Updated: January 18, 2022

Buying A House With Subsidence

Are you looking at buying a house with subsidence? Getting a mortgage is easier than you think! Our in-depth guide will walk you through exactly what to do.

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Pete Mugleston

Author: Pete Mugleston - Mortgage Expert

Updated: January 18, 2022

A history of subsidence should not cause you to immediately disregard a property you’re thinking of buying. But it does give you additional considerations to take into account when working out your options for getting a mortgage.

To help you decide whether to buy a house with a history of subsidence, this guide includes information on what subsidence is and how it impacts on your mortgage application, along with where to look for any help and guidance you might need.

What is subsidence?

Subsidence is the term used to describe the downward movement of the earth beneath a property that causes uneven shifts in the foundations.

Common causes of subsidence are:

  • Tree roots – large trees growing close to a house can absorb vast quantities of moisture from the soil that dry it out and shrink it
  • Ground conditions – clay soil holds water so expands in wet weather and contracts during hot, dry spells. Sandy or chalky soils are vulnerable to being washed away. Areas where drought or flooding are common can be susceptible to subsidence
  • Water leaks – leaking pipes can have the same detrimental effects on soil and foundations as persistent heavy rain
  • Mined land – Properties built on areas previously used as mines or quarries might have weak foundations due to gaps in the ground below them

Subsidence is different from ‘heave’ which occurs when the ground beneath the property shifts upwards, and ‘settlement’ which is an even movement of the ground caused by the weight of the property.

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Can you get a mortgage on a property with subsidence?

Yes, although it is easier to get a mortgage for a property with a resolved subsidence problem than one for a property that has an ongoing issue.This is because subsidence can potentially cause structural damage to a property that could:

  • Require extensive repair work
  • Make the property uninhabitable
  • Cause the property to collapse

For a mortgage on any property that has (or had) significant subsidence, you are advised to use a broker who understands the market and knows which lenders to approach.

What impact might it have on your application?

A property with a history of subsidence will no doubt put off certain lenders. So, in terms of impact, some lenders will not consider your application any further. However, the more time that’s passed since the work was complete, the better chance you have of securing the mortgage you need.

Most lenders who are prepared to offer you a mortgage will want to know the severity of the subsidence before determining the amount they’re prepared to lend, the rate they will offer and any special conditions that must be applied to the deal.

How can a broker can help you get approved

Subsidence is an umbrella term. When assessing an application, lenders will want to know the details of the subsidence issue relative to the property in question. A broker with inside knowledge of the market will be able to put you in touch with lenders with a history of accepting applications similar to yours.

They will know what additional information each lender will require so you can make a decision on whether to proceed with your application based on a realistic estimate of the process, timescale and cost involved.

Our unique broker-matching service is designed to match you with an advisor we work with who has previous experience helping people get mortgages in similar circumstances.

How to rectify subsidence

One of the most popular ways is having a process called underpinning carried out. This is work that can be done on your home’s foundations to strengthen them and minimise the impact of subsidence.

After you’ve had these works carried out, here are the next steps…

  • Following satisfactory work to rectify subsidence, and a subsequent period of monitoring, a Certificate of Structural Adequacy (CSA) is usually issued.
  • A CSA follows guidance of the Institution of Structural Engineers (1994) and many lenders will insist on it when considering an application.
  • A full structural survey should also be carried out. The CSA is relevant only to the individual subsidence issue that was dealt with and has no bearing on any other potential structural defects.

Will underpinning improve my chances of getting a mortgage

Yes, it’s possible. There are several ways to carry out underpinning so any structural issues with a property – as long as they can be overcome – will only form part of a lender’s decision. If there’s only minor subsidence evident, then other factors such as the size of your deposit, disposable income and credit history will also be taken into consideration.

If all of these other factors are strong in your favour, your application has a better chance of being accepted.

What about minor subsidence?

