Phased opening

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IronGate's picture
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Apparently my lottery winnings have gotten lost in the mail, and my stimulus check is not so stimulating, so I'm considering options.  My preferred choice would be to open the inn only when it is completely ready, with all rooms up and running.  I'm wondering, though, if it makes sense to open on a smaller scale, with only two rooms, and phase in the others as I go along.  The start-up costs could be substantial. 

My concerns are:

  1. I don't want major construction going on while the inn is open.  This will be a property built specifically for the B&B, so the rooms would have to be fully constructed if not painted/furnished/decorated, etc.
  2. In order to attract business, I would obviously want to list myself on as many websites as possible.  Should I show the total number of projected rooms, and just indicate that some are not available?  How hard is it to update the listings?  Is it easier to book when more rooms are available?  (Some folks seem to not feel comfortable in smaller, more intimate settings.)
  3. If I open with fewer rooms, I can actually save construction costs because the breakfast room can be added later.  For the time being, breakfast could be accommodated in the lounge, which will always have dining tables, anyway.  BUT, that means that later there will be major construction to add the breakfast room.  See #1.

Thoughts?

 

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JunieBJones (JBJ)'s picture
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My 2 cents.

If you can have the two rooms completed and guest areas for those two rooms completed then go for it.  You will then have #1 a GOAL to get the other areas done faster than just waiting waiting waiting.  The BEST WAY to get a room done is to have a reservation for it!

DH is buying the paint to paint the redone porch decking throughout the week ($800 in supplies alone, he is doing it himself).  We could not do it with guests here.  This project has been years in the making and about to make this "everything in its place" innkeeper NUTSO.  Therefore when I come on here and am on my last nerve, THIS IS ONE OF THE REASON.  I am in a bedroom, bless his heart, that now has a window, and bless his heart, that window has trim and drywall around it, so I stare at the mud and the seam and the unfinsihed room.  I WILL DO THIS UNTIL HE IS FORCED into finishing it.

My rule, do not start a new pro0ject until the others are complete.  This rule is completely ignored.  I am blamed.  Something blows up - obv it needs immediate attention and repair.

So all that to say if you have to live in a construction zone, there will be massive stress added into your life.  You cannot FUNCTION as an innkeeper properly.  Like my laundry room and my wanting a place to hang stuff, became the Friday Night Fights at Lowe's to finally buy the stuff and put it up (3 years later).

I appreciate ALL HE DOES and tell him so.  Don't worry.

Everything is this way.  I am married to, btw, a man who can fix or manufacture anything.  He can build a house from digging the foundation, plumbing, wiring, dry wall, brick, roofing, and is an electronics/technology wiz. 

So for this, HE WILL do everything, we cannot hire anyone, AND it gets done in his spare time, of which he has NONE.  He works more than full time and has this place to MAINTAIN.  So any extra time to actual work on a project is limited.

STRAIN.

That is the word for it.  STRAIN.

This morning he watered down the oj's and we had a fight about it. 8 of them, all watered down.  Like orange drink.  He literally added water to each glass.  Yes, true.  He will kill me if he reads this on here.

They are fine, I AM NOT OPENING A NEW JUG!  He said. 

Me "You cannot jeapardize the integrity of this ENTIRE MEAL by watering down the oJ because there was not enough!"

He stomped his feet, yelled, told me how wrong I was, how nobody cares but me and finally got the new oj out and is STILL MAD ABOUT IT!

This is a true story from 8am this morning.  Me "Gee honey thanks for helping me today."   LOL!

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Morticia's picture
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I totally get the reno stuff. We stripped the wallpaper in our bedroom in April or May (oh, wait, I did it because I was stressed about hub's surgery so it was April). Moved the bed out from the wall to get behind there. It is all stripped and patched but needs to be washed. Bed is still in the middle of the room, stuff from the inn has made its way back in here and there it sits. But, I know it'll be done this year. I have my new curtains up and my new quilt on the bed. It'll just look that much better when the paint goes up. And I'm looking at some sort of armoire for my desk, so I can close the doors on it and call it a night. Was going to retrofit a closet but then I would have no view.

But right now? Not a spare moment to be lugging paint out and doing 10 minutes' worth and then cleaning it all back up again.

