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Buying a house with subsidence

Written By:
Myles Robinson - Expert Finance Advisor

Posted: Feb 6, 2023

Can you get a mortgage on a house with subsidence? Yes, you can, here’s how:

Prospective buyers often contact us with questions about purchasing a property with subsidence issues or a history of subsidence issues. They also want to know how this serious structural problem can affect their chances of getting mortgage approval.

You may have had difficulty getting a mortgage deal if you are trying to buy a house with subsidence.

Our specialist broker has extensive experience in this field and is well-equipped to help customers resolve this frustrating problem. Enquire below to discuss a subsidence problem.

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What is Subsidence?

Subsidence is the term that describes what happens when the ground or soil beneath a house begins to sink or cave in. This can lead to some of the property’s foundations sinking.

It causes foundation damage and can often be identified by cracks or splinters on the outside and inside of the building due to further movement. It can lead to a building becoming structurally unstable if it is not treated.

Although subsidence is common in older properties, it can lead to severe consequences if not appropriately addressed. It is difficult to insure properties with subsidence or a subsidence history. This is why many mortgage companies will grant them a broad berth. Specialist insurers would be required.

Most buildings more vulnerable to subsidence include those built on old mine grounds or landfill sites. Problems can also arise from large trees close to property walls, especially if roots reach foundations.

There are many factors to consider when buying a property with severe subsidence.

Can I get a mortgage for a house that has subsidence?

Mortgage lenders will accept properties with a history of subsidence. With guidance from an experienced advisor, finding a lender willing to lend is possible.

You must, however, first determine what was done to fix the problem and prevent the structural movement before applying for a mortgage. Lenders will want to be sure that it won’t happen again, which could lead to a significant drop in resale values.

Subsidence and mortgages: Underpinning

Subsidence was more common in the past, but only a few buildings today are at risk of subsidence. It is not an option as it can be very costly and require the owner to vacate the property for several weeks or even months to fix subsidence.

Usually, the root cause (e.g. nearby vegetation or water pipes) is removed or fixed. The ground is then able to recover and repair itself; The ground is then restored or made new.

If underpinning was done, the seller should be able to confirm it. As long as this work is completed to acceptable standards, you should be able to obtain a mortgage for the property.

For the best advice, we recommend consulting an expert. They can direct you to lenders with a track record of subsidence mortgage lending and potentially save you a lot of time and money. Enquire below to begin property purchase.

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You will usually need to hire a surveyor to conduct a complete full structural survey. This can also include additional subsidence checks.

Notably, it is possible that a surveyor may undervalue the property due to subsidence concerns, which can potentially cause the entire property sale to stall.

Subsidence insurance, mortgages

Subsidence can also cause headaches when purchasing a house. A property that is not covered by buildings insurance will not be approved for mortgage lending. You must locate a suitable specialist insurer before closing the deal with the seller.

The severity of subsidence can make it more difficult than arranging the mortgage. Premiums will likely be higher because most lenders insist you purchase a subsidence insurance policy. This is a more specific product than standard building policies.

Is it possible for a remortgage to be made with subsidence

You can remortgage your existing property with subsidence if you don’t have the correct documentation. Most lenders won’t touch your property unless the suspect subsidence is corrected.

You may want to stay with your existing lender and switch products with them. However, most lenders won’t allow you to do so until all the work is completed for the current subsidence.

You are an incumbent and therefore have a better position than an incoming buyer. However, you might be able to negotiate a deal with your current lender by expressing interest in looking elsewhere.

Subsidence and mortgage lending

Mainstream lenders will usually accept properties with subsidence that has been appropriately resolved, especially if there has been no movement for more than ten years. In this case, you don’t need to look for special mortgage lenders.

However, you may need to deposit more than the average to get a history mortgage with subsidence. Rates may also be higher if there is a more severe or recent problem.

You will be able to get the best rates possible if you speak with an advisor who has access to the entire market. This is especially important if you have any credit issues, are approaching retirement, or are buying a nonstandard property. These factors will further limit your search.

