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Should You Buy a Home with Slow Broadband?

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We all need broadband at home.

Although it’s officially available everywhere except the most inaccessible rural areas, speeds can vary enormously from place to place, and even street to street.

For some, slow broadband connection would put them off buying a house. For others, internet connection isn’t a determining factor – but something to think about.

So, let’s weigh it all up. Should you buy a home with slow broadband?

Why fast broadband is important

A good internet connection is now an essential part of modern life. Many of us a largely concerned with broadband speed in our area.

It’s not hard to see why! It was revealed that the number of subscriptions to streaming services like Netflix overtook traditional pay TV services like Sky, and that fewer young people are watching live TV.

Fast connection is important for another reason. Many of us are working from home more and need good broadband for video conferencing, downloading work documents and handling bulky email attachments.

What’s the average speed?

Regulator Ofcom says the factors determining a home’s broadband speed include:

  • How old the property is
  • Whether a fibre optic service is available
  • How far down the phone line a house is located.

The average broadband speed in the UK isn’t great compared to other countries. At 18.5 mbps we’re only the 35th fastest in the world, some way behind Slovenia, Estonia, Hungary and Belgium and a long way off Singapore, where the average speed is 60.4 mbps. A quarter of us struggle to achieve at least the accepted minimum speed of 10mbps.

What is considered fast broadband?

The minimum speed acceptable is considered by Ofcom and the government to be 10 mbps, while a ‘superfast’ broadband speed is officially pegged at least 30 mbps.

The reasons for this are clear when you look at how long different activities take using the two speeds. Downloading an album takes 1-2 minutes at 10 mbps but only 30-60 seconds on 30 mbps. To download an HD movie takes 1.5 hours on 10 mbps but only 30 mins on 30 mbps.

These are minimum speeds, though. Many people expect much faster broadband. A survey found that 40% of home buyers would reject an ideal home if it offered speeds of less than 50 mbps.

Does broadband performance affect house prices?

Broadband is now listed within the property details featured on Rightmove and Zoopla, proving that broadband is now seen as the ‘fourth utility’ after gas, electricity and water.

Research has also suggested that half of buyers would reject a house that didn’t feature their desired broadband speed, while a third would try and negotiate a lower house price. In fact, with more of us working from home, good broadband speed is a key criterium of the best places to live.

Why is broadband speed slow?

There are several reasons. A low-quality router, poor internal wiring as well as local atmospheric conditions can reduce a property’s internet speed. But, the biggest culprits are usually the wires outside a property.

Most Openreach telephone exchanges transmit their broadband service on dozens of ‘spurs’ or lines that snake around the local area in a sometimes random fashion.

If these lines are made of metal instead of fibre-optic cables, anyone near the end of the spur will suffer poor or variable broadbands speeds as signal is lost down the line.

Sometimes fibre optic is supplied to the local green box on the street, but copper wires are used for the rest of the distance to a property, which can cut speed.

Therefore, before considering whether to buy a house, it’s essential to find out how far the nearest Openreach green box is, and also how far the nearest telephone exchange is. Even fibre broadband networks, like Virgin Media, can be slow if the distance is far.

Switching broadband suppliers can help, however!

How to check a home’s broadband performance

When viewing a property ask the owner if they are happy to give you their WiFi password and then log on using your phone’s checking app.

The best independent app to use is the Ofcom Checker speed testing one. It will tell you the property’s download and upload speeds, and tell you which kinds of activity will be possible including web browsing, online gaming, internet phone calls, video calling, HD video streaming and ultra-HD streaming.

What’s a broadband speed test?

A speed test is an online or app-based widget that stresses a service to its limit to gauge how many megabits per second (or mbps) the widget can download or upload. The download speed is the most important, as this dictates how fast a property’s broadband service will be.

Does the vendor have to tell me if the broadband is terrible?

There is no legal requirement for a property seller to tell you about the speed of the broadband available at their home. But National Trading Standards recently revealed that estate agents should tell prospective buyers as early as possible if a property has poor or non-existent broadband.

Won’t all homes eventually have good broadband?

Yes, but it’s going to be a long wait. To reach the same speeds as places like Singapore, the UK needs a ‘full fibre’ network rather than the patchwork of different cables it has now. In 2018, the government said it wants the nation to achieve this by 2035.

Can I upgrade the broadband once I’ve moved in?

Yes, not everyone signs up to the fastest service so switching to a faster one once you have moved in may be an option, something Ofcom says half of all homes in the UK should do.

Four million homes still pay for old-style basic broadband even though ‘super-fast’ services are available locally.

Of course, there are many factors that will determine how much you’ll enjoy living somewhere. Broadband speed isn’t the be all and end all! Arming yourself with as much research as possible about the local area will give you a better chance of a smoother house purchase.

One of Phil Spencer’s property reports will tell you everything you need to know. From local schools to nearby planning applications, you’ll get to know your potential new home before parting with any money! The right information will help with every aspect of the purchase.

Get a Property Report

Last Updated: July 14th, 2023

Phil Spencer

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