Empty Nest and a New Life

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Weaver's picture
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Hi all,

After several months of lurking, laughing and learning, I am here to ask a couple of questions.  I am about to be an empty nester (like I didn't see that one coming, they get older, they grow up, they go to college, geez one would think after the first two did it I would have a clue the third one will follow suit).  Anyway, life and circumstances have changed over the years and I find myself ready to take on a different challenge.  With that said and 30 years of sales, marketing, and customer service under my belt, the rose colored glasses have been checked at the door long ago.  If they weren't living the past 8 years in a 100 year old house certainly has.  So here are my questions to which I will greatly value your responses.

1.  How long did it take you to find the right property?

2.  Was it turnkey or just a potential?  If turnkey was it potentially profitable or a breakeven/profitable inn?

3.  How many of you live in the inn as opposed to a cottage or separate owner's quarters located on the property?

4.  What if I find the right property before all my chicks have fledged?  Longterm Innsitters?  Pass?  Jump and work out the details on the back end (I have a great support system)?

 

Weaver's picture
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LOCATION  

LOCATION

LOCATION

That is my mantra.  Prospect #1 went away.  Prospect #2 went away, too much swamp.  On to feasibility of location #3  3rd time might be a charm.

birdwatcher's picture
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Welcome! 

I'm sure that you've read all the replies and I agree with all of them. I do have one thing to say:Potty Mouth (auto filter) HAPPENS! trust me on this, unless the Inn you are going to buy is absolutely very busy, in an absolutely perfect place, and has an absolutely perfect reputation-then you MAY not worry about any other income.

But as we all know and Innkeepers know most-that is more than likely absolutely NOT GONNA HAPPEN. Don't want to rain on your parade, but you may do all the research and you may want this farm stay thing; but if it does not pay for the loan payment,the utilities, and the other expenses it will ruin you-we didn't have rose colored glasses but we bought a place in WV in Po-dunk and loved every minute of being there, it was two houses right next to eachother one was 5 bedrm 5 bath the other a little bigger-Owned it for 4 years-turbulant four years right when the economy started to tank, but tried to keep them both as we poored our whole being into doing it and all our $$. We had two teenagers with us, we did well-but it did not pay the expenses and it was seasonal. Not to mention that other aspects or "resort" type places consolidated and all but took over in the area which is seasonal and because of the newness of this and everything being right there for the guests-we ended up losing one of the houses. It nearly broke me emotionally,

Now because we loved the job or as it is more of a  "lifestyle" than a job, we chose to keep being Innkeepers, I searched for those jobs and we landed one in AR for a year and a half-not my favorite place but it got our foot in the door of being a Professional Innkeeper but not owning an Inn. We are now at our second long-term position in NJ. We still have one of the houses in WV and we would never get rid of it as our hearts there and we plan to retire in that state-we have a job that we love (most of the time) we don't make much $$ per say-but we have a place to live rent free and we are putting $$ away when we can and plan to pay more on the mortgage so that when we do go back home we have most of it paid off.

Its a love thing-some people "think" that they want to be Innkeepers but remember its a 24/7 job, no time off, not time to go away (unless you close your Inn or hire someone) and this is if you have enough $$ to do so  and lots of work. Doing it alone is rough even with 6 rooms-it wears on you and its sometimes lonely.

But if its your dream and that is what is in your heart-let nothing stop you! This forum is a lifesaver and sometimes people say things you don't want to see-but thats just truth.

gillumhouse's picture
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When the new Boy Scout Camp is open, will that help you? It will be in your front yard and the beauty of it is they expect it to be year round. I will keep hoping for you...............

birdwatcher's picture
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I'm hoping so but either way we are committed to this Inn until we get things in our financial area in better ways-or if the job market opens up there I am all for going home-i miss it so much, but better to have a job to keep the  house than not.

