Half of respondents to Rentals.ca survey say they will search for more affordable rentals because of COVID-19 pandemic

More than 16,000 renters across 181 cities in Canada participated in the survey 

Half of the respondents in a Rentals.ca survey said they will need to look for a more affordable place to rent because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Another 20 per cent said they were uncertain about whether they will search for a more affordable rental until they are more certain about their job status.

Rentals.ca asked its users five questions in May about whether COVID-19 is transforming how they search for a new place to live, if they plan to move or have worries about moving, and how much more they are relying on online tools.

The survey indicates one positive side-effect of the coronavirus pandemic — more budget-conscious Canadians.

Job losses, furloughs, health concerns and caution could be at play in Canadian renters moving down to save money.

And after a long winter, some antsy Canadians have an urge for a change of scenery with the beginning of summer, restless renters are ready to escape the confines of the long lockdown, and for Quebecers, the pull of the historical and cultural Moving Day is around the corner.

Here are the questions asked in the order of the survey and the results.

1. Are you planning to move during the coronavirus pandemic?

First, the percentage that stands out here are the respondents saying they are staying put – that’s less than one-fifth of those who answered the question.

With 30 per cent saying they didn’t know or haven’t decided, that’s a little more than half saying yes they are moving or are waiting to move in the near future.

So, as in most years, Canada is on the move this summer.

“There was a significant increase in website traffic on Rentals.ca in May,” said Matt Danison, CEO of Rentals.ca. “It appears prospective tenants are doing their research to move or at least to prepare for a move in the near future.”

2. What is your biggest worry about moving during the pandemic?

Almost half of the respondents are not worried about moving.

Those who do worry, are anxious about keeping their jobs to afford rent, and are fearful of increasing their chances of getting COVID-19.

Only about 12 per cent are apprehensive of being forced to move because their lease is ending.

3. Due to COVID-19, will you need to look for a more affordable rental?

As stated above, half of the respondents replied yes, while another 20 per cent are nervously waiting to see if they continue to have a job.

But will there be sufficient affordable housing for the demand? That remains to be seen, especially in Toronto and Vancouver.

4. Using a 3D virtual tour, would you sign a lease without an in-person visit?

Virtual tours, online tools and contactless pay are becoming more popular for renters, and the pandemic only sped up this digital disruption.

Almost 38 per cent answered yes to this question. You have to wonder what that percentage would have been a year ago — maybe half?

According to Jay Bowden, managing director of Growth, Home and Consumer Services for Google, growth of virtual home tours on the search engine is up 400 per cent year over year. He made the statement at an Apartments.com webinar Thursday, June 18.

Almost 42 per cent indicated that even though they would not sign a lease without an in-person visit, they would use a virtual tour to narrow down their choices.

5. Do you see the pandemic changing how you will search for a rental?

While 50 per cent responded that nothing will change, 43 per cent said they would only rent from property managers who offer safe cleaning practices.

Besides working from home and more digital dependence, renters want to know where they live will be safe — and safe now means new cleaning protocols for rental buildings.

Many property managers and landlords have already implemented new cleaning regimes.  These safety measures will most likely stick long after the coronavirus is beaten down.