Oh, and then? I'll hang some pictures up on the now-bare walls and maybe, 4 years into this, it'll look somewhat like a home rather than a waystation. THEN? The living room/dining room/kitchen combo gets wallpaper stripped and the nasty old carpet comes up.

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See, where we innkeepers live always seems to be last on the list   I know the exact bed set that I will get when it all gets done but it would just be lost in the chaos right now.  Now we have various dead electronics in our den from the lightning strike that my dh is "thinking" about whether or not they can be fixed.  Ack!!

Next week, I am hitting the decrapification.......again!  I want to get the big stuff done in there before I fire our lawn guys & have to take back all the yard work.  I decided to keep them one more week to clean up the yards from the storms. 

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Morticia's picture
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Samster wrote:

See, where we innkeepers live always seems to be last on the list   I know the exact bed set that I will get when it all gets done but it would just be lost in the chaos right now.  Now we have various dead electronics in our den from the lightning strike that my dh is "thinking" about whether or not they can be fixed.  Ack!!

Next week, I am hitting the decrapification.......again!  I want to get the big stuff done in there before I fire our lawn guys & have to take back all the yard work.  I decided to keep them one more week to clean up the yards from the storms. 

I just found a queen bed I like. I may get it once the walls are painted, even tho I LOVE the bed I have now. After all these years it just might be too small.

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I am stuck with the actual bed and furniture for a loooooooooong time, but I know the comforter set that I want Smiling 

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Yep...my dh is the same.  He can do anything maintenance-wise.  But he's a few years older than yours and I really think that he's gotten burnt out on all these renovations.  Yep, burnt out even though we did hire contractors for the major stuff. 

I agree try and complete a project before moving on to the next.  The other thing (as everyone here knows)  is that the innkeeper area is usually the last to get any attention.  I am so sick of the fact that ours is not done!  Meanwhile, dh is replacing a tub faucet today where guests broke the shower diverter and fixing the cord on a window weight that got broken by another guest.    There will always be something that seems to take priority over where we live....

JunieBJones (JBJ)'s picture
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Samster wrote:

Yep...my dh is the same.  He can do anything maintenance-wise.  But he's a few years older than yours and I really think that he's gotten burnt out on all these renovations.  Yep, burnt out even though we did hire contractors for the major stuff. 

I agree try and complete a project before moving on to the next.  The other thing (as everyone here knows)  is that the innkeeper area is usually the last to get any attention.  I am so sick of the fact that ours is not done!  Meanwhile, dh is replacing a tub faucet today where guests broke the shower diverter and fixing the cord on a window weight that got broken by another guest.    There will always be something that seems to take priority over where we live....

As we appear horrible and neg or is that nag-atory on stuff, aspiring innkeepers with rose colored glasses dream of running an inn and they won't need much space.  This is the biggest misconception there ever was in this business.

You have everything you own packed away in boxes and your own quarters get stuffed full of things for the B&B.  You lose YOUR HOME and after a while it looses it flavor.  I would make sure your quarters are nice.  New beautiful quilt on YOUR OWN BED.

In our situation, as everything else, these quarters were quite nice but we have a family, so we divided one giant room that was a bedoom and living room into two bedrooms, and added a bath.  That took time and money.  So it is not complete.  After the porch...I have been promised.

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JunieBJones (JBJ) wrote:
I am married to, btw, a man who can fix or manufacture anything.  He can build a house from digging the foundation, plumbing, wiring, dry wall, brick, roofing, and is an electronics/technology wiz. 

So for this, HE WILL do everything, we cannot hire anyone, AND it gets done in his spare time, of which he has NONE.  He works more than full time and has this place to MAINTAIN.  So any extra time to actual work on a project is limited.

This is why my sister and her coworker marvel that in only two years we have renovated and opened our B&B.  To me it feels like forever!  To them... six years and no where near done!  But, like you, their dh's can do anything, so she can't do it (it implies he's lazy, and she'll do it "wrong") and she can't hire someone else (same reasons) so she muddles through and dreams of the day when it will be better. 

My dh can wire a light fixture, but is happy not to have to.  I never realized having a non-handy husband was such a good thing!

=)
Kk.

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I agree with the others about time.  I can paint, but I rarely do.  I ended up paying contractors to paint all of the guest rooms and hallways and common areas.  I have painted some in the basement, but I just don't have time to do what I know I could.  Once you open, your ability to do it yourself declines precipitously!