Thanks-we are also thinking that that area will grow leaps and bounds in the next 10 years and when I start looking around as I retire I  can say that I saw it coming and its great!

Highlands John's picture
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Hi Weaver,

1) It took us 2 years to find this place. We looked at loads of houses all over the country (UK). Some areas we dismissed becuase proprty was too expensive (Lake District) others because too seasonal and didn't think we could make the numbers add up (seaside areas). Although the house was just what we wanted we realise didn't just what an ideal location it was in for B&B.

2) The house was built for B&B, but the previous owners really hadn't done much to get the business going so we basically started from scratch. I'd say 2 years to start a profit.

3) Two of us/both of us. If you are going to live in your inn most important thing is to make sure you have your own private space (you'll need it). Our biggest bugbear with this house is that there is a guest room above our bedroom and we frequently get woken up by people getting up early/going to bed late/getting up to go to the loo in the night.

4) Can't help on that one.

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Joey Camb's picture
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As someone with 12 rooms I would go for 10 over 6 simply because then you can aford to pay a chamber maid to help you which means less time scrubbing toilets which believe me wears thin real quick. I would be very wary of buying anywhere without much of a built in market ie if you build it they will come as many many people find they don't come! for example we bought here for these reasons
1- large car park which is like gold dust here (ie $20 thousand dollars for a parking space)
2- we are 8 meters away (or 8 yards) from the Harrogate International Center which see's approximately 200 thousand delegates a year minimum
3- 5 minutes walk from the Royal hall which is a fabulous theatre they have just spent $28 million renovating and seats 1000
4- HIC auditorium seats 2000 and is 8 meters away and does a range of evening entertainments
5- 5 minutes from Harrogate Theatre seats 500
6- 5 minutes walk from town center and shops
7- 5 minutes walk from 40 restaurants
8 - range of tourist events - Harrogate international festival, crime writing festival, putting together a food festival for this december and christmas market.
9- surrounded by amazing wedding venues such as ripley castle who have 10 rooms of accommodation so get a lot of overflow.

these are all things to think about - what is going on where you are thinking of buying? do they have any popular or busy festivals is it seasonal or all year round? my big project for this year is to build relationships with local businesses which will provide income all year round. Trouble is because much of our economy is tourism and conference trade we don't have many local business that require accommodation but I am getting there!

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Weaver's picture
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Spent a lot of time in various Podunk WV towns, love it and it (WV) is a possible target at least Martinsburg/Charlestown/Shepardstown, along with upstate NY, NC, and some of the New England states.  I am from the west coast and have lived in MD near PA line for about 3 years too long (been here for about 22 yrs).  Time for a change....can't decide if I want more "weather" or less. 
 

One correction....there will be some outside income, if time permits, as I do quite a bit of freelance writing; it pays the bills right now.

I have considered turning my old place into a BB but with only two baths it would be a huge undertaking that will not pay for itself.  I have loved this house and my wonderful neighbors always "udderly" ready with fresh milk or fertilizer, however I am not sure guests would appreciate the aroma and the "puft puft" of a John Deere at 5am.

No it is time to go, I am finished with this place and ready to start over where there are less memories and new faces.  And yes I will need to love the new place like my own children because it will take as much effort to run as to raise them I am sure.

Any thoughts on size?  6 rooms versus 10? 

 

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 Check out an Inn for sale in Shepherdstown. It is the only one there. I think a good investment

Though...hope you have the bucks.$$$$ You will have a tough time getting a loan for a B & B today. Just read some of the past posts here to other aspirings and from those who have lost theirs Sad

All I can say is do your homework. Have you ever stayed in a B & B? If not do so and alot of them so you can compare. Take an aspiring innkeeper workshop for sure. You will find out if it is really for you or not.  Apprentice with a B & B and get the inside scoop. N

Whereever you land, make sure you sign nothing until you have check out zoning and permits etc. They are different everywhere.

