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Buying a House with Subsidence

Nicola Ryan

Written by

4th Jan 2023 (Last updated on 12th Jan 2023) 7 minute read

Subsidence is a huge problem for potential homeowners. When buying a house, it’s important to look into whether the property has a history of subsidence. This will save you a lot of stress and money in the long run.

In this guide, we’ll be taking you through everything you need to know about buying a house with subsidence.

This article will cover the following:
  1. What is Meant by Subsidence?
  2. The Different Types of Subsidence
  3. Which Properties are Affected by it?
  4. Should I Buy a House with Subsidence?
  5. How to Spot Subsidence During a Viewing?
  6. Does the Seller have to Disclose Subsidence?
  7. Can you Mortgage a Property with Subsidence?
  8. Does Subsidence Affect House Value?
  9. Is it Covered by Home Insurance?
  10. Finding a Surveyor

What is Meant by Subsidence?

Subsidence means that the ground beneath a property has begun to sink. This can cause all sorts of structural problems as it can destroy the foundations of a property.

Subsidence can be caused by a variety of issues such as:

  • Building errors
  • Condition of the ground
  • Flooding and leaks that add moisture to the ground
  • Plants and trees that remove any moisture in the ground

There are various terms relating to subsidence that you should know about. These include:

Landslip

This refers to areas of land that start to slip away, causing problems for properties as the foundations may eventually be swept along with it.

Settlement

When a new property is built, it needs time to settle. The settlement period refers to the time needed for the foundations to weigh into the ground and stabilise. This is a minor kind of subsidence and occurs with all properties when they are built.

Read more about Plants That Can Damage Your Property

The Different Types of Subsidence

There are two types of subsidence that you should know about. These are Current Subsidence and Historic Subsidence. The type of subsidence you are dealing with affects the reparation cost and severity of the issue.

Current Subsidence

The first type of subsidence is Current Subsidence, which is known as Active Subsidence. This is the most serious type of subsidence because the issues are still ongoing and will worsen over time unless they are corrected.

Historic Subsidence

The second type of subsidence is Historic Subsidence. This refers to properties that have previously suffered from subsidence but the issues have been resolved and have not recurred since. This is not as serious an issue as the subsidence should not cause any problems.

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Which Properties are Affected by it?

All properties can be affected by subsidence. A common misconception is that older properties are only affected by subsidence. However, new properties can also suffer from subsidence as well.

The most important factor to consider is not the type of property, but the soil that the property is built on. This is because subsidence occurs when the ground is weakened. Therefore, properties built on clay soil tend to show signs of subsidence. This is because clay soil expands when wet and contracts when dry, causing the land to shift and move over time. Other materials that are susceptible to subsidence include gravel, sand, and silt. Also, properties located near bodies of water as erosion can quicken the subsidence process.


Properties that are built in previously mined areas may also have high levels of subsidence.

Should I Buy a House with Subsidence?

Buying a property with subsidence is often regarded as a bad idea, especially if you don’t know how bad the problems are. This is because subsidence that hasn’t been resolved can come with high reparation costs.

A house with a history of subsidence tends to sell for less than its market value if the problems have not been resolved. The cheaper price point may be appealing to first-time buyers. However, it’s important to consider the additional costs that will have to be paid in order to fix the subsidence.

When the property is fully repaired, it can be sold at its market value. Therefore, some buyers are willing to pay the lower cost and reparation costs in the hopes of making a profit on the property in the future.


Read our guide on How to Renegotiate a House Price Down After a Bad Survey

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How to Spot Subsidence During a Viewing?

There are multiple signs to look out for in properties that are affected by subsidence. If you believe that a property has subsidence, you may need to hire a structural engineer to monitor the property over a period of time.

Here are the most common signs to spot while viewing a property:

Cracks

The first thing that you should look out for are cracks in the exterior and interior of the property. While smaller cracks are usually nothing to worry about, there are some to look out for. Cracks that are thicker than 3mm, located near doors and windows, or run diagonally should be a cause for concern.

