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How to sell a house with subsidence

When it comes to selling your home, there can be a lot to think about. While you hope the process will go smoothly from start to finish, you may find that you come up against some problems along the way ‒ such as finding out your property has subsidence.

But what is subsidence, and what sort of impact could it have on the selling process? In this article, we take a closer look at this issue and provide you with some useful tips on how to manage the problem.

What does subsidence mean?

In short, subsidence occurs if the ground underneath a property begins to cave in or sink, causing the building itself to shift and move. Subsidence has the potential to cause lots of problems, especially if the ground beneath the building sinks at different points, meaning that it can become misaligned, which in turn can threaten the structure and foundations of the property.

There are a number of tell-tale signs that your home is experiencing subsidence, with the main one being wall cracks. Subsidence can cause cracks on the walls both inside and outside of the property, as well as close to windows and doors. The subsidence cracks are usually bigger than 3mm in width and appear diagonally across the walls. Not all cracks in your wall are a sign of subsidence, but it's worth checking out anything new that appears especially if it's large.

Other signs of subsidence in a property may include wallpaper that has a rippled appearance, cracking between the building and an extension, such as a conservatory, as well as door and windows sticking when you try to open and close them. You may even notice that your home appears or feels wonky or slanted.

A property may have had subsidence for years without being noticed. Sometimes, you will only be aware of it when the signs appear. You may also find that your home is more susceptible to subsidence if it has been built on a surface such as clay, or if a large area of trees surrounds the property.

If you’re not already aware that your property has subsidence, it will likely show up when a house survey is conducted on the property. This is usually organised by the person interested in purchasing your home from you.

How does subsidence affect property value?

The truth is, subsidence can have a significant impact on the value of your home. If you put your home up for sale knowing that it has subsidence and this is also known during the valuation stage, an estate agent will most likely take this into account when giving you an estimated value of your home. As a result, you may be advised your home is worth less than you expected, purely due to the fact it has subsidence.

What’s more, if a potential buyer discovers the property has this issue but they are still interested in purchasing it regardless, they could try to negotiate on the price at the selling stage. In this instance, you may receive an offer that is a lot less than you’d ideally like to sell it for.

How much does subsidence devalue a property?

The level of severity will determine how much subsidence devalues a property, but generally speaking, you could find that it decreases the market value of your home by as much as 20%. To find out how much your property is worth, you’ll need to organise to have it valued by an estate agent.

Selling your house with subsidence

Even though it’s not ideal, the good news is, it is possible to sell your home even if it has subsidence ‒ there are just a few things you might want to do first. Check out our tips below on how to sell your property if you’re experiencing this problem.

- Get in touch with your home insurance provider

If you’re keen to sell but you’ve found out that your property has subsidence, it’s important to get in touch with your home insurance provider. Your insurer will need all of the details of the problem, and it’s important that you notify them as soon as you’ve discovered your home has subsidence. You must also notify your estate agent and mortgage lender to see what impact this may have on the sale of your house and mortgage. It may be difficult to get insurance on a property with subsidence, not all insurance providers will cover it, and it may be costly to fix. The outcome of this can vary from lender to lender and the terms of your mortgage and level of buildings insurance.


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Once you’ve highlighted the problem, it’s likely that your insurer will arrange for a specialist to visit your property to carry out an assessment. Once this has been conducted, they will be able to provide you with a report detailing the problem, what can be done to fix it and whether or not it is covered by your home insurance policy. They will also be able to tell you whether the subsidence is historical or ongoing. While ongoing subsidence will most likely need treatment, historical subsidence means that any continued movement is unlikely and improvements might not be needed. However, it’s important to note that historical subsidence still needs to be fully disclosed during the home selling process.


- Decide if it’s worth treating

So you’ve established your property has subsidence and you’ve had a specialist carry out an assessment ‒ but what happens next? Unfortunately, you might find it difficult to sell a property with ongoing subsidence unless you’re willing to treat the problem first. Some buyers might be willing to accept the property as is, but in this case, you could find that you’re expected to knock off a significant amount of the selling price as a compromise. While it can be expensive to tend to the issue yourself, you might find that it actually works out better financially in the long run, giving you a better chance of receiving the asking price for the property you want to sell.

- Organise the appropriate subsidence treatment

The type of treatment you’ll need will depend on a number of different factors, including where the subsidence is originating from and how severe it is. For example, if tree root damage is to blame, you might need to remove certain trees that surround your home, or if a burst or leaking pipe that runs underneath your property has caused the issue, you may need to organise to have the pipes fixed or even replaced.

If the subsidence is quite severe, underpinning might be required. Underpinning is the process of strengthening the foundations to ensure it is strong enough to support the structure. In most cases, this is seen as a ‘final’ course of action and potentially solve the issues caused by the subsidence, but as a result, it can be extremely costly, disruptive and it can take time to complete.

It’s not impossible to sell a property with subsidence, but it’s best to be upfront and honest about the problem, and treat the issue if you’re keen to sell.

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