Minor subsidence issues, such as tree roots and leaking water pipes are, generally, relatively straightforward to fix and, therefore, shouldn’t prove to be too much of an obstacle for your application, as long as the repairs are completed.

Any major subsidence, such as shifting soil, may require underpinning and could result in your lender deciding to reject your mortgage application. In all cases, it’s best to seek advice from a structural engineer once the surveyor’s valuation has been received.

Other things to consider

There are other implications of buying a house with subsidence, and they are as follows…

Property value

Although the process may be a bit more complicated than applying for a straightforward mortgage, you can often strike a good deal. Typically, a house with historical subsidence will be valued roughly 20% below market value.

If structural work is required, vendors receive reduced interest in buying a property that will cost less than standard market value even taking into consideration the cost of any repair work. If you are planning to live in the property right away, this might be impractical. But if you’re planning major renovation work, the additional cost of repairs could be negligible.

Resale value

If and when you come to sell the house, it will still have a history of subsidence and your buyers could face similar problems which could affect the sale price in the same way.

Insurance can be a sticking point

It’s not just lenders who are cautious of existing or previous subsidence issues. Some insurance companies may also decline to offer cover for the property. Others will charge high premiums. In some cases, you might be required to take on the existing insurance product from the vendor in order to ensure the property is covered. These are details that should be discussed with your broker as part of the application process.

Can you remortgage?

Yes, though this is slightly different from buying a house with subsidence. As you already own and/or live in the property, you are in a stronger position than someone looking to buy. That said, there are lenders who won’t want to approve your remortgage.

The first thing to do is find out how much it will cost to repair. You will be in an even stronger position if you make repairs prior to remortgaging. You may even be able to borrow additional funds to get the work done under some circumstances.

A broker will be able to advise you on your possible options – and maybe strengthen your case via a working relationship with the right lender.

Get matched with an expert subsidence mortgage broker today

Getting a mortgage for a property with a history of subsidence can be difficult but it’s certainly not impossible. The important thing is knowing which lenders will look more favourably on these situations when they arise. We work with mortgage brokers who have access to the whole market and know what is required by each subsidence mortgage lender. Our broker-matching service will put you in touch with a broker who will find you the best deal on the market for the individual property you are looking at.

For expert advice from a broker that understands the intricacies of buying a house with subsidence call today on 0808 189 0463 or make an enquiry to arrange a no-obligation chat.

FAQs

How long do I have to declare subsidence for?

There is no limit. Neither is there any point in trying to hide it. When you buy the property, you will carry out your own due diligence, as will a lender. When you want to sell, being upfront will help the buyers and ensure as smooth a transaction as possible.

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Pete Mugleston

Pete Mugleston

Mortgage Expert

About the author

Pete, an expert in all things mortgages, cut his teeth right in the middle of the credit crunch. With plenty of people needing help and few mortgage providers lending, Pete found great success in going the extra mile to find mortgages for people whom many others considered lost causes. The experience he gained, coupled with his love of helping people reach their goals, led him to establish Online Mortgage Advisor, with one clear vision – to help as many customers as possible get the right advice, regardless of need or background.

Pete’s presence in the industry as the ‘go-to’ for specialist finance continues to grow, and he is regularly cited in and writes for both local and national press, as well as trade publications, with a regular column in Mortgage Introducer and being the exclusive mortgage expert for LOVEMoney. Pete also writes for OMA of course!

FCA Disclaimer

*Based on our research, the content contained in this article is accurate as of the most recent time of writing. Lender criteria and policies change regularly so speak to one of the advisors we work with to confirm the most accurate up to date information. The information on the site is not tailored advice to each individual reader, and as such does not constitute financial advice. All advisors working with us are fully qualified to provide mortgage advice and work only for firms that are authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. They will offer any advice specific to you and your needs.

Some types of buy to let mortgages are not regulated by the FCA. Think carefully before securing other debts against your home. As a mortgage is secured against your home, it may be repossessed if you do not keep up with repayments on your mortgage. Equity released from your home will also be secured against it.

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