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How To Sell a House With Structural Issues

Property Saviour » Problematic Properties » How To Sell a House With Structural Issues

Do you wish to sell a house with structural issues?

In this article, we’ll explore different types of structural problems, different types of non-standard construction builds and how this can affect the saleability of any property.  We’ll also cover how to sell your property with structural issues.

Table of Contents

What are structural problems?

Structural issues in a residential building can arise from various factors, such as poor design or construction and structural defects that develop over time. These problems can compromise the stability of the building and may result from wear and tear since the initial construction.

In layman’s terms, structural problems can be any issues that impact the overall structural integrity of a dwelling.

These issues can be from design flaws, sub-standard building materials, shoddy construction work, or structural faults that have surfaced over time.

Over time, several structural issues can cause major concern for the homeowners, particularly if the property wasn’t lived in.  There’s the uncertainty of how much will cost to rectify.  If structural problems are severe, the only option left is demolition. 

Find out our tried and tested best way to sell your house.

What is an example of a structural problem?

Bulging or leaning walls are one example of a structural problem.

Bulging or leaning walls may be difficult to detect as they can start subtly and only become obvious over time. Straight walls are the norm, so if you notice any leaning or bulging, it could signal a structural issue with the wall, its foundations or the drainage.

serious structural issues require underpinning
If a house has serious structural issues with foundations then it will require underpinning to support its structural integrity. The cost can be easily in five figures.

How do I know if my property has structural problems?

Here are some signs that can help you identify property structural damage early. Structural issues can be costly and dangerous if left unchecked: 

Structural Problem

Solution

Windows and doors get stuck when opening or closing

When the ground under the foundation starts shifting, the foundation of a house will require underpinning.  Underpinning provides reinforcement of foundation by strengthening of the soil through the introduction of expanding filler.

The ceiling appears to be sagging

This is when the ceiling starts to show cracks and looks uneven.  Causes can include:

  1. Structural movement within the building
  2. Leaks from the roof – for example if you have aged flat roof
  3. Age of ceiling and the building itself
  4. Woodworms that have eaten away the ceiling joists

First, the root cause needs to be established before starting treatment.

Exposed gaps between the walls

Cracks appearing in plaster, brickwork, stonework, and concrete may be superficial and just due to settlement, or they may be serious and indicate issues such as damp or subsidence.

Cracks above a door or window could indicate a failed lintel, missing lintel, or other structural issues.

If the cracks appear to be more than 20p coin, it worth consulting with a structural engineer to establish the root cause.

Crumbing concrete

Reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) is a special type of concrete made from lime, water, and an aeration agent. The mixture is poured into moulds and exposed to high pressure and heat through autoclaving, resulting in a lightweight, strong, and porous material.

Concrete that crumbles is said to be ’80 percent air’. It has also been nicknamed Aero Bar, a popular chocolate bar with air pockets. RAAC has been identified as a risk for buildings collapsing after surpassing its 30-year lifespan.

Timber rot

Timber rot is caused by wet rot or dry rot. Although timber can last a very long time, it can only do so if it is not exposed to conditions that promote the growth and spread of fungus. Fungus, also known as rot, tends to thrive in environments with high moisture levels and nutrients. You will notice uneven floors.

Leaning walls

The walls should be vertical. If they’re not, this can signify a structural problem with the wall itself or its foundations.

Bulging walls

Walls that bulge, even if the wall itself is vertical, can indicate a defect within the wall.

Uneven, bouncy or springy Floors

This may indicate problems with the floorboards or joists and could indicate dry or wet rot.

Smells

Unpleasant smells can be a symptom of damp, dry or wet rot.

Roof spread or a bowed roof

This can indicate that the roof timbers are moving outwards, possibly because they are not strong enough to support the weight of the tiles.  This can also be caused by spray foam insulation.

What are different types of structural problems?

Structural problems can come in many forms with varying levels of severity. The most common types of structural problems found in houses include subsidence, heave, and movement.  Structural damage can include:

  • Subsidence is a particularly common structural problem and is often the subject of insurance claims. 
  • Minor cases of subsidence, also known as settlement, are typically less severe, while major cases can be a serious structural issue. Subsidence can be caused by a variety of factors, such as ground conditions and geological problems, clay shrinkage, the removal of moisture from the ground by trees, water leaks, erosion, and mining subsidence in former mining areas.
  • Heave is the opposite of subsidence and occurs when the ground rises instead of sinking. Like subsidence, heave can also be a structural issue.
  • Wall ties are crucial for holding together the internal and external walls that form cavity walls in most houses. If these connections fail, the walls can bulge or even collapse.
  • Asbestos was commonly used in houses for insulation and fire safety until the 1980s. It is sometimes considered a structural defect.
  • If your house lacks a damp course or if the damp course has been breached, this could be seen as a structural issue.
  • Invasive weeds are rapid-growing plants that can cause significant harm to properties. One particularly serious invasive weed is the Japanese Knotweed, known for its ability to cause structural damage.
  • Structural issues affecting houses may also include red ash flooring, mundic and concrete affected by sulphate attack. These issues can impact the integrity and stability of a house, requiring careful attention and proper assessment. It’s important to address these issues promptly to ensure the safety and longevity of the property.

