How to Be At One With Subsidence: A Guide to Letting It Slide

Contrary to Popular Belief It Is Possible to Find Inner Peace When Your Dream Property Has a Case of Subsidence, Here’s How.

You might have come across the term while eyeing up the gorgeous period properties on our books, but in most cases you needn’t let it distract you from that pretty Victorian cornicing.

Subsidence crops up when the ground beneath a property shifts due to a combo of dry weather, clay soil and wandering tree roots. It sounds dramatic, and sometimes is (so we’d always advise you seek professional advice) but more often than not, it’s perfectly manageable. Let’s face it, on a list of terrible things that 2020 has thrown at us, subsidence just doesn’t cut the mustard. Whether you’ve got a property where you’ve established a case of subsidence or you’ve got your eye on one, we’re here to tell you it doesn’t have to stand in the way of happy home ownership, so chill for a sec and consider the options.

An illustration of a woman looking out of her window to a crack in her building wall.

From old fashioned tree management to the modern wonders of underpinning, there are plenty of tried and tested solutions out there. And the fact that there are solutions means the days of sweeping it under the carpet are over. Most subsidence-induced headaches stem from ignoring the issue for a long period of time, which is exactly what you’re not going to do.

Out and Proud: Top Tips for Sellers

The first step to managing subsidence is acknowledging you have it, embracing it even. So what should you be looking out for? Some tell-tale signs include cracks larger than a 10p coin both inside and outside of the property, ripped wallpaper or doors and windows which stick or no longer seem to fit the building. Being upfront with prospective buyers shouldn’t make you squirm so long as you’re taking the following steps to deal with it.

Find the Root Cause

As much as we wish we could meditate subsidence away, your best bet is swift, purposeful action. So once you’ve rolled up the yoga mat, you need to make two calls, one to your insurer and another to a professional chartered surveyor. They can give you the lowdown on the meaning behind those cracks and map out the route to fixing them. Don’t dilly dally in calling one in as monitoring the situation can take months or years (finding your inner zen could be helpful here).

Once the chartered surveyor has zoned in on the problem – the thirsty roots of a tree, an imbalance in the water table or a broken water pipe – fixing it can be swift. If the more arduous task (for the builders at least) of underpinning is proposed, whereby the foundations get some extra support, look to your insurance policy for financial help. Most offer protection against works required in relation to subsidence.

The team at Davies & Davies reviewing work being done in a property.

It’s pretty important you keep a record of everything you do to manage subsidence and hold on to the physical evidence. Ok, so it’s not exactly pub chat material but it does mean that you’ll be ready to answer any questions prospective buyers throw at you and back them up with evidence, that way nothing is standing in the way of your dream offer.

Find the Root Cause

Got the hots for a house but subsidence on your mind? When you’re smitten with a property, it can be tempting to jump straight in with an offer but hold fire until you’ve had a full structural survey of the property done – particularly if it’s an older building. While you wait for the results, practice your breathwork, shop around or plan which bedroom you’re shotgunning. Oh, and make sure to check in with the building’s insurance, although in most cases the insurance premium increase will be minimal.

In a perfect world, anyone selling a property will be up to scratch on its condition and will have kept a keen eye on any signs of subsidence and be taking the steps to repair it. If this is the case then you can get back to being a beacon of calm.

The main concerns arise when subsidence comes as a surprise to both parties – then you might want to proceed with caution. The good news is once you’ve costed up any necessary remedial work you’ll be well within your rights to chop some dosh off of your offer.

The exterior of a selection of terraced Victorian period property houses in North London.

Prevention Is the Best Cure

Just like a bad hangover, prevention is the best cure (failing that, get a berocca down you). While you can’t prevent subsidence by abstaining from the pints, you can make sure external guttering, plumbing and pipes are properly maintained. Also, if you can help it, maybe don’t plant any overly large impulsive garden centre purchases so close to the house.

So, while we totally get how subsidence can put prospective buyers and sellers on edge, you now know it’s not a deal breaker when it comes to nabbing your dream pad. If you’d like further advice on this, (subsidence not meditation techniques) or anything else property related, don’t hesitate to contact us at info@daviesanddavies.co.uk.

Always seek independent and professional advice before making the moves on a property. To book a free, no obligation, property valuation please contact us on:

Sales valuations: mark@daviesdavies.co.uk |0207 272 0986

Lettings valuations: alex@daviesdavies.co.uk |0207 272 0986

Article by Kyra Hanson at Barefaced Studios
Photography by Odera Okoye at Barefaced Studios

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