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Down to earth advice from an award-winning B&B owner. Illustrated with charming line drawings and lightened by real-life anecdotes, this is an easily accessible guide to an ever growing small-business niche.
Down to earth advice from an award-winning B&B owner. Illustrated with charming line drawings and lightened by real-life anecdotes, this is an easily accessible guide to an ever growing small-business niche.
How to Start and Operate Your Own Bed-and-Breakfast
So, You Want to Open a Bed~and~Breakfast?
All saints do miracles, but few of them can keep a hotel.
On the Outside Looking In
Picture yourself wearing your favorite weekend clothes, serenely drifting down the stairs of a rambling old manse, and quietly sipping a cup of coffee in your sun-drenched kitchen as you await your first guests for breakfast. The table is set, the aroma of a cinnamon coffee cake baking fills the air, and all is right with the world. As you tie on your apron, you remind yourself that instead of making a hectic dash to the car and a forty-minute commute through heavy traffic to reach your fluorescent-lit office, you are already in your "office"—now that you're running a bed-and-breakfast, that is.
Is this daydream familiar? If you are reading this, chances are you have stayed at a bed-and-breakfast and more than once found yourself thinking, "This is the life! It doesn't look like much work; maybe I could do this someday!" Your host seemed happy and relaxed—in fact, she barely appeared to be working—the surroundings were lovely, and to top it all off she was getting paid to lead this ideal life!
If your host has seemed at ease—if you've almost felt as though she were on vacation too, as you were—she's done her job well and has hidden from you the tremendous amount of work and effort that goes into running a successful B&B. Hosting is a job.
Now that this secret is out of the bag, don't stop reading! By no means do I want to discourage you from your dream of someday owning and running a bed-and-breakfast; after all, it is what I do for a living and I love it. I well understand why so many people see mine as a dream occupation, for in many ways it is. But I also know that many of those same people don't have a good understanding of what is involved in owning and operating a B&B, and if they did, not all would still consider it a dream lifestyle.
While running a B&B can be very rewarding, there is much more work required than meets the eye—so much more that uninformed novices can quickly find themselves feeling overwhelmed and longing for their old jobs and regular paychecks. Therefore, as with any new venture, it's best to do some research before making a big commitment.
What Is a Bed-and-Breakfast?
Let's first examine what a B&B is and is not. It is not a motel or hotel—with room service, bellboys, and a front desk staffed twenty-four hours a day—and not quite an inn either. A bed-and-breakfast is a private home that takes in paying overnight guests; the price of the room includes breakfast in the morning—hence the name "bed-and-breakfast." The house is also home to the owners, who reside there and act as hosts of the B&B, although one or both may be employed in other lines of work as well. That, in a nutshell, defines bed-and-breakfast, but the variations on this basic theme range widely, as you will see throughout this book.
While no one would have trouble defining or describing a hotel or motel, there is some confusion about the distinctions between bed-and-breakfasts and inns. In my opinion, a bed-and-breakfast is not an inn (although many B&Bs are now calling themselves inns or bed-and-breakfast inns). An inn is what you might call a bed-and-breakfast plus.
For instance, when I'm traveling, if I spot an inn on the side of the road around mid-afternoon, I might stop to have a cup of hot tea, check my map, make a phone call, and freshen up before hitting the road again. Orif it's a bit later and the menu looks good, dinner at the inn might be in order. If the dining room is crowded, I can pass time having an aperitif in the pub while waiting for a table.
If you are an experienced B&B traveler, you already know that these options are not offered at a bed-and-breakfast. You may have stayed at a B&B where you were invited to join the hosts for a glass of wine or sherry in the evening (indeed, this is one of the many charms of a bed-and-breakfast stay), but you certainly weren't charged for it! To me, these differences (dining rooms open to the general public, liquor licenses, pay telephones, etc.) set inns apart from B&Bs. But since so many Americans still don't know what "bed-and-breakfast" means and do know that "inn" means lodging, many hosts have decided to add "inn" to their bed-and-breakfast name. You too may decide to call your own establishment an inn. That is fine. Throughout this book, however, you will find the terms "bed-and-breakfast" and "B&B" used for establishments that others might refer to as "B&B inns"; whatever the name, the information is applicable to either.
