All sorts of factors can affect the price of a house, and this is something I have been giving a lot of thought to recently as I contemplate buying a property. At the moment house prices have fallen at the end of a long boom, but come the next boom a new factor might have a major impact: broadband speeds. Some might howl at this idea and still think of an Internet connection as a trivial matter, but the seeds of this issue have already been sown. Broadband connections in the UK (and I suspect many other countries) and sadly not created equally, and people living in different areas and properties will get dramatically different levels of service; and will often be left with only two solutions if they want a faster connection: hope things improve, or move.
The main driver of this problem is simple: people are consuming more and more data. The Internet isn't just about being at a desktop computer reading text pages anymore, it is growing in many directions. One of the most obvious is video consumption (and uploading). People are very fond of services like YouTube and now new software and hardware is being produced to connect your TV to the Internet such as Boxee. This needs much better bandwidth, especially when you start streaming high definition video to devices.
Consuming and uploading data are traditional ways people interact with the Internet, but now people use it in a completely different way, applications have emerged such as Google Docs that are completely online (in the cloud). For these to work a decent connection is often needed, particularly as more complex online applications emerge. When working collaboratively online applications more often than not offer the most powerful and useful solutions. Add to this the factor of working from home which may become something to be encouraged in these climate-aware times then it would be natural to start wondering if you are at a disadvantage compared to your similarly skilled peers if you have a poor Internet connection.
The Internet has stopped being just an add on to people's lives. Online shopping, banking and social networks have become a part of many a daily routine. It also delivers a wealth of information and educational opportunity in terms of resources and even courses that are delivered entirely online. If you have children, can you be sure they wouldn't be disadvantaged at school because they have an inadequate broadband service at home? What about in five years time (not an unreasonable amount of time to be in a house) when the problems may have become more noticeable? It is common today for people to pay extra for a home within range of a good school, so what about paying extra for a property that can receive a fast future-proof Internet connection? Or one that is on a digital cable network?
One of the most common factors that can affect your Internet speed is the distance you live from a telephone exchange. For ADSL type connections the speed will decrease the further away you are from the exchange. Landline is of course not the only option now, mobile broadband is becoming more popular, but even this will vary from area to area, some places have a stronger signal, some properties might be constructed in such a way that accidentally blocks 3g signals. A house in an area close to a phone exchange and with a good mobile signal will have a better Internet service, and the owners will be able to make more of what the it has to offer.
Taking all of these factors into account, would you pay a little extra for a property with a good connection? Will we see the value of houses increase the nearer they are to a telephone exchange? I know that when I come to buy a house, amongst the many things I will be checking is what sort of broadband service I will be able to get, and what the mobile coverage is like. I'll be doing this not because I'm a geek, but because I don't want to be at a disadvantage in the future. In a few years don't be surprised if you see the phrase “excellent internet connection” on house particulars!