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Canadians Dream of Buying a B&B

Written by Posted On Tuesday, 19 February 2002 00:00

Buying a charming Bed and Breakfast in the location you have lusted after all your life is a popular Canadian retirement dream. Many may visualize themselves settling down to enjoy the amazing property that lodgers help pay for, but few know how to turn this dream into reality. Although Bed and Breakfasts have popped up from Gander, Newfoundland to the Queen Charlotte Islands not all are as successful as their owners hoped.

When you purchase a B&B or an Inn, you are faced with all the complexities of buying a business and evaluating an income property plus all the details connected to successfully acquiring real estate. If your personal experience and knowledge is limited, the other challenge will be finding competent, trustworthy professional advisors who can reduce the painful and expensive lessons that are snidely referred to as "learning experience."

  • Expose yourself to the hospitality industry and to life as an innkeeper before you buy. Managing a B&B is a 24/7 responsibility, therefore, not a job, but a way of life. Wrapping your life around the comfort and pleasure of your guests will challenge your family, your finances, your health and especially your "time off." Talk to as many innkeepers as possible, join a hospitality association and attend a hospitality-industry seminar to measure your fit as an innkeeper. If possible, get a job working in someone else's B&B – even for a few hours a week – so that you can experience the "24-hours-on" life first hand.

    And consider...

    • How will you learn the business without losing money in the meantime?
    • What type of hospitality property will suit you and your family?
    • Who will make the day-to-day commitment of running the B&B?

  • Have plan B ready

    Before you sign on the dotted to buy your B&B, develop a plan for selling out or bringing in new management if you find that life as an innkeeper is not for you or your family.

  • Analyze financial viability and don't get hooked on quaint decor. Interview a few hospitality professionals until you find the real estate agent, buyer broker, inn broker or hospitality consultant with the skills and knowledge to identify the ideal property for your needs and to make sure all relevant details – especially those you are unaware of -- are addressed. Once you've narrowed down location, then save time, money and disappointment by having financial returns and business potential analyzed before you travel to see a property. This precaution will also assist in arranging financing since lenders want similar assurances that the real estate investment is sound and the business will turn a profit.

  • Plan the transition and avoid unpleasant surprises. Negotiate a transition that takes advantage of on-the-job training from owners. You'll also need an education on the local way of doing business nd the who's who of your new community. You'll need to learn how to juggle taking reservations, marketing your B&B and managing staff while you maintain the property, see to the meals and get all the paper work in order. Who better to train you than those who have already made a success of the B&B?

  • Explore the costs and time required to draw people in. If you'd like to learn more about B&Bs, you might want to start with an Association or two. These groups represent properties from specific geographic areas like the Ontario's Thousand Islands , Nova Scotia's Cape Breton Island or Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories.

    Since your research should include visiting a lot of B&Bs, here are a few questions to ask B&B owners over a glass of their house label wine or while "shmoozing" over a tasty breakfast:

    1. Why were you attracted to owning and operating a B&B?
    2. What experience(s) in life best prepared you for life in a B&B?
    3. What have you learned the hard way? What did you guess wrong about?
    4. From a strictly business point of view, what is good and what is bad about running a B&B?
    5. If you were going to do it over again, how would you stack the deck in your favour?
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    PJ Wade

    Futurist and Achievement Strategist PJ WADE is “The Catalyst”—intent on Challenging The Best to Become Even Better. A dynamic speaker and author of 8 books and more than 1800 published articles, PJ concentrates on the knowledge, insight, communication prowess, and special decision-making skills essential for professionals and their clients who are determined to thrive in the 21st-Century vortex of change.

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