What to do if you think you have subsidence?

If you’re thinking of buying a house, it’s highly likely you’ve come across the term ‘subsidence’. It’s something that homeowners and potential buyers are wary of, with good reason. But what should you do if you suspect a property has signs of subsidence? Encouragingly, it doesn’t necessarily mean the end of your property ambitions.

What is subsidence?

Subsidence is when the ground underneath a building shifts or sinks, pulling the foundations with it. It can be caused by trees growing near foundations; soil washing away; current or old mine workings; poor foundations; clay shrinkage; and the formation of underground caverns.

Subsidence sounds serious and it certainly can be, which is why it’s important to look for signs of subsidence when you buy a property.

What are the signs of subsidence?

There are some telltale signs to look out for:

  • Subsidence cracks i.e.
  • Wider at the top than the bottom
  • Visible both inside and outside the building
  • Wider than 3mm (approximately the width of a 10p coin)
  • Doors and windows that no longer fit

All of the above can be caused by things other than subsidence, but if you notice any of them it’s definitely worth investigating further.

Can subsidence be treated?

Although worrying, subsidence can usually be treated, although it may be an expensive process and may involve an insurance claim. The first thing to do is identify the cause. You may need to remove trees, fix a leaking pipe, or even underpin the building: dig out and replace the ground beneath the property with something less likely to subside. 

Should I buy a house with signs of subsidence?

It’s essential to find out if a house you’re thinking of buying has subsidence. If you don’t, you could face huge unexpected costs down the line.

If you discover the property does have subsidence, you can either back out of the purchase or negotiate with the seller to lower the price/fix the problem.

There’s no real reason you shouldn’t buy a house with subsidence if you’re fully aware of the issues, understand and budget for what needs to be done and are still happy to take on the property.

Arrange a house survey

When buying a property, it’s essential to get a house survey for lots of reasons including checking for signs of subsidence. It’s worth noting that the valuation inspection conducted by your mortgage lender is not a detailed survey, so you’ll need to arrange an independent inspection by a trusted surveyor.   

If you have noticed cracks or other signs, a HomeBuyer Report or Building Survey would be a good choice to assess the risks. At Trinity Rose, we can advise on the most appropriate survey for the property and talk you through all the options.

Get in touch

If you’re buying a property and would like trusted, professional advice about property surveys, please get in touch. Our experienced team of Chartered Surveyors are on hand to answer all your questions. 

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