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What is Subsidence and How Can it Affect Your Property?

When changes occur to the moisture level of a property’s supporting ground, subsidence can occur. Perhaps the ground wasn’t suitable for building on in the first place or it has occurred over time.

Subsidence for property owners can be a scary word, it strikes fear into sellers and buyers alike. You might be concerned and wondering, who would buy a property that has a significant structural issue? It's understandable, and there's no hiding from it, it is a serious problem, but it's not a property death sentence. It doesn't need to be a deal breaker, in several cases subsidence can be completely managable and there may be remedies such as underpinning.

If you're looking to sell the property however, it can limit your buyer pool as mortgage lenders can be hesitant in releasing money on properties affected by subsience.

In this article we'll go into depth about everything you need to know about subsidence & how you can sell a property afflicted by it, easily navigate through the article using the links below:

  1. What Is Subsidence?
  2. What Causes Subsidence?
  3. What Are the Signs to Look Out For?
  4. How Does Subsidence Affect Property Value?
  5. Selling With Subsidence
  6. How To Sell A House With Subsidence
  7. Selling A House With Subsidence History - But Repaired
  8. How To Get A Subsidence Survey
  9. How Much Is A Subsidence Survey? (Cost)
  10. The Full Cost of House Subsidence
  11. How Is Subsidence Resolved?
  12. How Can We Help?

What Is Subsidence?

Subsidence IssuesThe definition of subsidence is the sudden or gradual sinking downward of the grounds surface, which could be caused naturally or by human activity. The affect this has on property is to cause major damage to structural aspect, which can be very costly to fix & detrimental to any potential future sale.

When the ground moves under the foundations of your house it can cause your property to essentially break, as part of the building might drop more than other parts. Subsidence is the downward movement of the site on which a building stands, not to be confused with heave which is where the foundations are pushed higher.


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What Causes Subsidence?

Subsidence happens when the ground below a property shifts for a particular reason, which can be a variety of different things. There are a few typical common causes of subsidence which include:

  • Tree Roots: You might not think it, but this can be a huge and very common issue. If you have a large tree near your house, the roots of the tree will continually branch out under the ground to find new areas of moisture and that can sometimes mean spanning underneath your property in which they can drain the clay it sits on & cause it to shrink.
  • Clay: If you have clay soil under your property then it can be an issue, it can lock in moisture for decades but if and when it dries out, it can shrink can cause the property to succumb to subsidence.
  • Uneven ground: The make up of the ground your house sits on can also cause issue, if it's a rockier area, under previous mine workings or just unstable then it might be a risk. A common issue that is often looked for in the conveyancing process is whether you are close to an old mining area, you can be quite far away from an old mine and it may still have an impact on your property.

What Are the Signs to Look Out For?

When your property is at risk of subsidence there are a few tell tale signs that you should look out for at the beginning stages:

  • Cracks in walls – diagonal, wider at the top and thicker than hairline cracks
  • Doors and windows sticking
  • Floor sinking
  • Leaning of property
  • Extension coming away from the building


People often stress if they find a crack, but most of the time this can simply be a crack in paint or old plaster, it's only when the crack is of a significant size (wider than 3mm) that you should be concerned. Another way you can keep an eye out for subsidence issues is if you have a wallpapered room, check regularly to see if there is any rippling.

How Does Subsidence Affect Property Value?

Well, very simply put, negatively. Subsidence can be an expensive issue to fix, and it’s a risk for buyer to take if they purchase a property with subsidence, so there usually has to be a financial incentive to take the risk. It’s impossible to give you a figure or percentage that you can expect to achieve from your properties market value as the cost of subsidence can vary significantly depending on the severity and every case is different.

You will obviously achieve more for your property if the subsidence issue is deemed as historic, although you may still not get the full value.

The buyer will need to determine the cost of repair and the time taken to resolve the subsidence issue, which they will likely need a survey for. Often people who buy subsidence properties are investors and may look to flip the property after repairing it, so they will look for a profit in doing so, which also needs to be factored in.


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Selling With Subsidence

If your property has a history of subsidence issues then it can be really hard to sell as you will not be able to conceal the the fact from any potential buyers. As you will have to fully disclose the issues it can put a lot of perspective buyers off due to the cost involves with fixing subsidence issues, you also significantly limit your buyer pool.

