Should You Open a Bed-and-Breakfast?

Owning a bed-and-breakfast may not be as romantic as you’re envisioning. But do not worry, it does not imply it can’t be entertaining — it just means it’s a great deal of work. If you’re thinking about turning your home or another property to a bed-and-breakfast, start by asking a simple question: How serious are you? While hosting cheese and wine nights and sleepovers in your home might sound fun initially, innkeeping is a never-ending endeavor — you have to be on 24/7.

Here you’ll learn from the experts about what owning a bed-and-breakfast takes. Could it be the right route for you?

Related: 10 U.S. bed-and-breakfasts Made to charm

Get prepared to get the job done. As with any new endeavor, the amount of effort that you put into your bed-and-breakfast is going to have a huge influence on the payoff. Before you jump in head first, get romantic thoughts of innkeeping from your mind. “Don’t underestimate the labour involved in choosing this type of profession,” states Jay Karen, president and CEO of the Professional Association of Innkeepers International. Unlike a hotel or even a homestay, bed-and-breakfasts come with the expectation that the innkeeper is going to probably be social together with the guests. Is that something you’re up for?

Take workshops, shadow a current innkeeper and do your research before investing any money. Does owning your own company excite you? Are you concerned about work? Can you get dedicated round the clock? Are you OK with a inverse work schedule (nights, weekends, holidays)?

Have a fantastic location in your mind. Deciding whether to use your own home or someone else should be about place. What kind of market are you? “If you’re in the middle of nowhere you need to make your inn its own destination,” says Karen. “You can have the very best B and B, however when it’s not near a destination, no one will come,” adds Jenn Wheaton, advertising and program coordinator in the California Association of Boutique and Breakfast Inns.

If you’re sticking to your own home, chances are you’ll want to do some remodeling, depending on how many people that you wish to be able to sponsor. Most American travelers are not lovers of a shared bathroom, for instance. Is each of your house’s bedrooms en suite? Can you afford to include new bathrooms? Living space can also be important. Would you like the guest common areas to be separate from your own common areas? Do you have a parking lot that could accommodate all overnight guests?

Just thinking about remodeling their present home automatically steers some people toward purchasing an existing bed-and-breakfast to update. This tends to be rather common — bed-and-breakfasts are usually bought out by other aspiring owners, since it’s easier than starting from scratch, says Donna Taylor of those Vermont Gazebo Inn. Of course, there’s lots to look at when purchasing a house too. Location will always top the record, but also look at overall dimensions, the kitchen, the toilet situation and what could be updated and maintained in your budget.

Know the neighborhood zoning and licensing requirements. Whether you go with a new or an existing property, zoning restrictions can make or break your bed-and-breakfast plans. Find out more about the property’s county or city zoning legislation before doing anything else. Is your zone residential only? Or can there be a conditional-use permit? After clarifying the requirements, you can proceed from there. “It can be time consuming and even expensive to meet the needs,” warns Rickie Hart from the Oregon Bed and Breakfast Guild.

Tim Wilson, director of’s Diamond Collection application, suggests going to the local government office to determine the right process to start a bed-and-breakfast in your area. Do your research to figure out what permits, licenses, instruction, certification and inspections will be required. Everything from food handling and alcohol allows to safety and health inspections, to your insurance policy needs to be taken into consideration. Since every metro area has different requirements, it’s best to visit the source.

Have money saved with worst-case scenarios in your mind. While there’s no magic formula to help you work out how far you need to start a bed-and-breakfast, it’s best to overestimate — based on Hart, reserve funds are necessary to weather the very low occupancy rate that is common during a bed-and-breakfast’s first 3 years.

The wear and tear costs accumulate over time too. The upkeep is constant, states Taylor. From parking lots to plumbing, everything needs to be taken care of. “It’s not drudgery, but it could be,” she states. Setting aside money for improvements is very important.

Wheaton suggests constructing relationships with contractors and subcontractors in the area. “There is going to be a basic quantity of care to be prepared for, especially as the bed-and-breakfast ages and things break,” she states. “It’s a fantastic idea to have a general handyman or contractor that you are able to call for these types of things. Create that connection early, so you know that things could be taken care of in the event of emergency.”

Be prepared to provide personal support. Personal service is what distinguishes a bed-and-breakfast in the hotel or a homestay. “Running a bed-and-breakfast is much more about caring for the guest,” says Karen. It’s an extremely aggressive region of the business.

Hart indicates that potential innkeepers budget for the basics to start out, and update as funds and time allow. Cable TV, Wi-Fi, flexible check-in intervals and free breakfasts are musts. Keep the bedrooms simple but comfortable — pillow-top mattresses, high-thread-count sheets and extra seating areas will require things up a notch. “American travelers tend to not need a lot of froufrous round the room, just lots of comfort,” says Hart.

Beside the bedrooms, the bathrooms tend to be visitors’ biggest priority. “You need to satisfy with the need of the traveler, especially the ones that are utilized to a hotel,” states Wilson. Hot tubs, rain showers, heated towel racks and fluffy bathrobes can be found in the modern bed-and-breakfasts.

Wheaton suggests making your amenities personal and plentiful. Have extras of all accessible: toothbrushes, hairspray, face wash, sewing kits, coffee and tea. Add personal touches like room service, fantastic concierge services or cheese and wine in every area. “There’s a reason coffee stores have comfy furniture and free Wi-Fi,” says Karen. “They would like you to sit awhile, stay and come back. A bed-and-breakfast should do the same.”

Make the Internet your Very Best buddy. Marketing is key to a bed-and-breakfast’s success. In the past, fame depended on a B and B’s being printed in a guidebook. While the world wide web has expedited the process, Hart still estimates that it requires most bed-and-breakfasts about three years to get to a steady occupancy rate.

“You can’t just build it and they’ll come,” states Wilson. “Many bed-and-breakfasts get 90% of their company from the Internet. It can be a great deal of work to make sure that you’re visible.” A good site with great photography could make or break your company. According to Wilson, 50 percent of travelers won’t book a bed-and-breakfast unless it gives online booking.

Market locally — figure out that your competition is, both other bed-and-breakfasts and resorts. Combine local visitor’s institutions and lodging institutions to help your efforts, too.

Related: 10 U.S. bed-and-breakfasts Made to charm

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