cottage style home

An Aspiring Innkeeper’s Guide To Buying A Bed And Breakfast

7-minute readOctober 22, 2021

From watching Lorelei’s dream of running the Dragonfly Inn on “Gilmore Girls” to the mainstream rise of Airbnb and shows like “Instant Hotel” on Netflix, it’s clear that although the years have gone by, the concept of managing a bed and breakfast is a steadfast point of intrigue for many.

But like any business venture, running a bed and breakfast takes a lot of forethought, research and dedication if you want to be successful and of course, profitable. In this article we’ll be walking you through the process of how to buy a bed and breakfast and help you evaluate if becoming a B&B host fits your lifestyle and aspirations.

What Is A Bed And Breakfast?

A bed and breakfast, most frequently and fondly referred to as a B&B, is a one-of-a-kind lodging experience which offers a place to stay and of course, a delicious breakfast menu. While much of what bed and breakfasts have to offer overlap with that of a typical hotel, B&Bs bring a more personal and individualized experience to the table – for both the guests and the innkeeper.

Unlike most hotel stays, B&Bs can capture the vacationing experience in of themselves – while hotels may simply serve as a headquarters for tourists to touch base after a long day of sightseeing, B&Bs oftentimes draw guests in due to their novelty or the experiences that they have to offer. Many B&Bs present guests with the unique opportunity to stay overnight in unique spaces like converted firehouses, taverns, historic buildings and even houseboats or treehouses. The unusual lodgings spotlight as an attraction for guests to explore throughout their stay.

That isn’t to say that all successful B&Bs must have some sort of theme or opulent architecture – though it helps. For many, the most compelling draw of a bed and breakfast is that they offer a more intimate environment for guests to getaway – while hotels typically feel temporary and sometimes even cold, B&Bs feel much more like a home away from home.

The overall atmosphere of a bed and breakfast immediately differs from that of a hotel; with the latter you’re faced with the more corporate experience of entering a lobby and speaking with hotel staff, whereas B&Bs generally feel more like staying at a hospitable friend’s home. And while it’s true that B&Bs house far fewer guests than a hotel, a large factor that allows B&Bs to feel so welcoming is the fact that you usually interact with the same person for check-ins, questions and advice: the owner or innkeeper.

In fact, it’s not uncommon for a B&B to have an owner’s quarters on site should you need some assistance or have any questions. This more one-on-one relationship can also come in handy for guests who may have special dietary needs that the owner can meet or for those who require certain accommodations for accessibility.

Not only is a bed and breakfast all of these things, but it can also be a fun and profitable investment propertyand business opportunity – assuming you have the right tools and mindset.

Opening A Bed And Breakfast

Although it may not be the most glamorous or fun part of becoming a businessowner, doing your research to ensure smooth sailing down the road is essential to set yourself up for success – especially in the travel and hospitality industry.

Before you get too far in your search for a dreamy property, make sure that the B&B lifestyle is right for you. Here are some questions you can ask yourself to ensure that you’ll fit in with innkeeping:

  • Are you capable of taking on the full-time responsibility of running a B&B?
  • Are you OK with taking the financial risk of starting up a new business?
  • Are you a sociable person?
  • Do you enjoy meeting new people?
  • Is problem-solving under pressure one of your skills?
  • Are you good with time management?
  • Can you cook a mean breakfast? (Or do you know somebody who can?)
  • Are you comfortable with the idea of being self-employed?
  • Do routine or mundane tasks, like cleaning and cooking, make you feel good?

If you found yourself nodding along to these questions, good news! You might just be cut out for managing a B&B! Just keep these responsibilities in mind as you continue working toward your innkeeping dream.

Are Bed And Breakfasts Profitable?

Now to address the question on everybody’s mind: are B&Bs profitable?

To put it simply, opening a B&B won’t nearly get you rich overnight. So, for all you aspiring innkeepers, bear in mind the importance of being passionate about your work, as it will take a lot of upkeep and hustle to stand out among the crowd and secure regular clients – which will be the main source of revenue for your business. It’s also important to note that the most you’ll make off your B&B will ultimately come whenever you decide to sell the property.

Of course, however, any business can be profitable with the right ingredients. Let’s look at some of the factors that can affect just how successful your bed and breakfast may be: 

  • How many guests can your B&B host?
  • What would your B&B’s hours be? Would you operate on holidays?
  • Do you have a significant sphere of influence online? Do you have ideas for eye-catching ways to promote your business?
  • How hard or long are you willing to work?
  • What are the upkeep expenses, zoning fees and property taxes like in your area?

