Buying, selling and letting a property with a history of subsidence

Subsidence is possibly the single most feared issue for any landlord, often signalling lofty structural costs and even loftier insurance premiums. But is there any reassurance for fretting sellers, or potentially any reward for buyers willing to take a punt on a property affected by subsidence?

For owners of houses with a history of subsidence, the anxiety over what happens when you come to sell it—and the process of doing so—can be overwhelming. For prospective buyers looking to rent the property out, doing your homework will help you decide whether it is worth the punt.


What is subsidence?

Subsidence is the gradual or sudden sinking of your property’s foundations and can be caused by natural processes, such as droughts and extended spells of hot weather, or from human intervention such as the planting of trees, collapsed or leaking drains or erecting outbuildings. To find out more about the warning signs and tips to prevent subsidence read Subsidence: what is it and how to prevent it?

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For sellers


Selling a subsidence property

When the time comes to selling your subsidence property, honesty is the best policy. You should never try to hide the subsidence as it will only put off potential buyers when, not if, they realise the property is affected.

In fact, showing you are proactive in dealing with the issue responsibly gives you a much better chance of selling.


 Guide: Buying, selling and letting a property with a history of subsidence


What can sellers do to be proactive?

Subsidence usually occurs over many years and the cracks you spot may not widen visibly. Instead, the progress may be over many months. A chartered surveyor can assess the situation and may ask you to monitor certain areas of the house.

If, over time, the chartered surveyor confirms the subsidence, you will need to deal with the cause. This could mean removing an outhouse, tree or other structure. In some circumstances, the chartered surveyor may suggest underpinning, but be warned. Underpinning is both an exhausting and expensive ordeal.


What else can I do to sell the property?

Your proactive approach needs to be backed up with all the necessary paperwork. Collating this documentation provides evidence of the exact history of the property and will give confidence to the buyer that you as the seller have done all that you can to control the situation.

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For buyers

For prospective buyers, subsidence properties can sometimes work in a landlord’s favour. Most buyers will be put off by evidence of subsidence, particularly if they are unwilling to do the research to understand the exact cause of the subsidence.

What should buyers look out for?

Speaking with the current owner of the property often gives you the best indication of the situation. You should, however, only use this as the basis of your research. Despite what you may feel,

you should always seek a professional opinion using evidence-based means to determine the true state of the subsidence. This will also help to give an indication of how the situation can be rectified.

Structural surveys

Though time-consuming, a full structural survey provides a comprehensive report of the property’s condition and requirements, including any issues involving subsidence.

In fact, some mortgage-lenders may require such a report as mandatory for properties with known issues of subsidence.