10 Things You Need to Know About Owning a Bed & Breakfast

SCSLifestyle, Sea Change Business, Sea Change Starters6 Comments

What You Need to Know About Owning a B&B

Is Owning a Bed & Breakfast Right for You?

If you love to meet new people, cook and entertain, then owning a Bed and Breakfast can be a great way to do it and make a living. However, it’s only wonderful if you are prepared for the reality of it. Like everything else in life, for every pro, there is a con!

Susan Poole runs the #1 B&B on Trip Advisor in stunning Parry Sound, Ontario Canada​ and what she doesn't know about running a B&B probably isn't worth knowing!  Here Susan shares 10 great reasons why she loves what she does, the potential drawbacks and how you can avoid them.

1. You make friends from all over the world

Over the years, I have had the opportunity to host guests from Australia, Europe, the United Kingdom, Japan, Mexico, and every part of Canada and the United States I can think of!

And even though they are far away, we stay in touch with social media and e-mails.

For me, this is the best part about owning a bed and breakfast.

B&B Entertaining

On the other hand, it means that you are welcoming complete strangers to stay in your home overnight. This can be very unsettling for some people – they worry about things like safety and theft.

You can get around this issue by planning right from the start who you want as your guest, and putting some basic safeguards (such as doors with locks) in appropriate locations.

2. You learn something new every day

Whether it’s a few words of another language to life in other countries; special diet requirements to different recipes, the opportunities for learning new things are endless.

You also realize that different cultures mean different expectations – from décor to food to styles of communications.

Educating yourself ahead of time about who is coming to your area that requires accommodation, and focusing on potential guests that you have a lot in common with can help make the differences easier to overcome.

3. People pay you to cook, clean and do laundry!

When you own a bed and breakfast, the chores can seem never-ending.

During your busy season, it is like preparing for a party – every single day!

Yet, knowing someone is coming, makes it easier to get motivated and most bed and breakfast guests notice, comment and appreciate your efforts.

You spend a lot of time on these chores, which can make them all-consuming and leave little time for fun.​

B&B Bedroom

4. You can deduct a portion of your living expenses off your income taxes

Besides direct business expenses such as advertising, I deduct a portion of my utilities, mortgage, property taxes and most of the cost of linens, furniture and appliances against the revenue my B&B generates. Instead of paying income tax, I generally get money back from the government.

Whether you are starting from scratch or purchasing an existing bed and breakfast, your start-up costs are substantial and it will take a number of years to re-coup your investment.

A well thought out Business Plan will help you plan your spending and curb spontaneous purchases, while making sure you are getting the best return-on-investment.

5. You are your own boss.

Being your own boss means you get to:

  • Choose who you want as your guests
  • Set your rates to ensure you are adequately compensated for all your hard work and
  • Decide when you want to be open for business.

It also means that YOU are the one responsible for making all the decisions – and you must bear the consequences – good or bad.​

Nevertheless, there are many ways you can prepare yourself (and your business) to deal with being the boss.

Learning from experienced bed and breakfast owners and reading books will provide you with some options on how to cope.​

Discover what to do if you get sick and can’t work; how to deal with difficult guests and how to get the best return for your marketing dollars.​

Susan Poole B&B Coach

6. You are in control of your own schedule

At the beginning of each year, I make a point of blocking off special family days so I can be with my family. If I don’t have any bookings, I can close up the B&B and take off for a few days, or just kick back and relax.

However, no guests mean no money.

Getting to know your “seasons” will help you plan time off accordingly; and knowing how to manage your cash flow are two highly effective ways to manage this effectively.

7. People notice and are grateful for all your hard work

Nothing makes me feel better than to read the wonderful notes left in my visitor book or having the world know what a good job I have done when guests leave reviews on TripAdvisor.

I have had guests give me gifts before they leave and send me Christmas cards and thank you notes afterwards. That kind of appreciation, recognition and reward are priceless!

On the other hand, since people are paying you, some have unrealistic expectations about the level of service that you provide and can be very demanding.

B&B relaxing sun porch

While your price should provide some indication of the level of service they can expect, there are always one or two people who will go out of their way to find problems. That’s why it is important to have personal friends who can provide you with valuable support to get over the rough patches.

8. Most bed and breakfasts have high and low seasons, so you can take lengthy vacations

I make a point of getting away for at least a month during my low season – I typically go to visit my son in Australia, friends in Nicaragua or country hop through Europe.

Again though, you have to remember that not having guests also means no money coming in.

Careful planning, budgeting and good cash flow management are the keys to being able to take that time off and not worry about money.

Parry Sound waterfront

9. Technology makes running a bed and breakfast very easy

With on-line reservation systems, e-mail and the ability to make internet phone calls from anywhere in the world, you don’t lose business if you are not at home. Whether guests want to come at the last minute or book six months ahead, technology enables you to secure bookings and make money, 24/7.

On the other hand, technology has also had a negative impact on the service industry - people expect instantaneous responses to their questions, and the last minute booking trend can make it harder to plan.

I have found the best way to deal with this is to hire someone to deal with callers, potential guests, etc while I am away, so I get to have a real break.

10. When you are ready to exit the B&B business, you have a great nest egg

As a Bed and Breakfast business owner you invest in your property and increase its market value. Building a thriving B&B creates opportunities to sell your business assets when you're ready to move on.

However, selling a bed and breakfast property can be harder than a regular home. You are looking for someone who wants to move to the location where your B&B is, wants to own a B&B business AND has the money to invest.

With careful planning and a great real estate agent who understands marketing as well as selling, it may take a bit longer to sell, but it is definitely possible.

As you can see, just like life, there are pros and cons to owning a bed and breakfast. But as with life, every B&B problem has a solution!

Research, training, the right support and a little hard work will set you on the right path to running a successful, rewarding business and enjoying a great lifestyle.

What excites you most about owning a B&B?

6 Comments on “10 Things You Need to Know About Owning a Bed & Breakfast”

  1. Thanks for the valuable information on how to run your own bed and breakfast I have always had a desire to run my own B&B now that my kids or all grown up I have the time to really Focus on my dream . So am looking forward to read, and research more on how to run and also have a successful Business . Thanks

    1. Hi Jeremiah

      While many B&Bs are in a home, this is more because of tradition than necessity. With the rise of accommodation options like Airbnb, it is now possible to run a B&B without living in. It all depends on what you want to offer and relies on managing guest expectations. Many visitors value and want the opportunity to get to know their hosts to learn more about the local area. If you are offering breakfast, this can be pre-prepared, if you aren’t living in the home. The key to making it work well for you and your guests is to clearly communicate what you are offering and delivering on that.

  2. I’m thinking of buying a B&B in Iowa, Minnesota, or Maine. Reason is the older houses are cheaper and beautiful and they usually have land. I figure there has to be something for the guests to do and the Mississippi river runs along Iowa and Minnesota, and Maine well it’s totally beautiful. I was wondering what attractions are around your B&B to help with interest for your guests?

    1. Hi Susan

      It sounds like the areas you’re thinking of have lots of potential! I suggest you connect with the visitor information centers in each one to find out a) what local attractions are around and b) how many other B&Bs there are – ie how much competition is there? If there are a lot, you’ll need to create a unique point of difference with your B&B so you can successfully compete.

      All the best,

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