A B&B also differs from a traditional inn in the number of guest bedrooms and baths. The average American B&B has from two to eight guest bedrooms with shared or private baths. An inn usually starts with at least a dozen rooms and almost always offers private baths. By necessity, an inn requires a substantial staff, not the case at most B&Bs.
A few more distinctions: An inn may or may not be occupied by the owners, while a B&B always is. At a B&B, guests are greeted and tended to by the owners, and it is this feature that can (and should!) make the service at a bed-and-breakfast exceptional. (More about the art of hosting in chapter 9.)
B&Bs offer guests breakfast in the morning at no extra charge, not usually the case at inns (although the phenomenal popularity of American bed-and-breakfasts has caused many inns now to offer guests a free continental breakfast in the morning). Many B&Bs also offer a complimentary afternoon tea to guests—hot or iced tea with some home-baked goodies—another difference from most inns.
Don't feel limited by these definitions; they are meant to serve as basic guidelines. Whether you've got your eye on a magnificent eight-bedroom Victorian, or have set your heart on purchasing the rambling old inn on the lake which has been a run-down boarding house for the last quarter-century, or simply plan on sprucing up the two spare guest rooms in your house, the advice, tips, and details offered in this book will apply. For anyone interested in running a large or small B&B, part-time or full-time, with or without paid help, this book will provide the information you will need to decide if this is really a business you want to try, get you started, and help you be successful.
Who Are the Hosts?
Who will run the B&B you dream of owning? Will you be the host, or will you have a partner? Will that partner be your husband (or wife), or sister, or best friend? What I have found to be the norm most often is a married woman acting as host, while her husband works outside the home at another profession. (Throughout this book, I will use the term "host" to refer to anyone, male or female, in charge of running a bed-and-breakfast.) Sometimes the roles are reversed. In other cases, B&Bs are operated by both husband and wife. This is especially true if the couple is retired, or if the bed-and-breakfast location offers a year-round business and the establishment has a sizable number of guest rooms. This combination can make full-time innkeeping a reality for a younger couple as well. But there are also B&Bs operated by mother and daughter teams, sisters, single people, two couples, and just about any other combination you can think of.
If you're considering becoming an innkeeper with your spouse or best friend, and until now you've worked separately and have "never hadenough time together," be forewarned: it is possible to get too much of a good thing!
The Host's Responsibilities
In any case, whether you run your B&B alone or with one or more partners, your role as host will be multifaceted. It begins when you first say hello to a prospective guest who has called to inquire about your B&B. You'll need to keep a reservation calendar, send out written confirmations, and supply good directions. Once guests have checked in, they will rely on you for information about what there is to see and do in the area, restaurant suggestions, directions, and a myriad of other details. You will be responsible—directly, or indirectly if you have hired help—for making sure that the guest rooms and bathrooms are clean and welcoming; that the food served is delicious and well prepared; that the dining room is attractive and inviting; that the common rooms are well appointed, well lit, and comfortable; that fresh flower arrangements are fresh; that the outside of the B&B is as appealing as the inside; that your bookkeeping is accurate and up-to-date; that permits and licenses are in order—and on and on.
As you can see, the owner of a B&B is a busy person, acting as reservation agent, receptionist, bookkeeper, chambermaid, host, interior decorator, cook, waitress, and local tourism expert. A larger B&B can justify having hired help, but outside help is usually limited, and even so, the primary responsibility for keeping everything running smoothly rests with the host/owner/operator—you. And most B&Bs are simply not large enough (and thereby profitable enough) to warrant hiring a cook, for instance, or sending out the laundry. Therefore, the B&B host must be a jack-of-all-trades—not to mention well organized and energetic.
