How to Buy a Home When You’re Precariously Employed

Buying a home isn’t impossible when you’re precariously employed – you just have to be more creative.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Finance Minister Bill Morneau caught a lot of flak last year when they told younger workers to get used to “job churn” and “precarious work.” While their warning may have seemed harsh, unfortunately, this is the new reality of the current labour market.

Growing up many baby boomers enjoyed jobs for life, while millennials today are dealing with short-term, non-permanent jobs. You can have a job today, and  poof, it’s gone tomorrow. Not surprisingly the lack of job security coupled with rising homes prices in big cities, means a lot of younger folks are choosing to rent instead of buy (I discuss this trend in my new book, Burn Your Mortgage).

With precarious employment the new norm, is the dream of homeownership dead for the younger generation? Nope, not by a longshot. While it may be more challenging to save for long-term goals, such as homeownership and retirement, they’re still achievable. You just have to be more creative and adapt. I’m a big fan of creating multiple streams of income. That way if you lose your full-time job, you’ll have other income sources to rely on.

Here are some ways to protect yourself financially and still enjoy the benefits of homeownership.

Part-Time Jobs

My first job was working as a clerk at a supermarket. Although it wasn’t the most glamorous job, I held onto it for over 10 years. I didn’t hold onto that job because I loved working at a grocery store. It was because it acted as a safety net. I knew if I ever lost my full-time  job, I could always bump up my hours to help pay my mortgage. Toward the end up my tenure, I was only working eight hours a week, enough to qualify for health benefits and holiday pay.

You don’t have to work at a supermarket or in retail like me. There are plenty of other part-time jobs – bartending, clothing stores and call centres, to name a few. Try to find a job that you enjoy and pays well (more than minimum wage). For instance, if you’re into renovations, why not work at the Home Depot and enjoy an employee discount to boot?

Sharing Economy

The sharing economy means there are more opportunities than ever to earn income. If you own a car, instead of paying auto insurance premiums for it to sit in your driveway most of the time, why not earn some extra cash as an Uber driver? If you’re too busy to drive others, rent out your car through Turo.

Do you have a passion for cooking? Why not start a home restaurant? Websites like Feastly and EatWith help connect you with customers looking for a unique dining experience at an affordable price. Don’t want guests in your home? MealSurfers and similar websites let home cooks sell food for pickup.

Are you  handy around the house? Websites like AskforTask help connect you with busy people who need a helping hand with errands or basic repairs around the house (think of it as an odd-job matchmaker).

Side Hustle

Not only is side hustle a great way to earn some extra money, if you’re really successful at it, there’s nothing stopping you from turning it into a full-time business venture. Look for a skill that you have and an activity that you enjoy. If you’re a skilled photographer, take photos at special events like weddings and graduations. If you have an area of expertise, teach part time with the local school district, or at college or university—or online, for that matter. The possibilities and earnings potentials are endless!

Self-Employment

Do you have the entrepreneurial spirit? Is your lifelong dream to start your own business? Instead of spending your evenings watching TV, set aside some time to launch your business. Don’t make the common mistake and sink your life savings into your business. The best businesses are often those with low startup costs. Start your business as a side gig. If it becomes super successful, you’ll have something to fall back on if you ever lose your full-time job.

Rental Income

Rental income is a great way to burn your mortgage years sooner and protect yourself from job loss. By living in the basement and renting out the upstairs, I was able to earn enough rental income to cover my mortgage, all the carrying costs of my home and turn a small profit. Most important of all, I knew that if I ever lost my full-time job, I wouldn’t have to panic and sell my home. As long as my tenants kept paying the rent, I’d be fine (by properly screening your tenants, you too can find quality tenants who pay their rent on time). By renting out your basement instead of using it for storage, you can create a new stream of income to fall back on if you lose your job.

Not ready to become a full-time landlord? Short-term rental websites like Airbnb make occasionally renting out your place easier than ever. Help pay for your vacation by renting out your home while you’re away, or rent out a spare bedroom during festivals and sporting events, when demand for accommodation is high. If you decide to rent out your place short-term, make sure you aren’t breaking any rules. Many cities are cracking down on Airbnb rentals.


Sean Cooper is the author of the new book, Burn Your Mortgage: The Simple, Powerful Path to Financial Freedom for Canadians, available at Amazon, Indigo and major bookstores.