=)
Kk.

Morticia's picture
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YellowSocks wrote:

 Once you open, your ability to do it yourself declines precipitously!

=)
Kk.

This has nothing to do with reno or repair work, just a sorta typical day and how 'things' get in the way...we had an open house today (2 hours long, 2 people came). To get ready for that, I started baking 3 days ago. We had to block rooms for last night because hubs had minor outpatient surgery today and had to leave for that right after check-out. He DID (gotta love a driven partner) clean 3 bathrooms before he left. Guests tried to check-in at noon, I let dog scare them away while I finished the cleaning. I had to set up a display, print a sign and lug the 30lb sandwich board to the corner, dress appropriately, wash my hair (in the sink), set up the drinks (thanks by the way for the iced tea recipe, the lone open house guests said it was very good) and appear refreshed and relaxed at 2 PM (which was exactly when the lone couple appeared) and then sit there, patiently, for the next 2 hours while no one came and I couldn't leave. Couldn't fold laundry. Couldn't run vacuum. Couldn't watch TV. Called my mom and sang happy b-day. Daughter called-she closed on her house today. Had to hang up on daughter, lone couple had questions. Mom hung up on me, someone else on other line. Pretty typical day all around.

 

YellowSocks's picture
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The short answer is, "it depends, but it's possible."

Our story:  Bought house March 2006, immediately replaced roof (insurance).  Sold other house in August.  In September began getting quotes and that fall replaced furnace, added heat pump, replaced all windows, blew in insulation, refinished hardwood flors.  Mid winter and spril 2007 replaced siding, gutters, began work on family room in basement.  BIL was contractor at this point... does excellent work but I watched my March opening fly away.  By spring we were working on the first floor guest room bathroom, which BIL stripped down to the studs.  By late spring early summer 2007 I was getting nuts and hired a flooring guy and a drywall guy... BIL faded out.  Drywall guy stayed and became my second contractor... painted first floor rooms, did a million little jobs, we finally opened with one room July 19, 2007.  He then began work on the third floor room... drywall guys shouldn't do electrical and plumbing, but at least he showed up every day and we got that room opened by mid October. 

Meanwhile I had two rooms on the second floor that I occasionally rented out, even in their unrenovated, shared-bathroom state.  Over the winter we didn't do much construction... finally went to zoning in April of this year and got permission to expand to four rooms and add a sign.  Bit the bullet, and started spending money fast.  The day after the zoning meeting I signed a contract with my third and best contractor.  Ready by June 1st?  No problem!  He moved the second floor bathroom to the basement (i.e., added a bathroom), gutted it, and created two new bathrooms.  We also added a door in the hallway to create an en suite bathroom, and painted both second   Well, we had a Grand Opening Open House on June 1st and showed off the two new rooms with their new bathrooms... toilets flushed but the sinks and showers weren't connected.  One opened by June 10th, the other by June 21st.  After that the contractor began working on finising the family room (the one the BIL never finished two years ago), fixing the electrical and plumbing on the third floor (open since October), and this past week has been converting my laundry/junk room into a laundry/kitchenette.

In our case, we're renovating.  Each of my contractors has known when guests were expected and has been great about either starting later in the morning, or cleaning up, or working on a different area of the house (there's plenty!) to be out of the way.  The hardest part, by far, is that each phase creates more dust.  We were up til 4 a.m. cleaning for the Open House, a lot of it literally washing walls and doors and floors from the dust.  Then a week or two later we were doing it again for the first guests in those rooms.  A month or so later we did a little job... put in a door between my bedroom and my kids' bedroom... little job, lots of dust!  Noise hasn't been an issue, but the dust is beyond annoying.

Guests have been understanding, and highly interested.  (So many of them have renovations of their own going on!)  When the contractor moved the 450 pound tub from the second floor to the basement he chipped the tread on the last step.  It's not fixed yet.  I still don't have real signs on the doors, although I got tired of a wall of white doors (2nd floor has five white doors!) so I made signs on my printer.  A guest came and said, "Wow!  Pre-sign!  How cool is that?"  So like others have said, the guests do like being in on the "ground floor."  I just showed some guests up to the third floor room... they are literally the first people to see the brand new custom art on the wall.  It's fun to be first!  As long as the beds are clean and comfortable, the breakfast hot and wonderful, and they feel welcome, they don't mind that their curtain isn't as pretty as the one I'll put in next week will be. 

