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Selling A House With Subsidence: How Easy Is It?

Selling A House With Subsidence: How Easy Is It?

In this article, we will break down what Subsidence is, what the signs are, what underpinning is and how easy it is to sell a house with Subsidence.

Tom Condon
Tom Condon ★ Digital Content Writer

Table of Contents

The United Kingdom’s coasts are rapidly eroding, causing many houses to fall victim to coastal erosion. As a result, the mere mention of Subsidence can send alarm bells ringing for homeowners and potential buyers alike. 


Whether you buy a cheap property on the coast, look to renovate it, and then realise the previous owners didn’t disclose a history of Subsidence or the ground has begun to erode while you have lived within the property, the thought of selling a house with Subsidence can be daunting.


But selling a house with Subsidence doesn’t have to be complicated. A property with Subsidence can be easily rectified as long as the underpinning is secure.

What Is Subsidence?

Subsidence in a house refers to the downward movement or sinking of the ground beneath the structure, which can result in the shifting of the building’s foundations. 


Subsidence happens when the soil beneath a building is made up of a high percentage of clay and is, therefore, unable to support the structure’s weight. Clay expands in wet weather and reduces in warm weather, exaggerating the subsidence rate.


Subsidence is especially alarming when the ground is sinking at different rates and the property’s foundations become misaligned.

What Are The Signs Of Subsidence?

If you suspect that your property is at risk of Subsidence, then you should consult a structural engineer or building surveyor who can assess the situation; however, here are some common signs:

Look out for new or widening cracks in the walls, particularly those wider than 3mm or diagonal cracks that appear internally and externally. These cracks may be thicker at one end and taper as they move across the wall.

Cracks form around window and door frames, especially if they are diagonal or have a stepped pattern. These cracks may indicate that the building’s foundations are settling unevenly.

It could be a sign of Subsidence if doors and windows become difficult to open or close correctly. The frames may become misaligned as the building shifts or settles, causing doors and windows to stick.

Check for sloping or uneven floors, particularly on the ground floors. If the floor feels uneven or slopes noticeably in one direction, it could indicate that the foundation is moving.

Gaps or separation between walls, ceilings, or floors may indicate that Subsidence is causing different parts of the building to move independently, leading to visible holes or cracks at the junctions.

In severe cases of Subsidence, the entire building may exhibit signs of leaning or titling, which can be observed from the outside, where the structure appears visibly off-vertical.

What Is Historical Subsidence?

If your property has had Subsidence in the past, fear not! It is not impossible to sell your home; you must disclose the historical Subsidence to your estate agent. 


When you inform the estate agent, they will make sure all potential buyers are aware, be prepared that it may take longer to sell your home as Subsidence can be-off putting, even if historical. 


You will need to instruct a building surveyor to assess your property, and they will distinguish if your property has ongoing Subsidence or historical subsidence issues:


  • If your property has historical Subsidence, any continued movement is unlikely, and you will not have to make any further structural changes.
  • If your property has ongoing Subsidence, you must carry out structural changes to secure the property.


If the property has historic Subsidence, you will need to provide evidence of any past insurance claims and the specifications of renovations that have been used to improve the security of the structure, as well as present a Certificate of Structural Adequacy.

What Is Underpinning A House?

Underpinning a house is a structural improvement technique used to strengthen and stabilise the foundation of a building. 


The process involves strengthening the existing foundation or constructing a new foundation beneath the existing one to provide additional support, enhance its load-bearing capacity and prevent further movement. 


Underpinning a house is usually the go-to method when structural engineers look to improve a home with Subsidence. 


Underpinning a house could cost anywhere from £8,000 to £30,000 or more for an average-sized home.

What Is The Process Of Underpinning A House?

A structural engineer or a specialist contractor will assess the existing foundation, soil conditions and any signs of foundation issues. 


They will conduct a detailed engineering analysis to determine the most suitable underpinning method and create a plan for the project. 


The area around the foundation is carefully excavated, usually in small sections, to provide access to the existing foundation. The depth of the excavation will depend on the specific underpinning method chosen and the desired stability.


Temporary supports, such as props or jacks, are installed to ensure the stability of the structure during the underpinning process. These supports bear the weight of the building while the foundation is being strengthened.


The Engineer will then implement the chosen underpinning technique, which could involve pouring mass concrete, constructing reinforced concrete beams, installing mini-piles or injecting grout. 


After the underpinning construction, the new foundation elements or materials need time to cure and settle. This period allows the foundation to gain strength and stability.


Once the underpinning has settled and achieved the desired strength, the excavated areas are backfilled with suitable materials. 


The soil is compacted in layers to ensure proper support and prevent future settlement. Any disrupted structures or finishes, such as flooring or walls, are reinstated. 


After the underpinning process is completed, ongoing monitoring must be conducted to ensure the foundation’s stability and the underpinning’s effectiveness, which may involve periodic inspections and measurements to track any changes.

How Much Does Subsidence Devalue A Property?

Selling a house with a history of Subsidence can affect its property value as Subsidence is categorised as a structural issue and can raise serious concerns for potential buyers about the stability and condition of the property.

