Shall we begin with a bit of good news? Oh, go on then.
Analysis by the research team at Savills has found that the value of the overall housing stock in the UK has hit an all-time high. To put this in non-industry speak, this means that the combined value of all the houses and flats in the UK put together is now worth a slightly-incomprehensible £7.29 trillion. If, like us, you need a bit of context for this rather large number, we hear this is equivalent to ten times the value of all FTSE 100 companies combined.
Though we can certainly see why analysts are jumping up and down over this new record… does it actually mean anything for us normal folks? Ultimately, it’s good news for established homeowners who are likely sitting on a very nice pot of equity. However, rising prices are less welcome to those who are trying to get on the housing ladder for the first time, as it makes the whole process even more daunting and expensive.
Speaking of less welcome news: we’ve got some more. It’s not just property prices that have been on the rise in the UK, there’s also the issue of flood risk. Though there has always been a possibility of flooding in certain water-adjacent areas in the UK, research shows that this risk is increasing thirty-fold due to climate change(and no, thirtywasn’t a typo).
Once again, you may ask: does this actually mean anything for the likes of us? Well – quite frankly – yes! Flooding is becoming more and more of a problem in the UK and it’s something we need to be keeping in mind even in properties that may not historically have seemed at risk.
The most common type of flood occurs when there’s overwhelming rainfall over a short period. Severe rain often means there’s simply too much water for rivers, lakes and drainage systems to handle. In these cases, rivers burst their banks, drains overflow and large amounts of water end up in unexpected places
However, it’s not just surface flooding homeowners need to be aware of. There’s also the rather less predictable concern of rising groundwater. Does it sound dull?! Perhaps it does, but if we can hold your attention for a little while longer you might thank us for the information in the long run.
The groundwater issue
Rising groundwater tends to become an issue in the period after intense rainfall. Unfortunately, there’s only so much water the ground can soak up before the water table rises above the surface and erupts where it shouldn’t. This is more likely to occur in topographical low spots and subterranean structures, such as cellars or basements.
So, let’s say you do pop down to your cellar one afternoon to fetch a bag of spuds/a screwdriver/a bottle of wine (or all three, for a particularly exciting afternoon?) and find yourself face to face with unexpected floodwater; what next?
The first thing you’d need to know in this situation is that all flood water is considered ‘black’ in terms of the lethal germs and mould that’s likely colonised in it and you should never (never!) touch it or step in it. The second thing to be aware of is that all the time the floodwater is sat there in your cellar it’s likely causing more and more damage to the structure of your home.
You’d need to get professional assistance ASAP to get the water out before it caused any more long-term, structural damage.
How can you protect against the risk of rising groundwater?
People who know much more about this sort of thing than we do have predicted that the amount of rain we get in the UK during the winter months could increase by 33%. We may not have quite the same meteorological experience as the academics who did that research, but it doesn’t take a science degree to work out that significantly more rain equals significantly more flooding.
Though there’s not necessarily much we can do on a micro level to reduce the amount of rainfall, what we cando is to make sure we’re prepared for all watery eventualities in our own homes.
If you’re currently buying a property, we recommend you make sure a comprehensive suite of searches and surveys are done so there are no nasty surprises re: rising water. If anything does come up that wasn’t already known to you, your conveyancing solicitor will need to investigate this with the vendors and find out as much as possible about the flood history of the home.
A murky history of flooding can create real problems with insuring property. Any information you can get from the vendors about this will be useful, as will government initiatives such as Flood Re. If you find yourself in this situation you will need to do some thorough research with insurance companies to find out whether they will insure you against flood risk at all – and if they will, at what price. Ultimately, you may need to renegotiate on the purchase of the house to fund this, or you may even need to pull out altogether.
Even if you’ve been in your home for a while and are not aware of any history of flooding, it might be wise to make a few preparatory checks. You can check the long-term flood risk of your area on the gov.uk website. We’d also suggest you take a good look at the small print of your buildings insurance to make sure all types of flooding are covered – trust us when we say it’d be enough of a nasty surprise to discover a flood, never mind that you were also fully responsible for the cost of sorting it out!
Can we help you untangle any concerns about buying a property amidst a flood risk? Here’s how to bend our ear.