How does broadband access affect the value of real estate? | Real estate | Seven days

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Meg Streeter of Wilmington is a longtime Vermonter and real estate agent who works primarily in the Windham County residential market. After 32 years in the business, she has a pretty good idea of ​​what it takes to sell a house in her area. Nowadays that includes high speed internet service.

“Over the past five to eight years, this has become a fixture,” says Streeter, whose territory includes Wilmington and Dover, where 90% of real estate transactions are in vacation homes purchased by residents from outside the UK. ‘State. “It’s the rare person who comes here to get away from it all,” she adds. “They don’t really want to be this Away from it all.”

Until about five years ago, many home assessments and building inspections did not even mention internet connectivity, says Isaac Chavez, CEO of Vermont Real Estate Agents, the professional real estate organization with 1,700 members.

Today, real estate agents regularly use a form called the Seller Property Information Report. The six-page document asks sellers to disclose virtually every feature of the property, from the number of bathrooms and bedrooms to the type of foundation, roof, septic system and appliances. It also includes a “telephone / internet / television” section which asks if internet service is available on the premises and, if so, of what type: dial-up, broadband, cable, satellite and / or DSL. This information is entered into the broker’s Multiple Listing System, or MLS, so buyers can screen out homes that don’t have the features they want.

Chavez says it’s common for potential buyers to tell their agent that they’re looking for, say, a three-bedroom house in Newport in the price range of $ 150,000 to $ 200,000, but the agent doesn’t. then shows them houses with broadband access. If a home doesn’t have it, he says, buyers never see it.

“For the record, I hear all the time that people pass in front of the houses [without broadband availability]”he said,” but I have no way of quantifying it. ”

Vermonters have long lamented the digital divide that separates residents of the state’s most populous areas – most notably Chittenden County, where broadband coverage is widely available from multiple providers – from their more distant counterparts. Real estate professionals say that depending on the location of a property, broadband access can make or break the deal. While Streeter can’t put a dollar figure on the value of broadband internet, she says, “Basically, if the house doesn’t have it, in my opinion, it’s unlikely to sell.”

Streeter is not alone in this observation. Representative Laura Sibilia (I-West Dover) represents the towns of Dover, Wardsboro, Readsboro, Stamford, Searsburg, Somerset and part of Whitingham. A review of the Vermont Department of Public Service’s most recent map of statewide broadband availability, released in April, reveals that much of the southern Vermont district of Sibilia is stuck on the wrong side of the digital divide.

VTel, the Springfield-based telecommunications company that received a $ 5 million state grant in 2012 to provide wireless broadband to underserved areas of Bennington, Rutland, Windham and Windsor counties, has failed still kept that promise, Sibilia said.

Consider Readsboro, she continues, located along the Massachusetts border. It was once a thriving community that housed workers at a local chair factory, the Yankee Rowe nuclear power plant, and the Westfield Paper Company glass factory just across the state border. . When the three employers closed in the 1980s and 1990s, some 300 to 400 jobs were lost.

Sibilia readily acknowledges that Readsboro’s lack of broadband is not the only obstacle to economic recovery. But its absence makes it even more difficult to attract home buyers and new businesses.

“The children cannot do their homework because the service was not created from the school,” she says. “People are literally abandoning their homes that have been on the market for years and cannot sell.”

The Federal Communications Commission now defines broadband as internet speeds of at least 25 megabits per second (Mbps) downstream and 3 Mpbs upstream – 25/3 for short. * According to Jim Porter, director of telecommunications and connectivity at the ministry of the Public Service, of the 300,000 addresses in Vermont, 71 percent have access to broadband speeds of 25/3 or greater. “Frankly, broadband is more important to people today than voice service,” he says.

To date, no one has analyzed the relationship between real estate prices in Vermont and broadband. Anecdotally, however, the differences are obvious to those managing real estate transactions in areas where a community has access and a neighboring community does not.

Sibilia cites the example of Wardsboro, which borders two ski areas: Stratton Mountain and Mount Snow. There should be a bustling market for vacation homes. However, the combination of poor cell coverage and poor internet availability along Route 100 made it difficult to sell homes there. Meanwhile, just nine miles away in Dover, a community that has invested heavily in its broadband and cellular infrastructure, the real estate market is doing much better.

Chavez points out that real estate values ​​are determined by a variety of factors, and other considerations may outweigh the lack of broadband. A good example, he says, is Washington County, where the strength of the real estate market is due to the number of state employees who want to live there. Yet many homes outside of Montpellier city center and Barre have poor internet service.

Chavez discovered it himself when he moved from New Mexico to Vermont four years ago. He says he was shocked to find his internet speeds terrible in eastern Montpellier, where he had bought a house.

“I don’t even bother trying to work from home anymore. I just drive to the office,” he says. “Fortunately, I’m only seven minutes away.”

According to Chavez, a common variable is the price of the house itself. If it is a house between 300,000 and 1 million dollars, for example in Manchester or Stowe, it is likely that the sellers have invested “all it takes” to get high speed internet access. . Sellers who haven’t are more likely to have problems with homes between $ 300,000 and $ 500,000 between Newport and Jay Peak “in the middle of nowhere.” While rural buyers generally don’t expect super-fast internet connections, high-end homes can be a tough sell if they have both poor internet coverage and spotty phone coverage. (According to Porter, 55% of Americans now access the internet through mobile devices.)

“It’s an even worse selling point than broadband,” says Chavez. “There are some places where you just can’t get a cell phone signal, and it can be a serious killer because potential buyers see it as a safety concern.”

For his part, Streeter has not had clients whose homes have been unsold for years because they could not pass the “Netflix test”, that is, stream a movie online without a release. constant buffer memory. But she knows someone who had a house for sale off the grid in the Green Mountain National Forest, with no likelihood of ever having electricity, cable, or wired internet.

“Their home was half a mile from the north face of Mount Snow,” she says. “These people had the fastest cell and [internet] service. It was amazing! That’s how I sold it. ”

* Correction, July 7, 2016: An earlier version of this article used an earlier FCC definition for broadband: as of January 2015, this was 25 Mbps downstream and 3 Mbps upstream.

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