Remember the good old days, when home buyers used to ask about things like local schools and shopping? They wanted to know what the neighborhood was like before making an offer. School quality and access to shopping are still important, but today’s homeowners are concerned about something else: internet access.
New concerns over internet access are largely the result of the COVID pandemic and its aftermath. Our collective experience with pandemic shutdowns has changed the way we think about a lot of things. If nothing else, it has taught Americans not to take internet access for granted.
No Second Thoughts
Prior to the pandemic, most Americans didn’t give a second thought to high-speed internet access. It was always there, at least for those of us who lived in suburban and urban environments. The 12%, or so, of Americans without broadband access live in rural areas. Yet the pandemic made us realize that not all internet service providers offer equal service.
Marginal ISPs got by prior to the pandemic because they had learned to manage demand. But once COVID struck, demand surged. Between remote work and doing school at home, networks were overwhelmed with traffic. ISPs incapable of keeping up were revealed in short order.
Buyers Want Options
How does all of this translate to the modern home buying experience? In the simplest possible terms, buyers want options. They prefer to buy homes in areas where two or three companies compete in the ISP space. That way, there are other options if the provider they choose proves inadequate.
On the other hand, buyers are reluctant to move to areas where broadband is limited to just one provider. If that provider goes south, then what? There is too much risk, especially among buyers that are leaving urban areas for suburban and rural environments. They can only do so because remote work makes it possible. But reliable broadband is necessary to work remotely.
Wireless Internet Options
Buyers concerned about internet access are not necessarily demanding two or three options for wired service. Wireless service is on the table if it can meet a buyer’s needs at a reasonable price.
Right now, the dominant players in the wireless space offer either satellite internet or 4G LTE service. Blazing Hog, out of Houston, TX, offers the latter. Their 4G rural internet relies on the same cellular networks that power most modern cell phones.
Also consider that 5G is on the horizon. A couple of cell phone carriers have already implemented 5G nationwide. It is only a matter of time before rural internet providers also switch over to 5G internet. But it’s also possible that 5G will eventually replace wired broadband altogether.
Don’t Get Caught Without It
Getting back to home buyers and their concerns about internet access, it boils down to this: they do not want to get caught without it. Reliable broadband is now as important as good schools and nearby shopping choices. Thanks to COVID shutdowns and stay-at-home orders, internet access is a high priority for buyers.
Unfortunately for sellers, they cannot change the internet options in their local areas. All they can do is make the best of whatever is available. Unfortunately, it also means buyers may be less willing to make a top dollar offer if internet options are limited.
How important is broadband access to you? Is it important enough that local broadband options would influence your decision to buy a house? It is that important to some buyers. It is important enough that they are asking agents and sellers alike what they can expect from local service providers.