Doors and windows

Another sign that you should look out for are the doors and windows. If the area surrounding the doors and windows has started to stick, it could be a sign of subsidence. Make sure that you are inspecting them closely when viewing a property.

Floors

Lastly, inspecting the floors of the property is crucial. One of the most well-known signs of subsidence are sagging or sloping floors. This means that the floor may drop downwards, eventually causing the foundation of the property to collapse. This is due to the amount of pressure that is put on a property.

Does the Seller have to Disclose Subsidence?

If you sell a house, you must declare any issues regarding subsidence. It’s crucial that sellers ensure that potential buyers can access the relevant paperwork. This may mean that you don’t receive the full market value of your property. However, it will prevent you from getting into any legal trouble for withdrawing information.

If you sell a house with subsidence and do not declare it, you could be faced with a lawsuit for misrepresentation. Therefore, it’s important to make sure that you disclose any subsidence to your estate agent and all buyers.

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Can you Mortgage a Property with Subsidence?

Getting a mortgage on a house with subsidence can be difficult. This is because it can cause all kinds of damage and the cost of fixing the subsidence can be exponential. If the subsidence has not been dealt with then it is unlikely that you will receive a mortgage offer when buying a house.

A house with subsidence does not qualify for building insurance. This means that many mortgage lenders will refuse potential buyers. However, if the subsidence has been resolved, then there shouldn’t be a problem with receiving a mortgage offer. A full structural survey conducted by your surveyor will delve into the details of the subsidence. It will also ensure your mortgage provider that the subsidence issues have been resolved.

Those who want to buy a property with subsidence may be able to receive a bridging loan that can assist in repairing the problems. Bridging loans can provide you with certain insurance policies while the reparations are taking place.

Read our guide on What Happens After a Survey on a House

Does Subsidence Affect House Value?

Subsidence can have a devastating effect on house value. Houses with signs of subsidence that have not been resolved tend to sell for approximately 80% of their market value. Properties that have been underpinned may also suffer from a loss in value. Underpinning is when the ground beneath a property is strengthened by improving the foundations.

There are several underpinning methods that can be applied, depending on what needs to be done. Here are the underpinning methods you need to know:

Piling

The most versatile method is piling. This is done by inserting piles into the ground until it reaches stable soil. Piling helps to reestablish more stability in the foundations of the property.

Jet Grouting

Jet grouting helps to strengthen the soil that has become weak under the foundations. It is called jet grouting because high-pressure jets are used to mix self-hardening grout with the existing soil.

Mass Concrete Underpinning

The final underpinning method is mass concrete underpinning. It is the most common method of underpinning applied as it sees the extension of the existing foundation until there is a new, solid foundation.

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Is it Covered by Home Insurance?

The majority of insurance policies do not cover subsidence issues that have not been resolved. This means that getting home insurance on a property with a history of subsidence can be a major obstacle. However, your insurance company may cover some of the cost of properties that have begun to show signs of subsidence after you have moved in.

Building insurance tends to cover reparation costs that have been caused by subsidence. However, home insurance policies do not tend to cover costs to rectify any existing subsidence. This means that you will have to source the costs yourself.

If you are accepted on a home insurance policy, you may find that the policy has a higher excess compared to other claims. Subsidence typically has an excess of £1,000. This means that you will have to pay the first £1,000 of any subsidence claim you make.

If the property has historical subsidence that has been dealt with, most home insurance vendors will usually accept them. This is only the case if the property has not dealt with subsidence problems for a number of years.

Finding a Surveyor

At Compare My Move, you can compare quotes from surveyors near you. This allows you to choose from the best in your area and save money on your surveying costs.

Nicola Ryan

Written by Nicola Ryan

Nicola focusses on all things moving house at Compare My Move where she writes articles for the advice centre, guiding users through everything they need to know about moving house.

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