At the end of the day, the bed and breakfast industry isn’t something you should get into if you’re only about the money. Maintaining happy clients can feel daunting and it’s not uncommon for B&B owners to have an unreliable income. But for the passionate aspiring innkeepers or those of us who are ready for a career and lifestyle change, opening a B&B may be the perfect way to become your own boss. 

How To Buy A Bed And Breakfast

If you’re still reading this, then you’re probably passionate about the B&B and innkeeper lifestyle. Let’s dive into the nitty gritty of how to actually buy a bed and breakfast. 

Starting The Property Search

Location and size are perhaps the most important characteristics that will define the success of your business. It’s wisest to situate your B&B in an area that already attracts tourists like a bustling downtown or somewhere close to the city. If, however, you want your B&B to offer a more bucolic or rustic getaway experience, try and secure a unique property or set up shop in a peaceful and marketable rural area.

Guests are looking for value in their stay which makes standing out among the hotels, motels and other B&Bs of the utmost importance – and having a beautiful and unique view along with a property that guests can immerse themselves in can help you do just that.

If it seems intimidating to start your business from total scratch, you may benefit from buying an existing B&B. This way you’ll inherit existing reservations and regulars, which won’t make the stress of cash flow seem so overwhelming. Assuming you have the financial means, you can also investigate purchasing a fixer-upper property. Performing your own renovations or updates can offer you the unique opportunity to further personalize your property.

Finding The Right Real Estate Agent

With such an emphasis on finding the right location and property for your B&B, you want to ensure you have the right person on your side when moving forward. A real estate agent who is local to your ideal location can be an extremely helpful asset when searching for your dream property.

Don’t know where to begin when it comes to the property search? Working with a specialized inn business broker could be the right move for you. Inn brokers know the innkeeping industry and can offer consultations and advice specific to your needs and concerns – whether you’re looking to buy, sell or simply learn more about opening a B&B, these experts can offer you a helping hand. 

Financing The Property

When it comes to financing your bed and breakfast, you have options. Starting a new business means you can apply for SBA loans – loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration. You should also consider obtaining a business credit card or line of credit, which are great tools to have for startups that may be experiencing initial operational or cashflow issues.

If you’re interested in getting a mortgage on the house, it might be more difficult but it is possible. Some lenders offer conventional loans (a loan that isn’t insured by a government agency) for bed and breakfast purchases, but this varies by lender. You should talk to a Home Loan Expert to understand what your specific purchase and situation would be considered a commercial or residential purchase.  

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How To Buy A Bed And Breakfast With No Money

Money may make the world go ’round, but that isn’t to say that your innkeeping dreams are moot without an excess of cash. Many B&B owners are retirees who enjoy the lifestyle and may consider taking you under their wing and teaching their operation. If you’re interested in getting into the innkeeping industry but have no cash on hand, consider seeking out B&B owners who are looking to sell or retire soon, and pitch your vision and work ethic to them.

Innkeeping is a job of passion, something a fellow enthusiast will recognize, and there are many ways to work out a payment plan for transferring the responsibility of operating a B&B to you.

Questions To Ask When Buying A Bed And Breakfast

Still have your heart set on owning a B&B? Found a property you’re in love with but want to make sure you’re getting a good deal? Here are some questions you can ask before sealing the deal on purchasing a B&B:

  • Is the property in a good location?
  • What sights, attractions or unique experiences does your location have to offer?
  • How big is the property?
  • Does the property have any unique features or amenities?
  • Are there any renovations to be made?
  • Why is the current owner selling?
  • Who typically stays there?
  • What are the current room rates?
  • Are there zoning restrictions or other encumbrances?
  • Is the property open year-round or seasonally?
  • Does the owner operate alone, or do they have the help of a staff to maintain the property?

The Bottom Line: Buying A Bed And Breakfast Requires A Business And Lifestyle Change

Taking on a bed and breakfast operation is a full-time gig that requires your personal touch and vision – and it may not be worth it to everyone. But if you have a stellar location and property in mind, and if you’re passionate about meeting new people and giving guests a great experience, then clients, good reviews and revenue are bound to follow.

If you think you’re ready to take the leap and invest in a bed and breakfast property, then wait no more and connect with an experienced real estate agent through Rocket HomesSM network.

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