Most of my rooms still need something, and eventually we'll get there. July is our crazy month.  My contractor mostly worked in the basement, or between guests on week days.  Some of the things that need fixed in the guest rooms aren't done yet because it seemed better to wait until we weren't worried about getting it done before a guest arrives.  We've already slowed down substantially, and by winter he'll be able to get in and fix things easily.

How many rooms are you looking at long term?  What kind of rules and regulations does your state have?  (I.e., do you need any permits to open?  What will your quarters be?  How are you at living through construction clutter?  [Last week dh went over the deep end.  My plea, "it's because of the construction!"  He said, "we've been under construction for two years!"  Me:  "So hang in there one more week!"  My sister:  "Two years?  Try six!!"  Remember... BIL does great work, not fast work!]  How are you about dusting the same area again?  How do you feel about staying up til three the night before a guest arrives to install their mini-blinds and curtains?

Personally, I love deadlines.  My contractors hate them...  but they work!!!  I was up til 4 a.m. for my Open House, but by golly our house looked great, and my contractor was here working on Memorial Day weekend with two of his brothers here helping.  That doesn't happen without a deadline.  Why was the English Dept done by June 10th?  I rented it out and then told my contractor the deadline.  Then he was working on the other one... I came and said, "How's it coming?"  Him: "You rented it out, didn't you?"  For eight weeks!  Again, I was up til 3 the night before, scrubbing dust, but it got done and opened.  Set deadlines!!!!

IronGate wrote:
I don't want major construction going on while the inn is open. 

How do you define "major construction?"  I wouldn't want jack hammers or cranes at work with guests in the house.  But unless you're building your B&B in some amazing location you're not going to be full every day, especially not at the beginning.  When is your peak month?  When is your off season?  Most of our business is weekends, by far, so weekday construction isn't really a big deal.  (Except the dust, of course...)

IronGate wrote:
In order to attract business, I would obviously want to list myself on as many websites as possible.  Should I show the total number of projected rooms, and just indicate that some are not available?  How hard is it to update the listings?  Is it easier to book when more rooms are available?  (Some folks seem to not feel comfortable in smaller, more intimate settings.)

Again, what is your final number of rooms, and how long until they'll be open?  I put our projected opening on our website.  The best thing I did (and it was free!) was to put us on Google local.  I signed up for bbonline and discoverourtown and the local chamber of commerce, and the state tourism people.  I also got listed on our university's website and the race course website.  The last couple don't say anything about how many rooms we have, just number and website.  The others are not that hard to update.  It's harder to remember where I'm listed.  Do a Google search for your area and pick which directories will be the best for your money.

When I began having online reservations I showed the final two rooms as unavailable for all of May, and left them open in June.  Whether you should show them as unavailable has to do with how long until they'll be ready.  I listed them on my website because we were renting the one room out on occasion.  (We called it the Community College, since it was a temporary arrangement.)  If the rooms aren't going to be open for a year, then I don't think you should show them as unavailable.

IronGate wrote:
If I open with fewer rooms, I can actually save construction costs because the breakfast room can be added later.  For the time being, breakfast could be accommodated in the lounge, which will always have dining tables, anyway.  BUT, that means that later there will be major construction to add the breakfast room.  See #1.

Again, it depends a LOT upon what kind of person you are.  Can you live in clutter?  (Cause where do you think the clutter goes when the guests show up?  YOUR room!!!!  Or your owner's quarters.  Can you tolerate dusting a LOT?  When is your off season?  Will your clientele be weekdays or weekends?  Will you be able to find a contractor who will do the majority of the work in the off season?  Start after 9:30?  Work on a different part of the house on days when there are guests?  You won't be full all the time, so it certainly can be done!

Good luck and keep us posted on how it goes!

=)
Kk.

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If you're doing the work yourself:  It really is difficult to get construction projects finished once you're open and have guests.  Even if you have lulls in occupancy it is still a challenge.  Projects always take longer than you think.  You have to haul everything out & then put it away somewhere just in case someone stops by or books a room.  Even if you've blocked off your rooms, you will still get phone calls or there is something demanding your time.  Then there's project burnout.  You can approach this quickly with a never ending list of projects.   Especially if one or both of you work in other jobs while your construction project is being done. 