The Bed-and-Breakfast Itself
As experienced B&B travelers know, houses that are now bed-and-breakfasts represent every architectural style to be found. Even if you haven't yet done much B&B exploring, a glimpse through a good guidebook will quickly introduce you to exquisite mansions of graceful proportions,furnished with stunning period antiques; cozy bungalows furnished with solid pieces from the Arts and Crafts era; a log cabin with hand-hewn beams; an airy Victorian with a wicker-furnished porch; or an elegant brownstone with marble fireplaces. The types of houses, and the furnishings within, are of an almost infinite variety. Indeed, this variety, which sets B&Bs apart from other commercial lodgings, is proving to be an essential part of their appeal to the traveling public. New or old, large or small, there is no single "right" style of house for a bed-and-breakfast; if the house is comfortable, attractive, and in a good location, just about any house will do.
The settings of B&Bs range from small coastal towns to ski resorts, college communities, residential neighborhoods, major cities, and rural farms. Across America, B&Bs can increasingly be found in nearly any locale, as would-be hosts recognize the demand and dedicated B&B travelers fill the rooms.
As you might imagine, the decor of each bed-and-breakfast—along with the food served and the other amenities offered—will be as varied as the architecture and settings of the buildings themselves. But regardless of style, the decor of the rooms will be much prettier than any hotel or motel could be. In the guest rooms, beds may be made with patchwork quilts and elegant comforters, and plump, down-filled pillows in snowy, starched linen shams; the bed itself may be an antique—canopied, four-poster, or old iron. There is nothing in the room that is reminiscent of the unmistakable standard hotel-style quilted bedspread and institutional furniture. The dining room and common rooms may be furnished with family heirlooms, furniture, rugs, and objets d'art that, old or new, combine to create the unique ambiance of that particular B&B. Inevitably, there is a homey, cozy feeling in a bed-and-breakfast that simply cannot be found in a hotel or motel. This atmosphere is a large part of what American travelers are falling in love with.
The food served at breakfast is home-cooked, and the aromas of coffee and baked goods drift up to the rooms as guests awaken. Breakfast is offered in settings designed to make the guests feel pampered—in a traditional dining room, on a garden patio, or in front of a crackling fireplace, to name but a few. The china, cutlery, glassware, and linens are all part of a meal designed to be as memorable and special as possible. In today'sworld of fast-food restaurants, Americans are starved for this kind of service and attention to detail.
I believe it is this emphasis on personal service, delivered directly by the host to each guest, that is making the B&B traveler feel welcomed and pampered in a way that is not matched at other lodging establishments. A gracious host is as much a part of the special memories of a vacation as is the destination itself.
All of these factors—the unique beauty and charm of each house, the settings, the home-cooked food served with pride and care, and the attention of a concerned and gracious host—have contributed to making B&B stays the hottest trend in lodging for traveling Americans.
The Business Side of the "Dream Job"
Probably the most important point I can make for those considering starting a bed-and-breakfast is that a B&B is a relatively small, home-based business. You must remember that. It can be a fun, interesting, and pleasant way to make money, but there is work involved. In order to make a profit, you must do much of the work of running the B&B yourself; otherwise the income (gross receipts) will be used up paying others to do the day-to-day chores.
Many hosts make a conscious choice to leave an outside job and work at home running a B&B. If you will be doing that, it's important to realize that you are still working, When I first started my B&B, friends and acquaintances would say things to me like, "Since you're not working, I was hoping you could help us with this project by volunteering to lobby at the state house"; "Now that you're not working, we thought you'd want to have the reunion dinner at your house"; "Since you're home now, I was hoping to leave the kids with you while I go shopping," and so on. At first I was so caught off guard that I would agree to commitments I really didn't have the time or desire to keep. Gradually I learned politely but firmly to remind such callers that I was still employed—self-employed! You will have to make it clear to family and friends that even though you are working at home, you are working! Just as no one would drop in on you unexpectedly at your office, whether to visit, ask a favor, or drop off achild to be watched, so too your home must now be respected as your place of work.
To bring running a B&B into focus as a job, let's look at some common misconceptions:
Running a B&B is like being on vacation, sitting around conversing with your guests.
