Construction and Remodeling

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Weaver's picture
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01/24/2012

OK guys, since I know you will be forthcoming with opinions, figured I would throw this out for some commentary.

As you know I am looking for a property, three front runners are on the cutting room floor now.  On to #4 looking good with supportive county government and planning department.  #4 is not currently a B & B, nor is it even activly listed for sale, owners pulled it off the market prior to auction last year. 

The place has everything as far as amenities I could ever, ever, ever want, except a pool (which I would love but don't need for opening nor the hassels), linens, and the critters for the farm-stay portion.  I do mean everything I could want for except enough rooms.  Plenty of land for expantion.

Currently 2 large homes, one with 5 bedrooms, one with 2 (over 2200 sf for 2 bedrooms). Caretaker house in the barns, liveable to say the least with minimal upgrades.  I should mention here the construction/architecture of the homes do not easily lend themselves to additions (stone and antebellum porches).  Additonally, minimal upgrades to either of the two larger homes to get 7 rooms running.  (5-7 won't support the place without additional events and 4+ puts me in commercial kitchen land so I am of the mind go big or stay home) Initial number crunching tells me the magic number of rooms will be 12-14 assuming no events.  So here is my question to you knowledgable and experienced innkeepers. 

Put start-up costs aside (assume funding for construction is not an issue).  Some construction/remodeling is necessary for converting a building for event space, and reconfiguring another space for the commercial kitchen. 

Would you build additional accommodations (in the form of cottages - near but not attached to the other homes) before opening or after a season of running with the 5 - 7 rooms?

Barring unusual weather conditions substantial construction could be done in the "slower" season. 

Weaver's picture
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Thank you for all your comments.  I have checked the tourism stats and that is one of the driving forces to this location.  The property sits in the middle of two good sized metro areas, about 30-40 mins to each.  I have checked the room rates in the area, and other properties offering similar amenities and style in the region.

The community hosts some good public events, has a strong tourism board, and several smaller inns.

This venture would be substantially  larger in scope than I had origianlly planned, however when opportunity knocks....gotta a least look into the possibilities.

Sorry if I am a little vague at the moment but, since no contract is in place I need to be mindful of sharing too much detailed information on a public forum.

Not that I don't value what you folks have to say, honestly I do, however, without a contract signed, sealed, and delivered I am still in speculation stage and must keep certain information confidential.

I have spent several days running numbers and at this time I am with the majority here, start with the 7 rooms in the two large houses, push for the equine tourism and occupancy, and when and if I am ready build cottages.

Wade in slowly and feel out the guests and what they might be looking for is sound advice.  Rome wasn't built in a day. All of you have had many great points, and have given me pause at one moment or another.  Sometimes, hearing what you know to be right from someone else, makes it seem a little more right in your own head.  Perspective is a wonderful thing.

 

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01/12/2012

Sounds like you are in the right track. Yes i agree with you - guard all the sensitive info as much as possible. You never know...

But i wouldnt hesitate to purchase the property now since real estate is at its lowest for the last 7 - 8 years, if you have the means and you feel passionate about doing it. : )

Joey Camb's picture
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Dont get me wrong potential is very valuable for exampe when we took this property on it only had 8 letting bedrooms now it has 12 with 3 being added at very little expenditure and they are our most popular rooms. We also are looking at expanding sideways into the next building in our terrace which will be very expensive so when I win the lottery! But it is definately something to have in mind.

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I would advise seeing if you can fill the rooms that you'll have at any kind of reasonable occupancy before expanding even without having any info as to where this location is, what the tourism traffic could/would be, etc.  Even with 5-7 rooms in 2 buildings with some help, this will be a bigger undertaking than you probably think.  Not to mention that this is a huge property.  Even those of us who are not afraid of very hard work will probably agree with that. 

But if you were to decide to expand, separate cottages I would think would be the way to go with that size property.  Cottages/cabins are what folks look for when they get away from it all, I think, in a pastoral setting. 

Add 50% to whatever you think you need to do in renovations and outfitting a start-up and you might be in the right ballpark. 

Best of luck in your endeavors.

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Joey Camb's picture
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Having seen the map would be a bit concerned about the maintenance of all that land and would be wary not knowing the local area ie where is what I would call the 2 hour zone. This is your biggest catchment area unless you are very near an airport. Also if you want any corporate trade you need some medium to large business in the 30 minute zone. I am always very wary of I will build it and they will come. What are the tourism stats for the locality? what are the occupancy rates and average room prices (all valiable from booking web sites) are there any good attractions nearby? ie the worlds biggest ball of yarn, home of Jack Daniels, liberty bell etc that would be an all round draw? I don't know the area so cannot comment but I know from B&B's all over its a heck of a lot easier to make money with a built in market.

Madeleine's picture
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I'll be looking forward to the finished product. I see a road trip next spring. You've in over my head at this point so I'll let the more experienced folks who have done major reno work pitch in with helpful tips.

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Weaver's picture
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01/24/2012

I have done more than my share of reno, I love it and I hate it!!!!