To address subsidence, it is important first to identify and address the root cause. Then, the damage caused by the subsidence must be repaired. In some severe cases, a house may require underpinning of its foundation to stabilise it.

Structural Problems with Houses of Non Standard Constructions

In addition to subsidence and heave, non-standard construction homes are considered structurally defective.  These include:

  1. Timber-framed buildings
  2. Thatched buildings
  3. Cob or mud-walled buildings
  4. Buildings made with asbestos or corrugated iron
  5. Concrete frame or panel houses
  6. System-built houses

In addition to this, the type of materials used can be considered to be dangerous.  One example is the wide use of Asbestos as an insulation or a fire barrier material.

Damp can be considered a structural problem, depending on its cause. In some cases, structural problems can lead to damp.

Dry and wet rot are common structural issues caused by damp conditions that allow the fungus to spread rapidly.

Flat roofs can be considered a structural problem if they leak or have been poorly constructed.

Invasive weeds such as Japanese Knotweed can also cause structural damage to property.  Often, Japanese Knotweed or JK can be spread from neighbouring properties.

Woodworms are tiny wood-boring insects that can destroy the structural strength of the timber used in roofs, walls, and floors. Furniture Beetle is a common type of woodworm. 

Deep crack in a brick wall means structural issues
Deep crack in walls are early signs of structural issues that will need to be addressed.

What is classed as structural damage on a house?

When your home has structural damage or movement, it indicates that the roof, floors, walls, frames, or foundations may have been compromised and could be unstable. Issues such as settlement, ground heave, or subsidence can particularly impact foundations and walls.

How to diagnose a structural problem?

It can be difficult to identify structural problems on your own.  It is best to get advice from a trusted builder and then instruct a structural engineer from The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) if a formal report is necessary.  Their website can help you find a surveyor in your area.

It is highly likely that a professional surveyor will recommend structural testing, such as digging holes to check the foundation and to monitor the problem over several years.  He/she can also provide an indicative cost for repairs. But what happens if you need to sell now?

How much does subsidence devalue property?

You can sell a property that has been underpinned as long as the work has been completed to a high standard and there are no current structural or subsidence issues. Typically, underpinning can decrease the value of a property by about 20-25%.

The cost of property devaluation due to subsidence is determined by the repair costs and the perceived monetary value of the time required for the repairs. For an investor, the property may not be profitable for renting or selling while subsidence repairs are ongoing.

This could result in a loss of rental income during the repair period, which might be considered in the overall devaluation estimation. The actual devaluation amount will vary among buyers, influenced by how they assess the importance of their time and cost elements.

Can you make a claim against your insurance company
Structural issues are one of the main reasons for disputes between the insurers and home owners often resulting in a referral to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Can you make a claim against your insurance company?

You absolutely can make a claim against your insurance.  However, as with most insurance companies it depends on the wording of your policy and their exclusion rules.

Structural issues are one of the main reasons for disputes between insurers and homeowners, often resulting in a referral to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Your insurance company’s surveyor will act in their client’s best interest to deny your claim.  The list of excuses can include:

  • Lack of maintenance by you
  • Subsidence may not be covered under your policy
  • The structural problem existed before you purchased the policy
  • It is settlement and not subsidence.
 
Trying to get insurance companies to accept liability can be a real battle.  It can be a very stressful experience.  Even if you are successful, they would want you to pay £1,000 excess to cover the cost of any repairs.  You might consider hiring a loss assessor to help with your claim.

Once your claim has settled in your favour, and hopefully you have a payout from the insurance company, you can sell your property ‘as is’.

Fixing structural problems before selling

If your insurance company will fix the structural issues, then it makes sense to do so.  The history of the claim and all documentation relating to structural repairs must be disclosed to the buyer. 

Once structural repairs have been carried out, it will take a couple of years of monitoring before a Certificate of Structural Adequacy (CSA) is issued.

When an insurance claim is made for subsidence, landslip, or heave, a Certificate of Structural Adequacy (CSA) is usually issued. This certificate follows the guidelines set by the Institution of Structural Engineers (1994) after finishing repairs and a monitoring period has elapsed.

It describes the cause and extent of structural damage, the repair work conducted, and confirms the structural soundness of the affected property.

Trying to sell without fixing structural problems

You can try to find a buyer without fixing the problems, which can save you time and money. However, this may limit the number of interested buyers.

When selling a home with structural issues, you have a few options:

  1. Estate agents may find selling your home challenging and will still charge fees.
  2. Another option is to auction your property, but there’s no guarantee of a sale with all upfront costs.
  3. Lastly, you can contact a quick property buying company who specialise in purchasing homes with structural problems for a fast sale without fees.
selling a house with subsidence.
Homes in old mining areas are likely to suffer with subsidence as the ground settles. This can be very expensive to rectify and difficult to insure in future.

How to Sell a House with Structural Issues?

If need to sell a home with structural issues, it is best to sell to a cash buyer such as Property Saviour.  We’ll save you the hassle of putting up property for sale with an agent. 

There are no fees to pay.  We’ll buy your house for cash.  We will also pay you £1,500 towards your legal fees, and the whole transaction can be completed within a couple of weeks. Why not get in touch with us now?

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