First of all, most guests don't expect or want to sit around and chat with the host for any substantial amount of time. In any case, you will be too busy to sit for hours on end socializing: you will have beds to make, rooms to clean, laundry to wash and fold and put away, ironing, grocery shopping, banking, and bookkeeping, to name just a few regular chores, not to mention finding time for your own life! Although what most hosts put high on the list of what they like best about running a B&B is getting to meet so many interesting people from around the world, good hosts have learned to balance the socializing with the mundane but necessary chores that keep the B&B going.
Running a B&B is not a real job.
Running a B&B is a real job, but people—including guests—often don't realize it. During my first year of business a couple came to stay with me without a reservation; they had seen my sign and stopped. I showed them the room, described the full breakfast, and quoted them the rate. At the time, my rate for double occupancy was forty dollars per night. (The local motels were charging sixty dollars, and the local hotel started at one hundred dollars without breakfast.) The wife was thrilled and wanted to stay; the husband wanted a discount, but I explained that if they were only staying for one night, I could not lower the rate. To make a long story short, they ended up staying, but as they left the following morning, I heard the husband say to his wife as they walked down the steps of our front porch, "Forty dollars! And all she has to do is change the sheets!" I thought to myself, "Boy, oh boy, mister, are you wrong!"
Running a B&B is all profit.
The expenses of running a B&B include the obvious—the food served at breakfast, the cost of laundering bed linens and bath towels, and the cost of hired help, if you have any. The not-so-obvious costs are the hot water used by guests, the cost of heating or cooling guest rooms, added insurance, the sheets and towels themselves (they don't last forever!), the mattresses and box springs (ditto!), bath soaps, tissue, toilet paper, cleaning supplies, brochures, business cards, advertising, stamps, envelopes, stationery, long-distance phone calls, flowers, and so on. All of this overhead cuts into the gross amount you make every season.
A young couple from Utah who stayed at my B&B years ago (at a rate of sixty dollars for the night) made me laugh in the morning when they confided that they had calculated how much money I was making and were considering getting into the business. According to them, since I had "spent only about two hours" taking care of them, I must be making about thirty dollars an hour! They hadn't even considered the cost of the breakfast and the loaf of homemade bread they were taking with them, not to mention the planning and advertising I had done to reach them in Utah! But the intangible that guests are really paying for is your time. As you will quickly learn, that is the most valuable commodity of your business.
All the guests are marvelous people.
In general, travelers who frequent B&Bs are a very nice bunch. Often well traveled and well read, they are of all ages and from a variety of interesting professions. They are a bit adventuresome, they like interaction with other travelers, and they don't care about a TV in their room. That said, it is inevitable that you will get an unpleasant guest sleeping under your roof at some point. You must be prepared to accept that and still be gracious and hospitable. You cannot let a sour guest rankle you and affect your treatment of other guests. Most commonly, the worst complaint B&B hosts have about undesirable guests is rudeness. From my own experience, I'd have to say that rude, thoughtless behavior is the worst problem.
Here is an example: Although I have two seatings, or times, when breakfast is served (it's a full breakfast), I try to be flexible and accommodate guests who need an earlier breakfast in order to make an early ferry, plane, or what have you. If guests want to eat as early as, say, 7:00 A.M., Igenerally offer them a continental-plus breakfast—fresh fruit, a baked item, juice, coffee or tea, and cereal. It's not the full breakfast I serve later, but it's fine for nearly everyone. One summer, however, I had a gentleman I just couldn't please. He had asked for a discount, since he was reserving two rooms and staying for three nights while he, his wife, and daughter were coming to town to enroll the daughter at the local university. Although it was peak season and I could have easily filled the rooms at my highest rate, I gave them the discount thinking, "If they like it here, this family will be coming back at least twice a year for the next four years." Once they arrived, I soon discovered that the discounted rate had just been the beginning. These people continually asked me to change my way of doing things to suit them. After forty-eight hours of constant demands without ever so much as a thank-you, I couldn't wait for them to leave. On their last day, the father informed me that they would have to eat breakfast the next day at 7:30 A.M. in order to leave in time for their flight home. When I described the breakfast I would have for them, he became quite nasty, insisting on the full breakfast that he had "paid for" and that had been part of the reason they chose my B&B.