If you're hiring contractors:  You still have to deal with all of that.  Plus the mess and noise.  If you have guests, it's hard not to disturb them with the work. 

But if you have a good plan and are diligent, you can probably get it done. 

The other thing to think about is your timeline.  You can actually come back around to needing to do routine maintenance on the first part of your project before you've completed the whole thing!  Even with new construction there's ongoing maintenance for normal wear and tear. 

I guess the best thing to do is to have a project plan and a business plan and see how they come together. 

swirt's picture
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I think a lot depends on if you are doing your own construction.  If you are, then I would caution to get as much done as you can before you open, because after you open there is just never enough time.  When you aren't cleaning, cooking, organizing and you have time to build....you have guests who are napping and you don't want to disturb them.   When you have time to build you just get your tools out and get started and then something happens where guests or your significant other needs you.   It is a slow way to get anything accomplished. 

Our plan was to put up a 2 car garage with a common room and breakfast area upstairs the year after we opened.  Those plans have been shelved indefinitely.

I planned to build a timberframe gazebo in two weeks ... it took me 4 months.

I remodelled our personal bathroom 3 years ago ....there is one piece of trim that needs to be put in place  ... I still haven't managed to set aside the time to get r done. 

gillumhouse's picture
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Construction is done in the off-season so it is NOT a problem.

We bought a house and dumped every extra cent into making the upstairs where my Lovely aunt was going to live (yes, that is scarcasm) nice for her. We spent NOTHING on our part of OUR house that WE paid for. A few months later the old bat bought a house while we were out of town. Now we had no money left and the small amount she was giving to us (we did not charge her rent - it whatever she gave us IF she did) was no longer there either. BUT we were able to open soon after she moved out by doing a small amount of redecorating and getting furniture and linens. We have now been here 14 years and my bathroom would fit in quite nicely in Spanish Harlem (plaster fallen out or bowed from leak in a place we could not find until we put siding on the house) but no money to fix it. I had hopes of doing it this summer but have not been able to find a contractor. Maybe in the Spring. The point of this ramble is to reiterate what Bree said - have decent living quarters for yourself. Icing on the cake for my quarters? - we had to take the door off the bathroom to allow DH's wheelchair to get in after his bypass last year. Twice I have been ready to rehang the $#%^& door and twice DH has managed to have a problem requiring him to be back in the chair temporarily. I give up!

seashanty's picture
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Can you get a license and permit to open with what you have?

That's my biggest concern. And if you can minimize construction noise, dirt, safety issues and chaos while guests are there ... if the under construction part is not an obstruction for guests.

Listings are not difficult to update at all. To me, You say what you have and then the projected availability of the others.  College House has done this. She can give first hand advice.  And lots of folks are interested in construction so you post updates on your blog tied in to your b&b. 

Many (most?) b&b's are works in progress. Many (most?) need some $$ coming in the door!

I came in to a place barely furnished, run down, the whole deal.  No dishwasher (required), no range hood (required), no oven that worked, (required) one burner worked (required), broken down fridge that limped out the door (one that passed the temperature test - required). Just to name a few issues.  We did what we HAD to do in order to get licensed and open and have been working on it ever since.

Good luck.

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Morticia's picture
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OK, totally my way of doing things...we bought an operating B&B. The brokers (both ours and theirs) poo-pooed our concerns about the sorry state of the innkeepers' qtrs as 'just cosmetic, easy to fix.' OK, when? When do we rip out stinking carpet and strip 20 yo wallpaper that is falling off everywhere but right in the middle, which is stuck with liquid cement?

So, I AM making money but I'm living in a pit. I hate it.

If you would have a nice place to live while all of this is going on and you could rent a couple of rooms on weekends to get some money rolling in and to get your name out there and you could do a really good job of it, then why not? If you can't throw heart and soul into the 2 rooms and make it the best experience you want it to be when fully open, then don't. You don't want the first experiences to be poor ones.

A LOT of guests like being in on the ground floor. We still have guests who show up and tell us they were here when the wallpaper was still going up 20 years ago. (Not the same wallpaper, btw, that is hanging off the walls in the innkeepers' qtrs!) They loved it. All depends on your clientele.

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