Mortgage lenders will be very reluctant to lend money on a property that has subsidence issues as it's seen as very high risk. This means that a property with subsidence will likely only be able to be purchased by cash buyers, and they may be looking for a significant discount in order to offset the price of the potential repairs or risk.

How To Sell A House With Subsidence

As we’ve mentioned a few times in this article, selling a property with subsidence issues isn’t as easy as selling a normal property as you may have guessed. Most of the time, subsidence affected properties are unmortgageable, which means the traditional market and going through an estate agent might not be the best route for you.

If you’re selling a property with subsidence issues then you might find an auction house more beneficial as it’s more likely to attract an audience of investors. Another option that you have available would be to use sell house fast companies such as ourselves, as we are cash buyers who purchase properties in any condition.

Selling A House With Subsidence History - But Repaired

If your property has been impacted by subsidence in the past, you have to declare it, and unfortunately there is no limit on how long since the subsidence you have to declare it from, meaning you have to mention it if it has been an issue at any point in the properties history.

If a property has been properly repaired then the issue shouldn’t reoccur and it should offer peace of mind to any property buyer as long as all the paperwork is in order. Despite it being repaired, the history could put off some buyers that want to err on the side of caution which might make the property harder to sell.

How To Get A Subsidence Survey

If you suspect your property may have subsidence then you might want to get a survey. If you instruct a surveyor to carry out an investigation on a property they will first start with a visual subsidence survey to find any signs, they’ll then be able to determine if there are serious issues – sometimes it’s not obvious straight away and the property may need monitored over a significant period of time. The survey should confirm whether subsidence exists, the extent and what the cause behind it is.

Subsidence surveys are conducted by RICs and you can find a certified surveyor on their website.

How Much Is A Subsidence Survey? (Cost)

The cost of getting a subsidence survey varies significantly & you should always get a quote for your particular scenario. Typically speaking you can expect to pay between £150-200 an hour for a surveyor to be at your property, which if they conclude with a visual inspection that there are no signs of subsidence will mean it’s significantly cheaper. If the property has to be monitored, this could be for an extended period with some people mentioning around the 10 hour mark, which would make the survey cost £1,500 to £2,000.

It's best speaking to multiple surveyors to see what the best price you can get is as the price can vary significantly.


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The Full Cost of House Subsidence

In most cases you will be able to remedy the structural issue by removing a tree, which is the most common cause of subsidence, this can be relatively inexpensive.

If you’re unlucky enough to be in the minority and need to get your house underpinned then it’s going to be far more expensive. Prices vary significantly based on any party wall agreements, where you live, the area that needs to be repined and the cost of notifying your local building control. There are also a few different methods of underpinning which also heavily dictate the price, typically speaking you can expect to pay anywhere between £1,200 to £2,600 per square metre to have the property underpinned and you can expect it to take weeks, or months, depending on the size of area needing underpinned.

The other factors you have to consider is the cost of actually repairing the property itself. This completely depends on how long the subsidence issue has been on-going & the amount of damage it has caused.

How Is Subsidence Resolved?

It depends on how the subsidence issue has been caused, if for instance the issue is caused by tree roots, you may simply have to remove the tree & you can often do so before the issue becomes significant although you should also be sure to contact a surveyor and use a tree surgeon to do the job properly.

In the worst case however, you will need to get your property underpinned, which, is expensive. An expanding substance is injected under the property until the floor is raised and the property stabilised. This should be a permanent solution to the problem. This solves the issue of further subsidence but it doesn't fix any lasting damage to the property, it depends on how severly your property has been damaged to what the cost of the repairs for this may be, underpinning itself can set you back £50,000.

Now that's a scary figure, but it's estimated that only 10% of properties that are affected by subsidence issues actually need underpinning.

How Can We Help?

If your property is suffering from subsidence issues and you’re wanting to sell it, this can feel incredibly difficult. Estate/online agents are unlikely to take on a property that has subsidence and hasn’t been treated yet, as it is too costly for them. Like we've touched on earlier, the property is only likely to appeal to a very specific section of the market, cash buyers, as mortgage lenders are unlikely to grant a mortgage on subsidence affected properties.

However, all is not lost. We will buy your property quickly, even if it has subsidence. We won’t offer you the full price, but we will offer you a fair price, which is something we do for all of our customers. We work with a team of experts nationally who can resolve the issue before we sell the property on, giving you peace of mind and a lump sum of money to do whatever you choose with.

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