Use my house to make money

Ask the Expert – How can I use my house to make money?

Jeff,

My husband and I recently sold our condo and moved into a house. We always planned to upgrade, and now we are enjoying the privacy and comfort of a house. We can afford the mortgage, but it doesn’t leave us with much breathing room, especially if interest rates ever go up. Part of the plan was to try to find a way to make money from the house and help offset our mortgage payments. Do you have any advice?

Sylvia M.
Quebec City, Quebec

 

Hi Sylvia,

Congratulations on your new home. It’s probably the biggest asset you’ll ever own, and in many cases it’s a great investment. It might be impossible to predict the future housing market, and whether or not real estate values will continue to grow, but recent trends are hard to ignore. Net worth is on the rise in Canada and a lot of that is driven by rising real estate.

However, one of the problems with the statistics about high net worth is that it overlooks the fact that much of the wealth is tied to our homes. Sure, some people might be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, but that won’t be reflected in their bank account unless they sell their home.

Fortunately, your house is an asset that you can earn money from, even while you’re living in it. There are risks and rewards, but if you’re up to the task, you can have an extra income that will offset your mortgage or help you through difficult financial times.

Here are three ways that can use your house to make money, with a few bits of caution thrown in:

  • Be a landlord– Renting out a unit in your house can be a great source of income. A renovated attic, converted basement, or detached garage can earn you hundreds of dollars a month, or even north of $1000. For some, this could cover a very large chunk of their mortgage payments. But – it comes with its hassles. Bringing a unit up to code and comfort will cost you a lot of money. You also need to think about privacy; you’ll be backtracking to condo territory, sharing walls and ceilings with neighbours. You also need to invest the time and energy into picking the right tenant – delinquent renters can be messy, disruptive, and late with payments. And then there are the leaky taps.
  • Be a host family – The English language is a hot commodity in our global business environment, and students from all over the world travel to Canada to learn the language and the culture. English as a Second Language (ESL) students are prepared to make big investments in their future, and as such they will pay to stay with a Canadian family while attending language classes. Your family will also benefit from a unique cultural exchange around the dinner table. But – much like renting, you need to be prepared to give up privacy. You also may be required to provide meals, depending on the arrangement.
  • Rent your driveway – In major cities or university areas where parking is at a premium, many people take to online buy/sell websites and rent a spot in their driveway or garage. Unlike renting your basement, this is a pretty hands-off option with minimal interaction and inconveniences, and if they are 9-to-5ers, you won’t see them very often and you may regain your parking spot for friends visiting on the weekend. But – as with tenants, you may have to hunt down payments or deal with a “disagreeable” renter.

There are definitely ways to get cash out of your house without selling it. But there are certainly challenges involved, and it’s something you and your family need to discuss at length. You may find that the risks are worth the rewards, and those rewards will go a long way in helping you pay down your mortgage and work towards financial freedom.

Jeffrey Schwartz
Executive Director

Jeffrey Schwartz is the Executive Director of Consolidated Credit Counseling Services of Canada and President of the Credit Association of Greater Toronto (CAGT).

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