Nowadays I would calmly stand my ground, but then I was still a bit green and foolishly thought I wanted repeat business from this ogre! I caved in and agreed to the full breakfast, and to make things easier on myself prepared a breakfast casserole soufflé that is assembled the day before and baked in the morning. I planned for the casserole to be ready exactly at 7:30, but of course my guests were in the dining room a little after 7:00, rudely informing me that they were ready for breakfast "now." I explained that breakfast would be ready at 7:30, as we had agreed, and that was the best I could do for them. At this point, I was seething with anger and starting to have second thoughts about running a B&B at all. Another couple was due down for breakfast shortly, so I had to force myself to stay calm. I breathed a huge sigh of relief when the family left that morning, but my real satisfaction came a couple of months later, when that same gentleman called to make another reservation and I was able to tell him, pleasantly of course, that I did not have any rooms available, even though I did.
When you have guests who are trying the limits of your patience, tell yourself that they will soon be gone and that you don't need ever to have them stay at your B&B again. You will remember their name, and whenthey call for a reservation you can take pleasure in finding that your calendar is full.
Because you're working at home, you have lots of time for your own interests.
If you've fantasized about running your own B&B and finally devoting yourself to writing that novel, making those dried wreaths (patchwork quilts, rag dolls, boat models—insert your hobby here) on a full-time basis, think again! Once your B&B becomes established, you'll find yourself extremely busy running it and will have to schedule specific times for other activities. For instance, during the peak season of each year I have full occupancy at my B&B for about three months straight. Ninety consecutive days without a day off can be hard to take at any job, even running a B&B! And with that level of business activity it's easy to let your own personal activities get squeezed out. What to do? Make a realistic schedule for yourself and follow it, as much as possible. If getting up an hour earlier each morning will do the trick, then see to it that you take that hour. The rewards will be worth the effort. If you are more productive in the afternoon, consider hiring a teenager a few days a week to answer the phone, the door, etc., while you have two uninterrupted hours to yourself. You get the picture. Although you will need to be very flexible if you are going to succeed in this business, you must carve out a niche of time that's yours and yours alone—every day or on a set number of days each week—or you will quickly tire of the constant demands made of you in this seven-day-a-week profession.
With those misconceptions cleared up, you should now have a better idea of the reality of running a B&B. If you're the right person for the job, it's a wonderful way to work at home and to meet some fascinating people in the process.
Pluses and Minuses
At this point it's a good idea to make a list of the pluses and minuses. Here's my list, but you may want to rearrange some of the items, movingthem from one column to the other. You may also want to add a few of your own. And only you can decide how much weight to give to any plus or minus on the list. What's barely significant to me may be of great importance to you.
work at home gain income and tax advantages while restoring an old house meet interesting people no commuting required no suits required no panty hose or high heels required no sitting at a desk or phone all day be your own boss start or increase a complementary or spin-off business make your own schedule get away from unpleasant coworkers/supervisors/bosses
loss of privacy many seven-day work weeks sharing house with strangers loss of paid benefits self-employment taxes less structured schedule cabin fever loss of camaraderie of coworkers frequent interruptions rude guests
Let's look at some of these in more detail. I find working at home a delightful choice, especially after years of working a forty-hour week in an office. But many of my friends say they wouldn't want to work at home because they would be tempted to visit the fridge all day and snack, they like having someone else make their schedule, and they like their paidvacations. Working at home is not a plus for everyone. Even if it is a plus for you, sooner or later cabin fever sets in (see the minus list) and you will be desperate to get away from home!
I was very glad to give up commuting and my office wardrobe, but for some the trade-off of buying their own health insurance, paying self-employment taxes, and making their own retirement plan is not worth it. The loss of privacy is a real issue, but how much weight you give it is a very individual matter. I've found ways to lessen the loss of privacy, but I'm not a person who minds terribly finding near-strangers sitting in my living room. For some people, however, the need for privacy makes running a B&B the wrong choice.