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Talk to an expert in whole-of-market subordination mortgage today!

You can relax, and let us find the right broker for you. We will discuss the building survey you may need and any other questions about a property with historical subsidence.

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Subsidence is when the ground beneath your house sinks. The foundations of your home can become misaligned as the ground falls. This is especially true if the ground beneath your property is sinking at different rates.


Subsidence is different from heave. This is when parts of your ground shift upwards, pushing the foundations higher.

This differs from landslips, landslides and other ground movements that can cause your home to sink or be washed away.


It is essential to note the differences between settlement and subsidence. According to the Financial Ombudsman Service, subsidence can be caused by the “downward movement” of the site where a building is located – when the soil underneath the foundations is unstable.

Settlement is caused by soil being compacted by the building’s weight within ten years. This is an important distinction because most homeowners insurance does not cover the settlement.

Are cracks on my house signs of subsidence?

A wall crack is not necessarily a sign of subsidence. The cracks in walls and ceilings are more likely to be caused by the walls or ceilings shrinking due to temperature fluctuations. Cracks can also develop in new homes or structures with extensive plastering.

What signs are there of subsidence?

Subsidence is most likely to cause a crack.

  • A 10p coin is wider than 3mm.
  • Visible from the outside as well as the inside of your house
  • Diagonal and often wider at the top than at the bottom
  • Located near a door or window

Cracks are not the only sign of subsidence. Doors and windows that stick should be checked, and frames that are warping as your house sinks. You should be aware of any rippling in wallpapered rooms. Cracks may be visible where an extension was joined to your main residence.

I believe I might have subsidence. What should I do?

Contact your building’s insurance if you suspect you might have subsidence. It will be easier to handle if it is reported as soon as possible. Your insurance company will arrange for a surveyor who will inspect your home to confirm whether there is a subsidence.

The surveyor might state that your home must be monitored to determine if the ground is sinking. This could take up to 12 months.

Not telling your insurance company immediately could lead to higher insurance premiums, even if you do not have subsidence. A-plan, our home insurance partners, tells us that they wouldn’t expect premiums to increase if there were no problems.

However, all insurers see risks differently. Before you contact your insurer, it is worth consulting a professional to verify that you have subsidence.

What houses are most at-risk of subsidence?

Many factors can increase the likelihood of sinkage in some homes, including the soil type and the climate.

These are the main risk factors that increase the likelihood of subsidence

  • Trees If you have large shrubs or trees too close to your house, they can cause subsidence. The plant takes moisture from the soil and causes it to dry and sink. According to estimates, around 70% of subsidence cases result from tree roots sucking all moisture out of the soil.
  • Clay This soil type changes with the weather. It can shrink, crack, and shift when hot or dry. This makes it more susceptible to sinking.
  • Drought If your area is susceptible to drought, the soil may dry up, increasing the likelihood of subsidence.
  • Leaks A leaking drain, main, or water main can cause soil softening or washing away and sinkage.
  • Construction and age – A period home may be more susceptible to subsidence than one built recently. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Older properties are often built with bricks and lime mortar, making them more flexible and less susceptible to being damaged by shifting ground beneath them.
  • Mining This is the most common cause of subsidence. Your house could become unstable if built close to an old quarry or pit. The material used to fill the site can shift and cause instability. It could be affected if mining activity is happening close to your house. To determine if your property has been affected by mining activity, you can obtain a subsidence claims report from Coal Authority.

How can you prevent subsidence?

You can take steps to prevent your house from subsiding if it is in danger.

First, ensure that the trees are kept at a safe distance. You should not plant trees within 10m of your home; giant trees shouldn’t be closer than 40m.

Second, capture excess water. Water butts are a way to prevent your soil from becoming waterlogged. Ensure your pipes, gutters, and plumbing are well maintained to avoid leaks.

How do I fix the subsidence?

Subsidence caused by tree roots is the easiest option. However, you must consult a professional and seek the advice of a tree surgeon. You could end up making the situation more unstable and worsening it.

Also, if you suspect that the cause is leaky pipework, fix it and then see if the property stabilises.

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