‘Subsidence’ is a term that strikes fear into the hearts of many homeowners. It invokes images of buildings falling down, large cracks appearing, and the value of your house decreasing substantially. In fact subsidence is relatively common. Up to 20% of houses in the UK are at risk of some form of subsidence occurring.
9th January, 2022
‘Subsidence’ is a term that strikes fear into the hearts of many homeowners. It invokes images of buildings falling down, large cracks appearing, and the value of your house decreasing substantially. In fact subsidence is relatively common. Up to 20% of houses in the UK are at risk of some form of subsidence occurring. The important thing to do if you suspect your house is suffering from subsidence is recognise the problem, act quickly and be transparent. We’ve written this guide to help you understand how you can sell a house or home with subsidence.
In this guide we’ll cover what subsidence is, its causes and how to recognise the early signs of subsidence. We’ll also discuss the ways in which you can fix subsidence (which will depend on the cause) and how much it will cost. Finally we’ll explain how you can sell a house with subsidence or a history of subsidence. If you want to sell your home with subsidence and need some specific information, then use the menu below to navigate easily. Or simply read on for the entire guide!
Subsidence refers to the structural movement of a building. This is typically caused when the ground beneath the building begins to sink or shift, affecting the foundations of the house. This shifting or sinking can compromise the structural integrity of the building and if not addressed promptly and properly, the building can be at risk of collapse.
Any kind of sinking of the ground beneath the property causes subsidence. The most risky or dangerous cause is when the ground starts to shift or sink at different rates. This causes the foundations of the property to become misaligned and can accelerate the decline of the structure.
What causes subsidence?
Many factors, including age, contribute to the risk of a property suffering from subsidence. Our guide on types of UK property will tell you more about the different types of houses that there are in the UK. Some risks are unavoidable and are caused by the composition of the ground beneath the property or its position. However, some causes are man made and can be avoided. Make sure you’re aware of the causes so that if possible, you’re able to avoid having to sell your house with subsidence. Some of the main causes of subsidence are listed below.
Trees or Shrubbery. If these are located near to the property it’s possible that roots have caused damage to the foundations. This is particularly common with older trees or large trees that are located nearer to a property.
Age. Older properties tend to have shallower foundations. This makes them more vulnerable to suffering from subsidence.
Water and drainage. Pipes and drainage systems beneath the property can crack and burst. This either softens the soil beneath the property or washes it away, and makes the foundations vulnerable.
Clay soil beneath the property. Clay soil in particular is vulnerable to cracking and changing size in response to extreme weather. Long periods of hot weather can cause the clay soil to crack or shrink, impacting the foundations and causing subsidence. Similar problems occur when the soil beneath a house is silt. This can change shape or size in response to moisture content as it is cohesive, and also makes the foundations more vulnerable.
Whilst all of these are factors that increase the risk a house may suffer from subsidence, they don’t necessarily mean that it will. It’s important to keep your eyes open and recognise the signs, which we’ll talk about now.
What are the signs of subsidence?
There are a number of signs of subsidence that you should be aware of and investigate if you notice. Not all of them mean that it’s occurring, but knowing what to look out for can help. Knowing what to look out for can mean fixing the issue will be easier and make it less likely that you need to sell your house with subsidence. Some of the most common signs of subsidence are below.
Cracks in brickwork. These are particularly worrisome if the crack is increasing in size over time. Check if the crack is visible inside and outside the property. Cracks inside the property are quite common in new build constructions. This is known as ‘settlement’ and is generally not a cause for concern. If a crack is seen inside and outside the property, it needs to be investigated. Cracks don’t always mean subsidence, so check the size of the crack. A crack that is caused by subsidence will be thicker than 3mm.
Size, shape and location of cracks in the property. Cracks that are caused by subsidence will be more likely to occur around doors and windows. They will usually be diagonal and will typically be wider towards the top than the bottom of the crack.
Windows and doors that stick. This could be a sign that the doors or windows are shifting because of subsidence. It’s very likely to be subsidence if these windows are visibly out of true.
Rippling wallpaper. If this is happening in the corners of rooms it’s important to get it investigated urgently as it’s more likely that it’s a sign of subsidence.
Sloping or slanted floors. If the floors inside the property are uneven or slanted it could indicate that the ground underneath is moving. This requires urgent attention.
Cracks between your home and extension. This could indicate that the original foundations of the property are sinking at a faster rate than the extension and are a giveaway that there’s subsidence occurring.
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The first (and most important) step to tackling subsidence is making your insurer aware of the situation. The sooner you provide them with a clear idea of what’s going on, the sooner you can start to address the issue and the more likely you are to receive financial compensation for repair work. When you contact your insurer you must make sure that you are as honest as possible about the history of the property and all relevant information. If you do not disclose anything that is classed as ‘material’ then it could void your policy. This could mean you face bills that range into the tens of thousands and can financially cripple some homeowners. It also means that when you come to sell your house with subsidence (be it historical or ongoing) the process will be more difficult. The speed at which you fix your subsidence issues will also affect how long it takes to sell your house.