Go through the exercise of making your own list, and talk with your spouse or partner about his or her ideas of the pluses and minuses. This is the first step in deciding if running a B&B is the right choice for you. I once met a host who found she loved running a B&B, but her husband, who continued to work outside the home, was so disturbed by the loss of privacy that she was finally forced to close the business. It's important that all concerned parties take a long, hard look at what they'll be getting into.
What's in It for Me?
Why does anyone decide to run a bed-and-breakfast? The reasons are as varied as each B&B. Perhaps it's an enterprise you've dreamed of trying after retirement. If you have a comfortable retirement income and no longer have a mortgage on your house, and have enjoyed B&B stays as travelers yourselves, opening a B&B offers an interesting way to meet other travelers, stay active, and earn a little extra money in the process.
Or perhaps you're a young couple who long to get away from the rat race of your present jobs. You enjoy B&B lodging when you travel and want to try running a B&B because it appears to be so much fun. You may also see it as a way to justify purchasing a beautiful big old house—larger than you would ever need if you did not operate a B&B.
For some hosts, opening a B&B seems like the best tie-in with the work they are already doing at home. If you are already self-employed in the field of catering, restoring and selling antiques, handcrafts, computer consulting, free-lance writing, landscape design, or farming, to name just a few, running a B&B can be a fulfilling complementary profession.
If you live in a seasonal resort area, running a B&B complements certain occupations, such as teaching, very well indeed. With school vacations and free time in the summer, you may find that opening your home to B&B travelers fits into your schedule now on a part-time basis and is something to look forward to as a full-time occupation after retirement, with a clientele already established.
Perhaps you see running a B&B as an opportunity to earn money while still being home with your young children. This is certainly working well for a number of hosts I've met, though quite often the husband continues to work outside the home.
For the parent who has decided to stay at home while the children are young, running a B&B (with hired help, of course) allows her to be there to send her kids off to school in the morning, greet them when they come home from school, nurse them when they are home from school with an illness, attend school functions, etc., and still earn a little money—all the while building a business that she can expand when her children are older, if she so desires. For the parent of preschool children, running a B&B is a bit more tricky because these kids are home all day and require more attention. But it is possible, as hosts I know personally will attest. While it's true that children can be noisy and demanding at inconvenient times—and this could be a liability for a B&B host—the parent who wants to make this work, can. The house must be sufficiently large and she must have reliable hired help. And she must be sharp enough to know that travelers are not coming to her B&B to get to know her child.
If you have sufficient income from other investments (rental properties, for example), and have found a sizable house (at least six guest rooms) in an area with potential year-round B&B business, then perhaps both you and your partner plan on running the B&B full-time. These circumstances can be very satisfactory financially and still allow time for one or both of you to pursue another home-based business.
In addition to the income you will earn from running a bed-and-breakfast, there are numerous tax advantages, which may be as or more important to you than the income itself. You will be able to deduct certain expenses on your tax return that you would be incurring whether you had the B&B or not but that now are deductible because of your business—which is also producing income! If you don't already, you should have an accountant help you with your tax return once you start a B&B, and he orshe should be well versed in all the applicable deductions. Even so, attend one of the many B&B tax advantage seminars given by accountants specializing in this field. You'll probably pick up some good information to share with your accountant. (Chapter 10 contains more specifics about some of the most common deductions available.)
As you can see, the reasons for starting a bed-and-breakfast, and the possibilities of combining other occupations with B&B hosting, are many and varied. My advice is to keep your options as wide as possible.