Weaver's picture
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catlady wrote:

 Check out an Inn for sale in Shepherdstown. It is the only one there. I think a good investment

Though...hope you have the bucks.$$$$ You will have a tough time getting a loan for a B & B today. Just read some of the past posts here to other aspirings and from those who have lost theirs Sad

All I can say is do your homework. Have you ever stayed in a B & B? If not do so and alot of them so you can compare. Take an aspiring innkeeper workshop for sure. You will find out if it is really for you or not.  Apprentice with a B & B and get the inside scoop. N

Whereever you land, make sure you sign nothing until you have check out zoning and permits etc. They are different everywhere.

The Inn you are referring to was on my list for a while, I am thinking I need more not less land than I have now.

Yes have stayed in quite a few.  Love them, all very very different.  From small very intimate to larger more Inn like than B&B.  I have been thinking about an apprenticeship.

My New Year's resolution was to get educated about this new career choice so workshops are on the list for this year.

 

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Weaver! 

Just wanted to weigh in on your comment about wanting "more not less land".  As someone with a spouse (who worked full-time plus outside of the B&B) but who did almost everything B&B related myself, I can tell you that having to take care of the maintenance of 2 historic homes on 2 city lots was too much work with everything else.  When the lawn guy didn't show, I was the one who had to step in. 

Since you're on your own, have you thought about having to manage or take care of a lot of land and run a B&B that's at least 6 rooms?  Depending on location, you might not have the same number of guests as you would in an in-town setting to support the maintenance of a large plot of land.  Be sure to run all the numbers...you don't want to work yourself to death!

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Weaver's picture
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Samster wrote:

Weaver! 

Just wanted to weigh in on your comment about wanting "more not less land".  As someone with a spouse (who worked full-time plus outside of the B&B) but who did almost everything B&B related myself, I can tell you that having to take care of the maintenance of 2 historic homes on 2 city lots was too much work with everything else.  When the lawn guy didn't show, I was the one who had to step in. 

Since you're on your own, have you thought about having to manage or take care of a lot of land and run a B&B that's at least 6 rooms?  Depending on location, you might not have the same number of guests as you would in an in-town setting to support the maintenance of a large plot of land.  Be sure to run all the numbers...you don't want to work yourself to death!

Thanks, I have been running the numbers and the thing about the numbers is you can always make them work. Eye-wink

With all kidding aside the numbers will be the non-emotional part of this process.  I will only do it if the numbers will support the emotional choice.  I know how much time a big place can take, and have taken that into consideration, possibly a groundskeeper/caretaker couple if the numbers support it.

 

Madeleine's picture
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Weaver wrote:

Any thoughts on size?  6 rooms versus 10? 

 

6 rooms you can do yourself (or with minimal help). In an excellent location, it's quite enough to support yourself. 10 rooms in an excellent location and you can make real money. Albeit with more help.

Is there a 'partner' in this? A spouse or other adult who will be working with you?

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Weaver's picture
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Madeleine wrote:

Weaver wrote:

 

Any thoughts on size?  6 rooms versus 10? 

 

6 rooms you can do yourself (or with minimal help). In an excellent location, it's quite enough to support yourself. 10 rooms in an excellent location and you can make real money. Albeit with more help.

Is there a 'partner' in this? A spouse or other adult who will be working with you?

Right now no spouse, long story for another time.

Depending on the property and timing there may be another adult.  My best friend in life and death, she is the Ethel to my Lucy, but her kids are younger and location and financial viability may be a deciding factor.  For now I am planning on going it alone, considering a partner but more likely not. We have often referred to our later years as knowing we will be the old cat ladies sittin on the porch. LOL She however has a way to go to get to the old part, which could work to my advantage.  

I love hard work, big projects, and am looking for another career not retirement.  So real money is a definate deciding factor, as well as choosing a location that when burnout arrives there is a good exit opportunity on the horizon.

