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COVID-19 has permanently altered our lives, survey finds

August 9th, 2022  |  Home Insurance

The pandemic has changed the way Canadians work and live, according to a recent national survey.

The How We Live Report, conducted for Aviva by Leger Canada, asked Canadians aged 18 and over about their lives and aspirations during and post-pandemic. The report shows that Canadians are considering moving to more rural locations, prioritizing backyard renovations, but are not protecting their homes as much as they should – despite spending more time in them.

“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,” says Phil Gibson, Managing Director, Personal Insurance & 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.”

Other key findings:

Property values/Buying/selling aspirations

The dream of homeownership is still alive for Canadians: 32 per cent are currently living in their first home (compared to 22 per cent in 2020). Over half of those respondents are between the ages of 25 and 44.

When homeowners were asked if their home has increased in value since March 2021. Eighty-one per cent believe their property has increased in value (compared to 55 per cent last year). Regionally, homeowners in Ontario and Quebec are much more likely to indicate this. It also found:

  • 31% of Canadians are considering relocating as a result of the pandemic, with over one-third considering moving to a semi-rural or rural location.
  • The need to find an affordable home was the No. 1 driving force behind unexpected buying (29%) and selling (25%) of homes or starting a new, unplanned rental tenancy (29%) during the pandemic.
  • Canadians are more hopeful than realistic when it comes to purchasing their first home, with 54% indicating their plans to buy, sell or move have been delayed by at least a year.

“As Canadians consider moving to completely different areas and away from large cities, this may come with some surprises. 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 fire halls, and flood risk are all factors that insurers take into account,” Gibson said.

Renovations/Home improvements

Findings revealed:

  • Forty-seven per cent of Canadians purchased new home décor during the pandemic, followed by 43 per cent who bought new cooking equipment and 41 per cent who purchased new technology for their home.
  • While many Canadians have been spending more on their home and its contents, a good 28 per cent of respondents said they do not have any idea what their contents insurance covers.
  • Fewer Canadians are renovating. In the last year, 11 per cent of Canadians improved their home space through renovations, compared to 17 per cent the year prior. Changes to the backyard remained the most popular renovation.
  • Most Canadians have not implemented additional proactive security measures to help protect their homes against events like weather catastrophes and home invasions. Aside from preparedness for a fire with items like fire alarms and fire extinguishers, less than 25% have other protective measures such as a home security system, video surveillance (indoor and/or outdoor) and water detection systems.

“With increased severe weather events and overland water damage being the top cause of loss, I encourage Canadians to consider leveraging technology to keep their homes safe,” Gibson said. “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.”

Transportation habits/Future of the commute

Many Canadians have purchased new vehicles and are hesitant to start using public transit in the future. While the reduction in driving is temporary, Canadians' attitudes towards public transportation may have permanently changed due to COVID-19 impacting the ways in which people view commuting in the future.

  • Nearly 60% of Canadians state they are either not at all likely, or unlikely to use public transportation or ride-sharing services in the future and are much more likely to use their own vehicle for transportation.
  • One in five Canadians state they feel transportation habits will be affected as company work-from-home protocols change post-COVID-19.
  • Driving has become more popular among Canadians. Many who aren’t currently driving are anticipating using a vehicle in the next year (54%), and 23 per cent of Canadians are expecting their mileage to increase.

“We’re starting to see the boomerang effect of the pandemic in terms of the distances people are driving,” said Aviva Canada EVP and managing director of personal insurance Phil Gibson. “Consumer driving distances dropped when COVID-19 first struck, due to work from home. But now return to work has translated into driving greater distances than before.”

The survey found that since the beginning of 2022, 47 per cent of the Canadian workforce said they had fully returned to a designated workspace, 25 per cent say they adopted the hybrid model, while 28 per cent are now working permanently from home. Those in Ontario are more likely to work from home full-time (32% vs. 23% for the rest of Canada).

Leger conducted the online survey with 2,506 Canadians, 18 years of age and older, who currently own homes or rent in Canada. It was carried out between 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.

Read the full report here: https://www.aviva.ca/content/dam/aviva-public/ca/pdf/aviva-how-we-live-report.pdf

With files from Insurance Business Canada

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