How Much Does Subsidence Devalue A Property?

If you go to sell your property on the open market, Subsidence means you take a hit of around 20% of your property’s value, as the future owner will spend around that trying to sort out the Subsidence. 


If your property were valued at £290,000, you would expect to receive offers of around £232,000. But this will vary depending on the severity of the Subsidence.

Does Subsidence Affect House Prices?

Yes, Subsidence will affect the house price when selling. If your property has ongoing Subsidence, you can expect to receive a 20-25% below-market-value offer, while historical Subsidence with no signs of resurgence may not affect the house price.

Does Underpinning Devalue Property?

Underpinning a house does not necessarily devalue a property; as it is often used to stabilise a property’s foundation and address subsidence issues, it may positively impact a property’s value by restoring its structural integrity.


However, it’s essential to consider that the perception of underpinning and the associated history of Subsidence can affect the perceived value of a property. 


Some potential buyers may view a property that has undergone underpinning as a potential risk or a cause for concern, impacting their willingness to pay the total market value. 


Four factors may impact how much you get for selling a house with Subsidence:

The quality of underpinning work is vital and must be completed by qualified professionals using appropriate techniques and materials that successfully resolve the subsidence issue. 


This can reassure potential buyers and help maintain or enhance the property’s value.

Proper documentation and guarantees for the underpinning work can help instil confidence in potential buyers. This includes providing information about the scope of work, warranties and insurance coverage.

The impact on property value can also be attributed to the local housing market conditions and buyer sentiment. 


The impact may be minor in areas like London or the South East, where subsidence issues are common, or buyers are more familiar with underpinning. 


However, the impact on property value may be more significant in markets where Subsidence is less prevalent, like Yorkshire.

It’s worth noting that underpinning a property may impact insurance coverage or premiums. Some insurance providers may require additional information, inspections, or specific policies for properties that have undergone underpinning.

How Much Does Underpinning A House Cost?

The cost of underpinning a house will vary depending on the scope of work needed and the underpinning required. 


When you look for quotes, the scope of work, duration, property access and whether the Subsidence has caused aesthetic or structural issues will be considered.


The surveyor can suggest the best type of underpinning for your property. 


Piling is the most expensive type of underpinning, which is only used for deep foundations. But, mass concrete fill and beam, and Base are the most common ways to underpin a building. 


In terms of costs, the underpinning methods are:


  • Mass Concrete – £1,500 per m2
  • Beam And Base – £2,000 per m2
  • Piling – £2,600 per m2


But, you will also need to consider the costs for labour and services:


  • Structural Engineer – £70 per hour
  • Party Wall Engineer – £700 per neighbour
  • Building Control Application Fee – £200
  • Planning Permission – £33

What Impact Does Underpinning Have On A Mortgage?

If a property is underpinned, lenders will agree to a mortgage, but if the property is undergoing Subsidence, it may be challenging to get a mortgage.


Subsidence is seen as a high-risk structural issue, so it’s vital that you carry out any fixes as soon as possible. 

You may also get a mortgage on an underpinned house if you can secure home insurance. 


This is due to mortgages being dependent on the property being able to be insured.

Does House Insurance cover Subsidence?

Subsidence is covered by most house insurance, but only if the property has never had issues with Subsidence before. 


You may need to find a specialist insurance package if:


  • You wish to carry out any underpinning method.
  • The property is at risk of riverbank or coastal erosion. 
  • There is any damage to the land the property sits on. 


The insurance should cover all damage, the cost of reparations and any alternative accommodation. 

Selling A House With Subsidence: The Process

Selling a house with Subsidence is similar to selling conventionally. However, you will need to ensure that you have the correct documentation and are as transparent as possible throughout the process.


Before you put your house on the market, you should have a building surveyor or structural Engineer assess the property to evaluate the subsidence issue and determine its cause and severity. 


The assessment will provide valuable information you must share with potential buyers and estate agents.


We recommend that you carry out any repairs or underpinning suggested before listing the property for sale as this will increase your chances of getting full market value & instil confidence in any potential buyers.


Transparency is vital when selling a house with Subsidence. You must disclose the subsidence history to potential buyers upfront. 


Providing accurate information about the subsidence issue, including the results from the survey, will help build trust and manage expectations. 


If you lie to the potential buyer and they request their survey, they may either pull out or give you a much lower off on the property.


When setting a realistic price for your property, you will need to consider the subsidence history and how well the underpinning has resolved the situation.

Selling A House With Subsidence: How Easy Is It?

Selling a house with Subsidence or underpinning can be a hassle, especially if it’s your first time selling up. But it doesn’t have to be!


Here at The Property Selling Company, we pride ourselves in creating an utterly hassle-free selling process, where we believe that selling a property should be three things; fast, effortless and free.


We can help sell your property in as little as 28 days while handling all aspects of the sale, including negotiating, surveys, and even covering all your legal fees. 


We offer you a complete online estate agency service because it’s our mission to change how you sell your house. We understand that underpinning can be a substantial upfront cost, so we won’t charge you any estate agent fees. 


We will work alongside you every step of the house sale, and our team of property experts will continue to be there even after the process is complete.


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