First and foremost, you know you love to cook. You love having people in your home, for parties, barbecues, or just a good dinner. Most of all, you love decorating your home; fussing with every little detail that makes your home so unique and special. It’s your haven under the sun. You want to share it with everyone.
Secondly, your job stinks.
It’s not at all fulfilling, and you just keep thinking about the day you can get out of there, go somewhere else and tell them “goodbye!” You and your spouse keep talking about ditching it all and starting a new chapter in your life, and you know you can do this!
Most of all, you’ve been dreaming about going into business for yourself for a long time now. And why not? So many other people do it, and they started out in the exact same ways.
Lately, you’ve been thinking about ways to share your home or have a nice little business that is based from home. Depending on where you live, you could very well open your home to travelers, vacationers or business people, and make a living doing so. It sounds exciting, doesn’t it?
So, you want to be an innkeeper?
Because opening your home to strangers and charging them money to stay there, is being an innkeeper. Or you can also go the formal route and find a B&B for sale. There are many, and you don’t even have to leave your state, if you don’t want to.
Doesn’t it just sound WONDERFUL to say you are an entrepreneur, a small business owner, your own boss?! Yes, these are all good things, and desires to aspire to.
But, what do you need to know about being an innkeeper?
That’s why I’m here, to tell you what you need to know, what you should be told, and what to expect. Why do I say this?
Because, I was an innkeeper. A New England innkeeper.
My husband and I were the owners of the Benjamin Prescott Inn in Jaffrey, NH from 2002-2005. Not a really long time, but time doesn’t matter; it flies away anyway when you are busy with your small business.
(I share more insights into our innkeeping life in my book, “Candle Reflections, An Illuminated Life”, which is available on Amazon and FREE if you’re a Kindle Unlimited person.)
Because that’s what being an innkeeper is; you are a business owner. And everything that goes into that is also yours. But, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s begin at the beginning.
Here’s a list if you’re thinking about becoming an innkeeper.
Discuss your feelings first.
What do I mean by this? Well, if you are the kind of person who loves meeting people and sharing your ideas and your life with them, you’ll be a wonderful innkeeper. If your spouse is not as into people as you are, this could cause a problem. Then again, if he/she is not going to be involved in the day-to-day, it should be alright.
Innkeeping is ALL about people. Giving them the best experience they’ve had in a long time. One they will remember. And keep in mind, that not all people are friendly or even tactful. You’ll get your share of complaints or of things missing in the room or something that is not quite right, and some people can be downright annoying.
That’s okay. Remember, they won’t be there for long, and just keep a smile on YOUR face! Do everything you can to make their stay an enjoyable one, and they may even come around. It happened with us, and it can happen for you too.
Take a seminar.
There are many good innkeeping seminars out there. Just Google it and find one where you think you want to settle down as an innkeeper. One of the best places to start is with PAII or Professional Association of Innkeepers International. They are a wonderful organization which we belonged to and their information is always top-notch and relevant. Keep your eye out for trade shows, too, as you will come away with lots of ideas and advice.
Another place to look online is The B&B Team. They are always running seminars on how to learn innkeeping with your choice of weekend, or one-day intensive workshops. They’ve been doing this a long time. There are SO many inn sites online, so be sure to Google what you are looking for; location is the most important.
We took a weekend seminar back in 2000 in Waterbury, VT and it was WELL worth it. It’s chock full of information and you will come away with lots of info which will help you to make an informed decision.
Where do you live? And do you want to stay there? We lived in New Jersey and moved to New Hampshire to buy our Inn in 2002. That was what we wanted to do; you have to decide for yourself.
Some B&Bs are right in cities, like New York City, for instance or Denver, CO. Many are away from the bright lights of Broadway, and some are very remote. Again, this depends on what you are looking for. If you love the outdoors, or lots of snow or a year-round beach, or something theme-oriented such as baseball or cooking, you’ll find what you’re looking for, believe me!
This is definitely one of the FIRST THINGS to consider when you want to be an innkeeper. Where do you want to settle in?
What type of a B&B do you want?
Because they are not all the same. In fact, to be an “official” B&B, you should have over 5 guest rooms, otherwise, you are a very small operation, and most people don’t consider you a full-fledged business. With only a few rooms, often you won’t make any kind of profit.
That being said, you can be a successful innkeeper with just 3 or 4 rooms. As long as you own the property outright, you should be okay. Because there’s the overhead, which I’ll get to in a minute.
Our inn in Jaffrey had 10 guest rooms, and a few of those had multiple beds and the large suite on the third floor had nooks built into the eaves of the roof where there were three additional “beds”. So we could have a regular crowd up there if necessary.