Insurers will generally want to monitor the property before they offer compensation for subsidence. This can be stressful as the monitoring period can last from months up to years.
Once the insurer has monitored the property they will begin to treat the property. This treatment can take a number of forms and will depend upon what is causing the issue.
Pipework treatment: if the inking is caused by burst or leaking waterworks beneath the property then these will need to be repaired and the surrounding soil assessed.
Tree root damage: If the damage is being caused by trees that have caused root damage to the foundations of the property, these trees will require removal. The roots will also need removal.
Underpinning. This is the most extreme solution to subsidence and means strengthening of the foundations to solve the issue. This can take the form of either piling, mass concrete pouring, resin injection, and beam and base methods. This is the most expensive way to fix the issue and will only be used for very deep foundational issues. On average, underpinning takes between 3 and 6 weeks.
Fixing subsidence is critical if you want to sell your house on the open market. If you want to sell through a less traditional method, SmoothSale can help. We’ll talk more about how later on in the guide when we discuss how to sell your house with subsidence.
How much does it cost to fix subsidence to sell your house?
The cost of fixing subsidence can vary massively depending upon what has caused the issue. Usually the cost of the solution will be covered by your home insurer and should address the issue in its entirety.
Fixing subsidence can be incredibly costly and can reach up to £50,000. The most expensive solution for subsidence in the UK is via underpinning, and the average subsidence repair cost using underpinning is £12,500.
When beginning to establish how much an underpinning project will cost several factors come into play. We’ve listed some of the most critical ones below.
The severity of the issue. If a problem is just beginning to take hold then it will be much quicker and easier to resolve. As the problem progresses it becomes much more complex and therefore costly to solve.
The number of floors in a home. Homes with more floors require more support and make underpinning projects more expensive. The more floors, the greater the cost of underpinning. This means underpinning projects for bungalows are comparatively cheap.
Size of the building. Larger houses or buildings cover a greater surface area and so if underpinning is required to solve the subsidence, more materials and more effective solutions will be required. This will of course increase the cost of the project.
Number of professionals needed. You may need to hire a number of professionals across numerous trades, ranging from structural engineers to plumbers to plasterers to even tree surgeons to fix your issue. All of these professionals are expensive and will add to your bill.
Before you sell a house with subsidence you need to make sure that the problem is fixed. All of these fixes will add to the typical cost of selling a house. For more information on the cost of selling a house, read our guide on how much it costs to sell a house in the UK.
You need to make sure you follow the correct procedure for fixing subsidence. This pay require you to get planning permission. You should not attempt to fix subsidence issues yourself since there are strict building regulations and legal requirements relating to underpinning a property. Usually you will need a structural engineer to oversee the project. The average hourly rate of a structural engineer in the UK is £70.
What is historical subsidence?
Historic subsidence is subsidence that has been resolved in the past and is unlikely to recur. If a property has a history of subsidence that has since been resolved it may require cosmetic work to the property to improve its look and feel.
If you are thinking about selling your house with a history of subsidence then you should read our guide on quick and easy ways to spruce up your property before sale and add value. These are our 9 top tips for adding value to your property.
Can I sell my house with subsidence?
If you have ongoing subsidence then it will prove extremely difficult to sell your house before you resolve the issue. Potential buyers will find it nearly impossible to obtain a mortgage on the property, so corrective action is usually the best bet. There are a number of options to sell your house, so if you are selling your house with subsidence it’s important that you select the right one.
You should provide full disclosure on your property to any prospective buyer. This is done through a TA6 form of the Seller’s Property Information form (SPIF). This form contains detailed questions about the property that is being put up for sale, and will demand details on building work including underpinning and other remedial measures that may have been carried out to help you sell your house with subsidence.
Can I Sell My House With Subsidence Without Fixing It?
Yes, but it’s essential to disclose the issue to potential buyers. Some may be willing to take on the challenge, while others may not.
How Does Subsidence Affect Property Value?
Subsidence can impact property value, but strategic renovations and honest disclosure can help mitigate its effects.
Is Subsidence Covered by Home Insurance?
Typically, home insurance covers sudden and unforeseen events, not gradual issues like subsidence. Check your policy and consider specialised coverage if needed.
Are There Government Assistance Programs for Subsidence?
While government assistance varies, some programs may offer support for homeowners dealing with subsidence. Research local options for potential aid.
Should I Hire a Professional to Assess Subsidence?
Absolutely. A qualified structural engineer can provide a thorough assessment, helping you understand the severity of the issue and potential solutions.
How Long Does it Take to Sell a House With Subsidence?
The timeline varies, but honest communication and transparent disclosure can expedite the process by attracting the right buyers.
If you need to sell your house with historic or ongoing subsidence, SmoothSale can help. We buy any house in any condition and have purchased many houses experiencing subsidence. We’re experienced property professionals, and our helpful team have helped homeowners sell their house fast for cash all over the country.