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PropTech Today: Is it time we had digital connectivity ratings for the home?

I am a patient man; a pacifist. Yet there is little in life right now that would satisfy me more than smashing my B(ig) T(elephone) internet router into a million pieces with my fists and feet.

Not even its dental records will help identification. I can’t seem to stream anything and it has got worse year on year, on year. Another router, sir? I must have heard that suggestion at least three times.

Once I was told the errors were as a result of me leaving the router in the sorting office for a few days. That must be it, I was convinced of it. 

My most engaged Facebook and Twitter posts for many a year were around an alternative service provider. Virgin was mentioned, Sky another. Upon researching both, I find neither accommodate my humble abode in the fields of Surrey, surrounded by cows and sheep (and beehives of course). WTF!?

As I type this, I note the news that WiredScore, the commercial real estate digital connectivity rating system, is launching in Birmingham, having already found incredible success in London and around the world.

Might it be time for a residential version of WiredScore? Will official and guaranteed connectivity ratings add value to a home?

Hierarchy of speeds

WiredScore provides certification for commercial property, stating how strong and reliable the building’s digital connectivity is. 

The way in which it does so is complicated and, for the purposes of this article, unimportant. We just need to know that the ratings are accurate and reliable, and, more importantly, that a good WiredScore rating is proven to add value to commercial space. That is to say, people are proven to be willing to pay more for guaranteed connectivity in the workplace. 

Commercial landlords and owners have realised that digital connectivity is at the top of the commercial sector’s list of wants and needs. Poor internet in the office results in frustration, wasted time, and, let’s face it, doesn’t make you look good in those important meetings.

It is therefore no surprise that the ability to prove your property’s connectivity speed to prospective tenants adds value to the proposition. On the hierarchy of speeds, faster is always better, yet, in London, some internet speeds remain shamefully slow, even in The City. 

My question today is, does the residential sector need a similar solution? Because I for one am sick of crappy internet speeds at home, and I can’t be alone. I bought my property here in the fields, over 12 years ago. Would I do it again knowing the terrible experiences I am now having now that the digital age is nearly upon us? No. Pure and simple. 

Much like those sampled in the WireScore poll when it launched in Berlin, I now see internet speed and connectivity as more important than the money I pay for in rent/mortgage - in their case 89% stated connectivity was more important than rent payments. 

I need the internet for pretty much everything I do. Nevermind that Mrs. D uses a feather and scroll at times (one of the many reasons I love her dearly), we all need the internet. Period. If it doesn’t work, our house comes to a bit of a standstill.

Hierarchy of needs

The next time I come to look for a new home for my family, I have zero doubt that connectivity issues will be at the top of my agenda. I have been struggling with my BT broadband for months now and there doesn’t seem to be a solution. Certainly not one that BT can help me with. 

We bought this house long before realising how vital connectivity would become. It’s in the countryside, yes, but certainly not in the middle of nowhere. It’s an old building, yes, but not made of reinforced steel or anything that might block digital signals. So why is our internet connection so laughable? According to BT, God only knows. 

For me, connectivity is now very, very high on my hierarchy of needs. If and when we move home, I can confidently say I would pay for guarantees on my internet speed, especially with the introduction of 5g networks in the coming years. 

Interestingly, and as an aside, a report out this week from KPMG started to show how important 5G is becoming to the industry. Worth a read here to see the results of many people from around the world and their attitude to PropTech

But do others feel the same? 

It’s obvious that the workplace needs top-notch WiFi, and understandable that paying more for the privilege is 100% worth it. Do we feel the same way about the home? Does good internet warrant a higher purchase or rental price?

Invisible digital value

I believe, yes, it does, and that yes, people will pay more for such guarantees. On the hierarchy of needs, the internet only climbs higher as the months go by. From streaming television, to Facetiming with the grandkids, from online banking to home security, good internet speeds are vital. 

Add to that the increase in remote working we are seeing; more and more people call their home their office and therefore the connectivity needs of the workplace apply increasingly to the home. 

I wonder: will a company come along and offer connectivity ratings for homes? And if so, will people then be willing to pay more for those homes than they would in the absence of a rating? Furthermore, will people start insisting on a connectivity rating before making a purchase, in the way they currently do structural survey?

If so, it could signal an entirely new age of property valuation. The industry idiom of location, location, location might soon be challenged as the biggest dictator of value. Yes, we will still want to live near our friends, family, and favourite pub, but will we worry so much about transport links? 

If we are set to change the ways we measure house value, that could mean that owners are able to add more value to an existing property with much more ease than has previously been possible. Rather than rely on physical extensions, for instance, to add value, it could become as easy as paying £50 for a connectivity audit. 

This then becomes part of the digital identity of the building and part of its sales appeal. 

If that happens, we could find ourselves living in a time where two outwardly identical houses, built on neighbouring plots of land, could have wildly different values because the invisible structures of digital connectivity are different. In fact, those invisible structures could actually be identical, except that one has official certification of excellence and the other does not. 

I’m talking about this today because it dawned on me how odd it is that nobody has come along with this offering yet - or have they? Has anyone offered a connectivity rating for residential buildings? If they haven’t, there you go. An idea for someone to go out there and solve. 

A no sh*t sherlock PropTech idea for someone to go and resolve. Surely they are the best ones, aren’t they?

*James Dearsley is a leading PropTech influencer and commentator. You can follow him on Twitter here.

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