Should You Buy a House with Signs of Subsidence?

Should You Buy a House with Signs of Subsidence?

Many people will tell you, usually on the basis of inexpert knowledge, not to buy a house if there’s any sign of building subsidence, even past subsidence that’s been fully repaired. While subsidence is a serious matter, it doesn’t necessarily mean you should give up on the property. You just need to be careful.

Buying a Property with a History of Subsidence

There are many reasons why a property may have suffered from subsidence. It’s sometimes caused by a specific issue, like tree roots too near the building, which can be resolved simply by removing the problem. On other occasions, the issue is more endemic (such as weak soil) and remedial action is needed, usually underpinning.

The knee-jerk reaction that a building that’s been underpinned is suspect is the wrong way of looking at it. It actually means the problem has been resolved, and the underpinned property will, if anything, be more secure than those surrounding.

The important thing is to make sure the underpinning has been done expertly, not by a cowboy builder. You should ask for a survey of the work done and, if it’s recent, the contractor’s guarantee. If these are positive, though, there’s no reason why the subsidence should return.

Buying a Property with Signs of Building Subsidence

If the regular survey shows up cracks or other evidence of possible subsidence, it’s not the end of the world, but the issue certainly needs to be addressed before you go ahead with the purchase. You’re entitled to expect that a specialist survey will be carried out by a structural engineer and the results made available to you.

Whether the survey recommends underpinning or removal of a temporary issue (such as tree roots), this should normally be carried out by the seller before the sale, and clear evidence of the work made available.

An alternative would be to negotiate a substantial price reduction and carry out the work yourself after purchase. This may not satisfy your mortgage lender, though it could be an attractive option if you’re in a position to buy for cash.

Mortgage and Insurance

Unfortunately, prejudice against underpinned property extends to some mortgage lenders and insurers. However, it’s increasingly being recognised that underpinning is a sign of strength, not of weakness. Although you may have to shop around more than usual, you should be able to get good deals if you go armed with full documentation, including survey and guarantee.

If you’re considering buying a property with signs of building subsidence, you’re very welcome to contact us and talk over the options.