Q We have found a house that we really like, but it has been fully underpinned. Is this a problem?
A In an ideal world, it shouldn’t be. After all, simple logic would suggest that a property that has been fully underpinned (assuming the work was done properly, of course) should actually be a safer bet than the one next door which hasn’t! Sadly, however, that’s not the way it tends to work.
One of the problems with this issue is that a lot of underpinning done in the past was only partial, or not done particularly well. As a result, there can be a genuine risk of further movement. Consequently, no-one should seriously consider buying any underpinned property without first – at a bare minimum - having a full structural survey done.
However, the real problem comes – you’ve guessed it – with the issue of buildings insurance.
Needless to say, while it isn’t completely impossible to buy insurance for an underpinned property – at least, not as a general rule – it will almost certainly be quite expensive. At the same time, your choice may be limited. Thanks to an industry agreement designed to ensure continuity of cover for homes that have had to be underpinned, many companies will only insure such properties if the original claim was made under one of their own policies. Consequently, it’s not very easy to shop around. Either way, however, both the premium and the excess will be considerably higher than they would otherwise be.
This need not necessarily bother you – particularly if, as you say, the property is very much to your liking, and you yourself can easily afford the cost of insurance cover. Ditto, of course, if you aren’t planning to move house again any time soon. Otherwise, the risk you always run in buying a previously underpinned house is that if and when you come to sell it again, the cost of insurance will put off prospective buyers, or cause them to substantially reduce their offers. All in all then, I would advise you to proceed very carefully. After all, notwithstanding the recovery in the market that we have seen over the past 12 months or so, things are not yet so crazy that you should feel the need to rush into anything.