Canadian Underwriter

Key questions that homeowners can’t answer on their insurance application forms

October 2, 2019   by Jason Contant

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A recent home insurance survey found that most Canadians don’t know key details about their properties, highlighting the importance of pre-fill data for Canadian home insurance application forms.

While a dozen data fields in home application forms can typically be pre-filled into major broker management systems, a standard form can have 40 or more questions, Greg McCutcheon, president of Opta Information Intelligence, told Canadian Underwriter in late June. And of the 40 questions, homeowners are bound to skip a few they don’t know.

The survey of nearly 1,000 respondents across Canada found that almost 60% of respondents don’t know the replacement cost of their home. Many homeowners mistake this as the price they paid for their home when they bought it, or what they could sell their home for now, said Tuesday.

About one in three (30%) of those polled didn’t know what year their property was built, one in four didn’t know how close the nearest fire station is to their home, and 43% didn’t know what the square footage of their property is when including the basement.

Not knowing these details can mean an initial quote may not match the final price. “This also means comparing prices to get the best rate is often time-consuming and a pain,” said, an online rate comparison site. “Knowing this information is crucial to getting an accurate home insurance quote.”’s co-founder and CEO Justin Thouin said that results of the survey are pretty surprising. “Having the right information is crucial to getting an accurate home insurance quote, but more importantly, incorrect information can invalidate your home insurance.”

Some of this information is already pre-filled into home insurance application forms. Opta launched iClarify, a property insurance valuation service, nine years ago. Its pre-fill property data is used in 90% of all new business quotes in Canada, McCutcheon said recently.

Data is pre-filled into all the major BMSs, so they already receive 12 pre-filled data fields of construction features (such as square footage and year of build) that they can quickly use to get a replacement cost value of a property.

But a standard home insurance form in Canada can have 40 or more questions. McCutcheon said at the time that the industry is focused on trying to determine if they need to ask all those questions and, if not, which ones do not need to be asked any longer.

In one area of’s survey, respondents fared much better: more than 81% of homeowners polled were aware of the kind of primary and secondary heating their homes use. Still, in most areas, there was a significant percentage of Canadians who weren’t aware of basic details of their homes. is introducing a new comparison tool that automatically pulls together “key data about your home that you’d otherwise have to find yourself,” offering homeowners 15 quotes in three months. By partnering with Canada Post and iClarify, the quoter is now live in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, Yukon and the Northwest Territories. It is expected to go live in the rest of Canada in the coming months.

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2 Comments » for Key questions that homeowners can’t answer on their insurance application forms
  1. Michael Long says:

    Sounds like the Insurance and Mortgage Industry are whining about the design of their survey form. Here’s a suggestion; recommend the home owner look up the MLS listing from when they bought the house. The year built and square footage per floor was disclosed in that form. The Insurance Industry could remind Canadians on their survey form to use Google Map, enter your address, click directions and then enter your city followed by the words Fire Hall. Results will have the fire hall distances in kilometres and time for travel. What’s up with these guys? Just remind us where to find the info for your survey and we’ll do it. Alternatively, you multi-billion dollar conglomerates could look it up yourself since we are paying for these services. I bet your Tailor insists on taking your measurements since it is part of the service.

  2. Eve Hughes says:

    I cannot answer questions about updates to eg plumbing, electrical, roof etc for a house I am purchasing. The existing owners claim not to know and have not done any work since 2013 when they purchased the house. They have insurance so not sure how without theses pieces of information Need help! Thnx Eve

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