New or turnkey?
Here’s another decision to make! Are you looking to start up your own brand new B&B, or would you be happy with buying one that’s for sale, now? I advise you to go for the turnkey inns. You won’t be sorry, and there are more than enough to look at and decide on.
Of course, you’ll be whittling it down to what you’re looking for: location, number of rooms, and price, most of all. There are many, many inns to choose, so take your time looking, because here’s another thing. B&Bs for sale are usually for sale, on average, 2 to 3 years before they change hands. Some go quickly, but, most sit for awhile until that perfect buyer comes along. That could be you! 🙂
Not all B&Bs or inns are alike. Some are small operations, others medium-sized, and a few are quite large and run by people other than the innkeepers. Not every inn offers the same amenities.
Will you be doing just breakfast? Perhaps, weddings? Garden parties, murder-mystery weekends? We did some murder-mysteries, and they were FUN!! Lot of work, but fun!
Because if you go beyond the traditional bed-and-breakfast fare, you’ll be getting into a whole new realm of regulations that you will be required to follow. That’s not to say, you shouldn’t; it’s only letting you know there is more to bite off here, and if you know all about it and are familiar with it already, then do it!
Most B&B owners stick with breakfasts in the morning and the occasional fun weekend; that could be a knitting retreat, a murder-mystery weekend, a cooking seminar, there are so many options available to you. And don’t they all just sound wonderful?
If you can see yourself in one of these scenarios, then you definitely have what it takes to be an innkeeper! 🙂
So, now that I’ve got you in a good mood, let’s move on to some of the REALITIES of being a B&B owner, because they are more important than being an actual innkeeper. Let’s start with:
Being an innkeeper is being IN BUSINESS. You are a small business owner. If you’ve never been this before, it will be a bit of an eye-opener. You’ll have all of the official paperwork to deal with, your closing documents, your credit-card setup, your bank, accountant, and even a good lawyer to keep in your back pocket, that you should be aware of.
YOU are the boss, not someone else. YOU are the business owner, so all decisions are yours to make. Now, this may take some getting used to, but it’s easy to do and it’s also a MUST for anyone wanting to be a success in their business. You will have policies in place that you must enforce; for instance, you may have a 2-night minimum in October when leaf-peepers are out and about. Because every room is booked at this time of year! Someone wants a room for the night, “I’m sorry but our policy is a 2-night minimum.” Break your rules and you’ll find out!
You’ll get bombarded, initially, with people wanting you to advertise on their websites, or newspapers, and you’ll receive invitations to join the local Chamber of Commerce and B&B Associations in your area. It will be up to you to decide what you wish to spend your money on. Not all of it is necessary; in fact, as far as I’m concerned, as long as you have a great website with online reservations built-in, you can forego most of the rest.
Again, don’t think you can take over a B&B from a friend of a friend and that’s that, and all’s good; because you don’t want to do that! Innkeeping is as much a business as any other business and if you want to be a successful innkeeper, then do it right!
Show me the money!
When you finally come upon the B&B of your dreams, you’ll have the opportunity, through the listing agent, to look at all of their financials. Here’s what you want to see:
THE MONEY THE INN MAKES YEARLY.
I cannot stress this enough. This is the ONE THING you want to see above everything else.
Everything else is secondary. You want to see those inn receipts. And only those inn receipts. 99.9% of all guests pay by credit card. Very few will hand you cash. In fact, your online reservations can also include paying at the time they book the room. So, all of your inn receipts are easily attainable and right there for you to see, month-to-month, year-to-year. Every innkeeper has them at their disposal.
DON’T LET ANYONE SHOW YOU a 1040 IRS TAX RETURN.
Why not? Here’s why not? You, and everybody else, can claim any number they want on a tax return. You could say, your inn makes, $150,000 per year. You put that number on your tax form. Looks very good there, doesn’t it? But, what you’re NOT seeing is that $80,000 of that money was actually made by your husband who works outside of the inn. He has a full-time job elsewhere.
The IRS isn’t going to care what kind of money you throw at them. Throw it all, they’ll take it! You can pay forward, if you’re anticipating more income next year, and don’t want a big tax bill at that time. So, your current 1040 will look as if you made more money than you actually did. There’s NO WAY on that form to prove that money all came from one place. Your inn. Don’t be fooled.
Looking at a 1040, with no W-2 attached, you would think that the total number is inn income. It is not. And it is just another way people will try to deceive you when you are looking at B&B financials. So, what your inn actually made for the year, is not $150,000 but, $70,000.
THAT will make a big difference in trying to pay your bills. Got it?!
