More Canadians moving to the country, more do-it-yourselfers working on home renovations, and fewer commuters inclined to use public transportation and ride-sharing services.
If the findings in a recent Aviva Canada survey are any indication, the pandemic could have far-ranging repercussions on how we live that will outlast current public health measures to contain the virus.
“The past year has been one like no other, with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to be felt across the world, in our communities and our homes,” said Phil Gibson, managing director, personal insurance and data science at Aviva Canada.
“This report examines different facets of our lives in these times and how people have adapted – and not just temporarily. It shows that for many, they hope that some of these changes will be more permanent, truly changing how we live.”
The How We Live report looks at results from a national survey conducted for Aviva Canada by Leger Canada that asked Canadians across the country about their lives and aspirations, along with additional data sources relating to current and post-COVID habits.
The report suggests more Canadians are considering a move to more rural locations and prioritizing backyard renovations, but it also found homeowners are not protecting their homes as much as they should – despite spending more time in them than ever before.
Among its findings:
- Thirty-one per cent (31%) of Canadians are considering relocating because of the pandemic, with over one-third of these considering moving to a semi-rural or rural location.
- The need to find an affordable home was the number one driving force behind unexpected buying (29%) and selling (25%) of homes or starting a new, unplanned rental tenancy (29%) during the pandemic.
- Canadians continue to be optimistic about the impact of COVID-19 on the value of their properties, with more than half of homeowners (55%) believing their house has increased in value since the start of the pandemic.
“As Canadians consider moving to completely different areas and away from large cities, this may come with some surprises,” Gibson said.
“Not only are crickets much louder at night than you might expect, but there’s more to think about than just the mortgage and property taxes, because there are insurance considerations when it comes to rural vs. urban properties. The age of the home, its proximity to fire hydrants or firehalls, and flood risk are all factors that insurers take into account.”
On the home renovations front:
- Seventeen per cent (17%) of Canadians improved their home space through renovations over the past year, with the most popular renovation being backyard changes.
- Over the next 12 months, 13% of Canadians plan to renovate, with updates to the backyard and basement being high on their list. Canadians with children under 18 living at home are twice as likely (36%) to consider a renovation compared to those without children under 18 (18%).
- Only one-thirds of those who made changes to their home hired someone to complete the work, with most tackling it themselves. Of those who made changes, 40% have updated or intend to inform their insurance provider about these changes, while over half said they don’t need to.
Survey respondents also reported making new purchases like computers (30%), mobile phones and headsets (22%), and toys, TV subscriptions and video game consoles (26%) in direct response to the pandemic.
However, despite investing more in the homes they intend to spend more time in, less than 25% of survey respondents said they have installed protective measures such as a home security system, video surveillance (indoor and/or outdoor) or water detection systems to protect their assets.
“Canadians should talk to their broker or agent to understand if there are discounts available to them if they have smart devices to help alert them to water leaks, backflow valves to automatically stop sewer backup or security systems to protect their homes,” Gibson said.
Meanwhile, the future of the traditional commute continues to look hazy, with one in five Canadians saying they feel transportation habits will be affected as companies’ work-from-home protocols change post-pandemic.
A round 60% said they are either not at all likely or unlikely to use public transportation or ride-sharing services in the future, some opting to ride in the vehicle they just purchased in the past three months (8%) or the one they intend to buy in the next six months (15%).
All of these decisions and changes in consumer behaviour will have an obvious impact on insurers and their clients, Gibson said.
“With people spending so much time at home last year, it’s no surprise Canadians are changing their spaces to fit their current needs,” he said.
“For those planning to make major changes to their home, they should know that renovations like finishing a basement, removing structural supports or building an addition could impact their insurance coverage.”
The survey was conducted by Leger through an online survey with 2,506 Canadians 18 years of age and older who currently own homes or rent in Canada. It was carried out from March 15-23, 2021. Transportation insights included in the report come from an Aviva commissioned Pollara Survey on Consumer Behaviour in Canada, carried out in January 2021.