 

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   We, that's DH and I, have a 3-room (2 suites and a cottage) B+B in a popular seaside NE location....been at it for 23 years with no help.  We have seen a lot of innkeepers come and go in our area because they underestimated the time and energy needed to run a B+B. A big red flag went up for me when I read that you might try to run yours solo, albeit with hired help.  Hmmmm, I can't imagine not having a partner picking up the slack when we are busy.  Seems like a recipe for 3 to 7-year burn out for sure.

As others have mentioned, your location is key to your success.  We would not have made it past the first few years if there were not summer conferences in the area that gave people a reason to stay for a while...even though the beach and surrounding area are prime tourist destinations.  So locating near a place, like a college with parent's weekends, or popular established festival activities, is really important to the initial success of a B+B.  

We have had such a long "run" in our B+B because we have totally separate living quarters within the B+B...our own entrance, living room, office, bedroom and outdoor space.  We have placed limits on our reservations (no children, no pets, 3-night minimum during high season) that allow us to do all the work ourselves without killing us.  It is a lot of work, especially when the guests are PITAs, but fortunately most of our guests are lovely people.  Having another person to depend on is very important.  I can't imagine doing this on my own.

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muirford's picture
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Weaver wrote:
Spent a lot of time in various Podunk WV towns, love it and it (WV) is a possible target at least Martinsburg/Charlestown/Shepardstown, along with upstate NY, NC, and some of the New England states.  I am from the west coast and have lived in MD near PA line for about 3 years too long (been here for about 22 yrs).  Time for a change....can't decide if I want more "weather" or less. 

Any thoughts on size?  6 rooms versus 10? 

We are located in one of those towns (BTW, they are spellled Charles Town and Shepherdstown, if you are googling).  I don't consider the Eastern Panhandle to be either crowded or expensive, but I have spent far more time in urban areas.  We chose this location in part - and an established B&B - because we knew we could count on the tourism draw of the area and its proximity to big metropolitan areas like DC and Baltimore, and we were able to have cash flow here at the B&B from our first week.  Like Maddie, we had a full house our first weekend here.  We did not 'retire' to run a B&B; it was a second career and we still needed to support ourselves.  We have a higher than average occupancy rate.  Still, what attracted us most was the town we would live in - we can walk to restaurants, an independent book store, and a little movie theater.  Mickey D's and Wallyworlds exist in the county but you must drive.  You know Walmart is the biggest employer in WV, right?  

We have six rooms, and we have housekeepers.  In this county, a seventh room would require a commercial kitchen but you should find out what specific requirements there are in any place you look, as it varies widely from county to county and town to town.  We do most of the work other than housekeeping ourselves - cooking, customer service, marketing, etc.  If we went to 10 rooms and kept the same occupancy I would start to feel more like a manager (been there done that) than an innkeeper, I'm afraid.  I might be too much of a control freak for that.  As it is, we do have time for outside activities and we both are actively involved in town and volunteer boards, and my DH spends some time doing sofware still (which he loves doing) from the B&B.  

We live onsite in pretty good OQ - about 1000 square feet in relative privacy.  That was a very important factor in our decision - we knew we would go crazy if we shared living space with our guests or felt cramped and crowded.  We ruled out B&Bs with basement living quarters or ones where you had to go through the common areas to get from your own living room to bedroom.  We can close the door to our area and open it during breakfast service for access to the kitchen.

It took us less than a year, start to finish, from starting the actual physical search for a B&B to purchase, but we spend 10 years or more preparing for it (seminars, innsitting, staying at B&Bs).   But we tend to be planners, so once we were ready to do it we were really ready to go.  We had our finances in order and we were in a housing market that we knew we could easily sell our house (in the Boston area).  So that part was relatively easy.  If you find something before you're ready, there is a good network of innsitters out there that you can use, or you may be able to work something out with the current owner for a while.  