The Bottom Line
The amount of money you can make running a B&B varies widely as well, depending on the number of guest rooms, the level of business in the area, whether or not the business is seasonal, and what you can reasonably charge for your rooms. Chapter 8 will help you decide how to set your room rates, but for the purpose of an example, let's say that you have a B&B with four guest rooms and you are charging $80 per night per room. A fairly accurate way to calculate an average season's (or year's) gross income for your B&B, once it is established, is to multiply your per-night full-occupancy gross by one hundred nights. For an example, four rooms at $80 each per night is $320 per night at full occupancy. Multiplying by a hundred nights gives you a gross of $32,000. Remember, this figure is a gross, and we have not deducted operating (or start-up) expenses. With the mortgage you currently have, and other living expenses, could you live on this amount (or whatever amount your calculation yields)? If your employer is paying your health insurance, you need to add that expense—and it's sizable—into your cost-of-living budget. (Although the future of health insurance is uncertain at the moment, most individuals leaving the employ of a company to start their own B&B will face the sizable expense of procuring their own health insurance. Under the latest proposals for reform, the best prospects for the self-employed are slightly lower rates because the pool of insured would be larger, and more importantly, the ability to deduct 100 percent of the expense at tax time.) And remember that when you're working for yourself, there's no guaranteed, regular paycheck; business can be boom or bust.
For these reasons I encourage couples considering quitting their jobs to run a B&B to go about it slowly and cautiously. It's really best if one of thetwo continues to work outside the home, for the financial security an outside job offers. Also, the first year in business will probably be a slim one: you'll be spending money on necessary start-up expenses but not yet getting much business, because the traveling public doesn't know you're there.
Most B&B hosts, unless they have purchased an existing, successful B&B, will not be making much profit for the first year or even two years, depending on the amount of money needed to ready the house for business. These start-up costs are an important reason for would-be hosts to consider how they could make money from another source while running their B&B, for the first year or two especially. Perhaps you can continue to work at your present job, but on a part-time basis, while you establish your B&B and see firsthand if it's really a business you want to be in for the long haul.
There are exceptions to every rule, and the exceptions here are couples who are purchasing an existing bed-and-breakfast, and couples with sufficient income from other sources not to rely on the B&B income to support themselves.
If you are considering buying an existing bed-and-breakfast (and there are some very tempting listings every month in the trade publications; see the appendix, page 181, for resources), you may be virtually guaranteed a good income right from the start. This income will be reduced by your mortgage and other regular operating expenses, but you will not have the initial start-up expenses that someone starting a B&B from scratch will have.
It is impossible to come up with an exact figure for start-up costs because each house will have different requirements. The costs of renovations will vary in different parts of the country, and the kind of materials you want used will affect the price as well. Redoing an existing bathroom, for instance, can cost hundreds of dollars or thousands, depending on whether you install a vinyl or ceramic tile floor, a fiberglass or custom-tiled shower stall, a vanity topped with Formica or marble, and so on. If you are able to do some of the work yourself—painting, wallpapering, plumbing, or wiring—your start-up costs will be less than if you contract out all thework. But whether you plan on doing much of the work yourself or not, knowing which items are musts for this business should help you determine what your start-up expenses will be at the very least. Assuming that your house and guest rooms are in good condition, you will need
• beds in top condition
• adequate bedding in top condition
• new bath towels
• blinds or shades for the windows
• smoke detectors in each room
• attractive china, glassware, and cutlery for breakfast
• business cards and brochures
These are the bare-bones basics; there is much more that you can and should add later. But you may be better off starting with just these if that's all that's within your budget. It is a mistake to spend too much before you find out if this business is right for you and before you find out if the business will repay you for these expenses. Chapter 10 gives specific tips on figuring how much to spend when you first open your B&B.
Making the Leap
I hope it is becoming clear that this can be a flexible occupation, either allowing you to make a little extra money or becoming your primary source of income. You can tailor this occupation to work for you.
If after weighing the pros and cons you decide that running a B&B is something you'd like to try, you will find specific tips in the chapters that follow to lessen the minuses and strengthen the pluses and to help you eventually become the successful, happy bed-and-breakfast owner you dream of being.
Copyright © 1994 by Martha W. Murphy Illustrations copyright © 1994 by Amelia Rockwell Seton All rights reserved. Distributed in Canada by H. B. Fenn and Company Ltd.
Posted August 29, 2009