Don’t become the sucker people think you are. You have EVERY RIGHT to see all of that paperwork, all of those financials and if someone tells you otherwise, RUN, don’t walk away from the deal. That includes your lawyer. Could be, all of these people are working together, to deceive you.
There are dishonest, unscrupulous business people out there trying to get a deal made ANY WAY THEY CAN. And if that way includes deluding you, deceiving you, tricking you into believing the numbers are something, when they are really something else, they will do everything they can to make that happen!!!!
Believe me, I’ve been there. THAT is the reason we didn’t last longer than three years as innkeepers. We had been sold a bill of goods, and we didn’t realize until we were there, and the official owners. These people are all such smooth operators. Smiling, polite, efficient, the epitome of professional!
Slick, foxy, underhanded, treacherous, is really what they are. BEWARE!
Funny thing about it, when we decided to sell the inn, we had a buyer in four months! God was definitely on our side and didn’t want things to get any worse. We still had years in front of us to deal with, but for that moment, we were able to get out from under and walk away.
Now, I don’t want to talk you out of anything. I’m just letting you know that bad people are out there, and they take the forms of realtors, innkeepers, lawyers, accountants, just like you find them when you need work done on your car, or a plumber, carpenter, or a doctor, even. They are out there, and they will try to hurt you.
Their bottom line is money. Nothing else, and no one else matters to them.
This is one area that you will want to see financials for, as well. Because running a B&B has some of the highest overhead going. When we were innkeepers we had monthly bills for:
- 3 different phone lines
- satellite TV
- room amenities
- laundry service
- driveway maintenance
- inn supplies
- pest control
- inn maintenance
and probably things I can’t think of. Our utility bills were GI-NORMOUS and every time I saw that oil truck pull into the driveway I would shudder. Another $300 out the door, and that went on every other week in the winter. Now, of course, there would be WiFi charges and cable TV in some of the rooms, but still the other bills would be just as high.
Food will be one of your biggest expenses. I used to go next door to the dairy farm, where I could take a gallon of fresh, raw milk that the farmers kept in a refrigerator in the barn. The milk was right from their dairy cows. It was pay on the honor system, and very friendly. I’ll never forget it.
Breakfasts will entail fresh fruits, cereals, coffee, tea, egg dishes, French toast, pancakes, coffee cakes, muffins, juices, and all things gluten-free, fat-free, safe for diabetics, and anyone with other special food needs.
When you own a B&B, you are always decorating. New sheets, new duvets, curtains, rugs, towels, soaps, books, DVDs, etc. When we were innkeepers, I knit an afghan for every room. You’ll find yourself doing things like that, too. Because it’s your home and you love it that much!
Be prepared when those bills start coming in. If you’ve done your homework, you’ll be well aware of what will be coming your way. Running a business always entails extra expenses. And when it’s your home, you’ll always be fixing it up and making it prettier!
This is another aspect of buying an inn that you should be aware of. Many places are quite pricey; others not so much. Try and put down as much money as possible. It will only make your life easier in the long run. Again, a good banker will not let a deal go through if their numbers don’t jive.
There are equations and formulas that bankers use to calculate what your mortgage payment will be. Buying a property outright is a dream come true; this way you will only have to think about yearly taxes, monthly taxes, and all of your bills. 😉
Done the right way, and you should have some kind of a profit at years’ end. That’s what you’re looking for; something you can turn around and re-invest in your B&B. It will make your inn better, and you better.
Most people don’t like to talk about their credit scores, or how they pay bills or trouble they may have gotten into over the years, but good financials are KEY to getting the best deal when it comes to financing anything. So, the more you are in good financial shape, the more advantageous for you!
I know this article is L-O-N-G, but it has to be in order to give YOU the BEST information I can about becoming an innkeeper. So, print this article out and use it as your template, because this is just the BEGINNING!
Most of what you’ll learn will be “0n-the-job” training, but if you love to talk to people, want to give them a beautiful place to stay overnight, want repeat guests, and love taking care of your home, innkeeping is an excellent opportunity just waiting for you.
WARNING: Don’t look into innkeeping any other way! Be sure every one of these points is covered and you are satisfied with all of them. After all, you are only looking to take advantage of a great opportunity out there. Don’t let someone take advantage of you!
You will be the happiest person on the face of the earth!
Just do it YOUR way.
The very first time the phone rings and you say: “Good morning, the _________ _________ Inn,” — you will be so glad you did things the right way!
Being an innkeeper, you will never work SO hard, you will never expend so much energy at anything in your life. But, it will be a good feeling. Innkeeping may not make you money-rich, but it may be just the lifestyle you’re craving!
Just another way to see your
“Homekeeping Inspirations for Crafting Your Best Life!”