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Weaver wrote:

Spent a lot of time in various Podunk WV towns, love it and it (WV) is a possible target at least Martinsburg/Charlestown/Shepardstown, along with upstate NY, NC, and some of the New England states.  I am from the west coast and have lived in MD near PA line for about 3 years too long (been here for about 22 yrs).  Time for a change....can't decide if I want more "weather" or less. 
 

Welcome to the forum!

If you are looking for a turnkey historic inn with a great occupancy rate in one of those areas (spelled correctly) I have one I can recommend. (Not not mine, we are in VA). Totally updated and maintained in a great location, very quaint small town but nearby larger cities.

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gillumhouse's picture
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I am halfway between Fairmont and Clarksburg in the I-79 corridor. If you like small cities on the move upward, consider doing a start-up in my city. I have been hoping for another one for years. I have the wacky idea that 2 or more in the same area will make both better - because there must be something there. We have a LOT here - and more coming. The three you mention are crowded and (for WV) expensive.

As for the aroma etc, there are farm B & Bs that trade on that to lure guests.

Re size? in WV you do not want more than 6 unless you are prepared to install a commercial kitchen (triggered by that 7th room). Depends also on do you plan to do it all yourself or will you have a helper. I think 4 would be the most I could do by myself. Just having 3 gives me the time to be involved in my City and still do it all myself. Sometimes the 2 areas butt heads (as in this coming Sunday) but so far I have managed to work it out.

Weaver's picture
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gillumhouse wrote:

I am halfway between Fairmont and Clarksburg in the I-79 corridor. If you like small cities on the move upward, consider doing a start-up in my city. I have been hoping for another one for years. I have the wacky idea that 2 or more in the same area will make both better - because there must be something there. We have a LOT here - and more coming. The three you mention are crowded and (for WV) expensive.

As for the aroma etc, there are farm B & Bs that trade on that to lure guests.

Hmmmm may have to add that to the list of possible choices.  I like competition, it raises everyone's game. lol

I love a Podunk, way better than a faceless big city to me.  My criteria is no McD, no Wallyworld, and no public transportation. 

I have a degree in interior design, and am drawn toward the refinement of the old Victorians and Federalist styles.  I have thought a great deal about the direction I will eventually take and in part will be guided by the inn I fall in love with.  However, my life long love and deep involvement with all things furry, feathered, wooly, hooved and otherwise critter tends to drive me toward a farmstay style inn.

Maybe I can create a new niche market.....City folk who want to stay in a 5 star farm house.  Feed the chickens and eat breakfast on fine china, sip sherry on the porch watching the cows come home.  Litterally. Laughing out loud

gillumhouse's picture
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Wallyworld is down the road. We do have a greasy Mc but it is at the very edge of town. 2.5 miles from my house is the stable I use and because many of the horses were not thrilled about it, I had to post on my web site about the camel that lives there. We often see horses in town - they ride down the rail-trail. There is pub trans - it is one of those perhaps 15 passenger buses with a lift for wheelchairs. Good luck using your criteria to find an inn that will have occupancy to support - unless you are planning to farm also. Talk about hard work! Been there.

Weaver's picture
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gillumhouse wrote:

Wallyworld is down the road. We do have a greasy Mc but it is at the very edge of town. 2.5 miles from my house is the stable I use and because many of the horses were not thrilled about it, I had to post on my web site about the camel that lives there. We often see horses in town - they ride down the rail-trail. There is pub trans - it is one of those perhaps 15 passenger buses with a lift for wheelchairs. Good luck using your criteria to find an inn that will have occupancy to support - unless you are planning to farm also. Talk about hard work! Been there.

I know Wallyworld is everywhere, just don't want one 5 min from my front door.  McD is fine again just not 5 min from the front door.  The more I think the more there is to think about.

Real estate just like any business is all about location, location, location.

It is funny once you put what is in your mind on paper (no Wallyworld, no McD and no public tans) your true desires start to materialize.

