contact information helps with credibility. In my case, I own a local business and sometimes I'll give people my card so they know I live in the area and serve the community.

Choose Your Words Wisely

What you say to the property owner is important, but don't overthink it or you might sound like a scripted door to door salesman.

Simply introduce yourself, tell the property owner you do metal detecting as a hobby and detect around historical homes for old stuff on the weekend. Ask them if it would be okay to metal detect their front yard for a couple of hours. That's the simple approach that works for me.

Words you should avoid saying include:

  • Dig
  • Treasure
  • Silver coins
  • Shovel
  • Rings

Most of the stuff I find with my metal detector, specifically coins, usually aren't worth much more than their face value, but the homeowner doesn't know that. Telling them you look for old coins, or treasure, might make them think their yard's filled with high-priced valuables when we know that typically isn't the case.

People will ask how you recover objects, but don't tell them you dig holes, or use a shovel. Instead, tell them you cut a small plug with a hand-held tool that doesn't leave holes in the ground, or a mess behind. I recommend using a hand-held digging tool, like the Lesche digger, instead of t-handle shovel, at least for the first time detecting a new permission.

Always Ask in Person

I can tell you from experience that the best way to get permission is to knock on the door and ask the homeowner in person. I've asked via email and text message too, but it doesn't work. In fact, you're more likely to be denied permission without asking in person.

I've also found that asking a homeowner who's outside in the yard works better than knocking on the door. I'll park in the street and ask them from the sidewalk without even having to walk onto the property.

Metal Detecting Permission Form

Unless you're overly concerned about liability issues, using a permission form before detecting around an occupied home isn't necessary.

When detecting unoccupied land, having the property owner sign off on a permission form is useful in the event the police, or a concerned neighbor, show up to ask what you're doing. You can find free permission forms online to print out.

Do Property Owners Want to Keep Your Finds?

Imagine finding a rare silver coin in someone's yard that you want to keep for your collection, but the property owner wants it. After all, it's their property. Does that happen? Surprisingly, I've metal detected dozens of homes without encountering a homeowner wanting to keep my finds, or really even caring to see what I found in their yard.

Splitting finds, or having the property owner make a contractural agreement before detecting, is something you have to decide for yourself. There is always the chance that the homeowner will want to keep your finds, but that's the risk you take when you go metal detecting on private property.

Having a mutual agreement in advance, or at least an idea in your head, in terms of what you're willing to split with the property owner, is definitely wise in the event you find something valuable.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Matt G.