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Buying a House with Subsidence

Nicola Ryan

Written by

4th Jan 2023 (Last updated on 30th Nov 2023) 9 minute read

Buying a property with subsidence can be challenging, but there are ways to rectify the issue. You should hire a surveyor who is regulated by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, also known as RICS. They will inspect the interior and exterior for signs of subsidence and provide you with advice and an estimate of reparation costs. Your surveyor will provide you with advice on how to proceed.

Subsidence is caused by movement and cracks in the foundations of a property. Properties that have a history of subsidence can come with higher costs. This is even more so the case if the problems have not been resolved upon purchasing the property.

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

  1. What is Meant by Subsidence?
  2. The Different Types of Subsidence
  3. Which Properties are Affected by Subsidence?
  4. What Increases a Property’s Risk of Subsidence?
  5. How to Spot Subsidence During a Viewing?
  6. Should I Buy a House with Subsidence?
  7. What is Underpinning?
  8. Does Subsidence Affect House Value?
  9. Can you Mortgage a Property with Subsidence?
  10. Can You Remortgage a Property with Subsidence?
  11. Is Subsidence Covered by Home Insurance?
  12. 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 building’s foundations.

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:


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.


When a new property is built, it needs time to settle. The settlement period refers to the time needed for the property’s 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. This is not as serious an issue as the subsidence should not cause any problems.

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Which Properties are Affected by Subsidence?

All properties may be at risk of subsidence. Old and new properties are susceptible to subsidence, depending on the condition of the soil it is built on.

Also, properties with non-standard construction may be affected by subsidence due to the materials used. They are not guaranteed to withstand movement in the ground. It’s important to discuss this when going through the mortgage lending process. You may be able to get a non-standard construction mortgage.

What Increases a Property’s Risk of Subsidence?

Knowing what can increase a property’s risk of subsidence will keep you alert when viewing properties. You can research whether a property has been impacted by applying for a subsidence claims report.

Here are some main risk factors to bear in mind:

1. Clay soil

One of the most prominent causes of subsidence is clay soil. Clay soil expands during wet weather and shrinks during dry weather. When it is dry, the weak soil begins to move and crack. This causes major problems for shallower foundations and eventually results in subsidence.

Therefore, when looking at properties, research, whether there is clay soil in the area as this, can affect your ability to receive a mortgage. Areas such as the South East have a history of prominent clay soil.

2. Foundations

Historical properties such as listed buildings are renowned for their distinguishable features. However, the foundations may be vulnerable. This is because the materials used are often more shallow, meaning that they are susceptible to erosion.

3. Large trees

Large trees can pose a problem for nearby properties. This is because the tree roots can cause disruption in the soil beneath the foundations. This in turn can cause movement and cracks over time. Keeping on top of your home and garden maintenance will reduce the risk of any movement.

4. Leaks

Subsidence issues can also be caused by problems from inside the property. Faulty water mains or drains that have caused flooding may increase the risk of subsidence. This is because flooding may weaken the soil which in turn moves and shifts beneath the building’s weight.

5. Local mining

History of local mining can cause subsidence in properties. This is because the ground beneath the properties is more susceptible to movement and cracks.

Read more about Buying a House in a Mining Area

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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:

1. 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. External cracks are often caused by weakened clay soil shifting beneath the foundations.

2. Doors and windows

Another sign that you should look out for is 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. Look in all wallpapered rooms and observe any cracks near the doors and windows.

3. Floors

Lastly, inspecting the floors of the property is crucial. One of the most well-known signs of subsidence is 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.

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. However, if you have found your dream home and are willing to take on the higher costs, there are some advantages.

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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What is Underpinning?

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:

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

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 full market value. The best way to determine an approximate value is to look at a similar house in the area.

How much it is affected is dependent on the severity and complexity of the issue and the recency of the problem.

Properties with unresolved subsidence are more likely to face larger cuts to house value. An underpinned property may lose up to 20% in property value.

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Can you Mortgage a Property with Subsidence?

You can get a mortgage on a house with subsidence, but this can be difficult due to the high costs involved. If the property has a history of subsidence that has been resolved, this shouldn’t pose any issues. However, issues can arise if the subsidence is still ongoing.

Properties with subsidence do not qualify for building insurance. This means that mortgage lenders will most likely refuse potential buyers. A full structural survey conducted by your surveyor will delve into the details of the subsidence. They will provide advice on the best course of action.

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

Can You Remortgage a Property with Subsidence?

If you plan on remortgaging your home with another provider, you are not guaranteed to be accepted. This is because the new mortgage lender will treat you as a new buyer purchasing a home with subsidence. Some lenders will expect you to rectify the current issues before your application is accepted.

It can be easier for homeowners to stay with their existing lender, even if it incurs higher costs.

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Is Subsidence Covered by Home Insurance?

Most mainstream insurers do not cover unresolved subsidence issues. This means that getting home insurance on a property with a history of subsidence can be difficult. However, some specialist brokers may cover some of the cost of properties that begin to show signs of subsidence after you have moved in.

Reparation costs may be covered by building insurance rather than home insurance. If your policy does not cover reparation costs, 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.

While you may receive cover from fewer lenders, they will consider all past insurance claims relating to the property.

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

Compare My Move can connect you with up to 6 RICS-regulated surveyors in your area. You can compare quotes and save money on your surveying fees.

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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