I am thinking farmstay might be the way to go.  Tap into the agro/eco tourism market, with a estate vs working farm feeling.  I am just at home in a pair of 3" heels as a pair of muck boots. 

Right now I wake up, look out the front door and see a herd of milk cows, Wallyworld is 15 min down the road on the highway, McD is about 6 min.  No public transport out this way, but there is in town. 

So much to think about!

Good thing the last of the chicks isn't fledging for a year so I will have time to figure this out. Smiling

 

 

 

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Yes, take your time to think about it. Do you want it to be a lifestyle or a business? Or it's a balance of both. Are there special local produce that you can specialize in your farm stay? For example, my partner and I went to a small production organic coffee farm to pick coffee here in Puerto Rico.. I could easily see certain tourists would love to spend a nights or two to have this unique experience. We were offered lunch for our work at the farm. It was sure memorable. : )
Yes locarion is important. Get what you can afford because its much harder to move your farm stay later. Good luck!

gillumhouse's picture
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We found our house, left the last one in the old house until it was sold, and moved back to my home State. It was my reward for bringing up the "two-legged animals". Stupidly invited the wicked witch of the north/south/east/west aka my aunt to live with us when we first made the move. Less than a year later she had moved out, we redecorated (had fixed up the area for her that would become our B & B), and opened the start-up. We start year #16 as a B & B this year.

I do not take a salary but the house pays for itself. If I had not had to take out a loan for a private bathroom, would not have had a honking loan payment. I started (before Internet was there to bring in guests) with no mortgage which helped. The B & B makes enough to cover the honking loan payment and expenses most months. BUT I have 3 rooms and am in Podunk, not in a big tourism area. We live in the house - the floor plan is perfect as we have 2 rooms & bath on first floor on one side of the house. It took us 4 trips from Illinois to WV to find the house (found it on last try for that year and it had not been on the market on previous trips).

Can you convert your current house to a B & B? My first suggestion is to decide where you want to live - where will you be happy living. Unless you like love the area you will not be a happy camper. Once you know where you want to be, then look for a turnkey or start-up possible. Internet makes it easier to get started IMO because it is easier to get the word out that you are there.

Good luck.

Weaver's picture
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01/24/2012

Little to no outside income once I make this leap.  College covered, grants, scholarships, and student loans.  Oldest is in grad school, middle one leaves in August, and youngest, the weasel, will be right behind her in January of next year.  I am lucky, they are smart and I crushed their rose colored glasses many years ago, college funding is their introduction to the real world, luckily they get that part. 

Madeleine's picture
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If you have no 'responsibility' for college tuition you can sail free. If this is what you want, start the search. Where do you want to live now? Same place? Somewhere new? How much do you want to work? What is your vision for your life now?

If you find something before they've all graduated, be sure to block off graduation weekend so you can be there. Or, start searching out innsitters.

If there is no income other than the B&B in your future, then please, oh please, be sure you have a very cushy bank account. Running this kind of business is (can be) very seasonal and very expensive.

Madeleine's picture
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Weaver wrote:

1.  How long did it take you to find the right property?

2.  Was it turnkey or just a potential?  If turnkey was it potentially profitable or a breakeven/profitable inn?

3.  How many of you live in the inn as opposed to a cottage or separate owner's quarters located on the property?

4.  What if I find the right property before all my chicks have fledged?  Longterm Innsitters?  Pass?  Jump and work out the details on the back end (I have a great support system)?

 

Dang those kids, they do it everytime!

1- It took us a year to find a property that met our needs. We wanted to love where we were going to live.

2- Turnkey (We had a full house 3 days after closing. YIKES!) Profitable the day we bought it. (Still is. But not in the way a FT job with benefits is, keep that in mind.)

3- We live in an attached apt. (Great commute in the winter!)

4- Tough one. It is very hard to pay for outside expenses (college) with a B&B income unless the B&B is VERY profitable. Or you have other sources of income.

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