I am hoping to have this put together and be open for spring of 2013! God willing and the two creeks don't rise LOL.

 

 

Joey Camb's picture
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If I was building something in this case I would do cottages or cabins (take a look at proud texan) but I would design into each if they were quite far apart a sort of mini laundry room ie washer, dryer and space for clean linen, toilet roll and cleaning stuff. It would also mean on busy periods you have more dryers on the go to get everything through or if one packs up you have a back up. Is there any sort of woodland you could nestle them in so you couldn't see one from the other? they could have a choice of a sort of breakfast hamper waiting or to come to the main house.

Weaver's picture
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camberleyhotelharrogate@yahoo.co.uk wrote:

... Is there any sort of woodland you could nestle them in so you couldn't see one from the other? they could have a choice of a sort of breakfast hamper waiting or to come to the main house.

There are about 50+ acres of woods, and a knoll that overlooks the land as well.  There is a beautiful glade that overlooks the stream, and another overlooking the pond, screened by trees from the main house yet an easy (mostly flat) 400-500 foot walk.  There is a ton of open rolling hills but, with some creative planning many sites for cottages on the two parcels.  Unless you were a bird or following a foot path you would never see them.

I do like the privacy and flexibility of the cottages.  Great for honeymooners, and couples retreats. 

I was absolutely planning on "housekeeping" facilities in each cottage to minimize transport of linens, equipment, and other amenities and consumables.

 

Hillbilly's picture
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If you have never done this before, I would do what you need to to open it up as a Bed and Breakfast. Give yourself a full year or longer to find out if this is something you can truly handle. So many people think they can do this job and it is going to be 10 times harder than what you think! (not saying you can't do it) just remember it's 7 days a week and 24hours a day you need to be available. If you can get past your first year and you are still alive then you might think about expanding. Also from someone who has rooms in a main lodge and also has cabins, I disagree whole heartily with egoodell. Our cabins will rent first before rooms in the main lodge. People love the privacy of what a cabin or cottage give. Ask your self what you would rather stay in? They are more work but you can charge almost double for them. It also gives guests a choice. Some like rooms in a main house. Some people can not stand them. I would not add anything until after the one year is up. If you decide after a year you can't do this anymore, you will be able to sell the property easier than if you have a bunch of cabins on it. You then will have limited market for a buyer! Best of luck!

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Birdie's picture
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Bob wrote:
If you have never done this before, I would do what you need to to open it up as a Bed and Breakfast. Give yourself a full year or longer to find out if this is something you can truly handle. So many people think they can do this job and it is going to be 10 times harder than what you think! (not saying you can't do it) just remember it's 7 days a week and 24hours a day you need to be available. If you can get past your first year and you are still alive then you might think about expanding. Also from someone who has rooms in a main lodge and also has cabins, I disagree whole heartily with egoodell. Our cabins will rent first before rooms in the main lodge. People love the privacy of what a cabin or cottage give. Ask your self what you would rather stay in? They are more work but you can charge almost double for them. It also gives guests a choice. Some like rooms in a main house. Some people can not stand them. I would not add anything until after the one year is up. If you decide after a year you can't do this anymore, you will be able to sell the property easier than if you have a bunch of cabins on it. You then will have limited market for a buyer! Best of luck!

I agree with Bob. Wait until you see what your occupancy and guest expectation is, then if you want to expand, cottages are a great idea. We have a main house and a separate cottages. One of the cottages has a separate laundry room built on to it, but it's not for the guest use. You don't want to schlep linens and supplies, so a small laundry room near the cottages with a lock on the door will save you grief if the future.

It sounds like a great property! Best of luck!

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I'm also pro-cottages or other type of separate buildings rather than adding on to existing. You can easily design them to work logistically with housekeeping. It also gives you flexibility for hosting groups or events, for offering different styles, amenities, price points.

Some could be stand-alone cottages where guests have use of kitchen, living room, etc. Others could be still in the B&B style where they are a collection of separate rooms. This can make group bookings easier.

I'm also a proponent of getting it up and running in stages. Let's you wade into the market gradually to see what interest is out there. You'll find out what your guests most want and design the expansion around that and not what you *think* they want.

Sounds like an amazing property with tons of potential.

Weaver's picture
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That is a good point, design for guest desire, not mine! 

The best part of this property is it is not even on the market as a private residence or B & B.  Designed as an equestrian facility it is set up very close to what I would want to do for a farm stay.

I am leaning toward staging in the additional accommodations as to not overwhelm myself with too many rooms, too spread out over too large an area. 

NTM the event side of the business could help cover costs and reduce outside funding such as the dreaded BANK.

gillumhouse's picture
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Weaver wrote:

That is a good point, design for guest desire, not mine! 

The best part of this property is it is not even on the market as a private residence or B & B.  Designed as an equestrian facility it is set up very close to what I would want to do for a farm stay.

I am leaning toward staging in the additional accommodations as to not overwhelm myself with too many rooms, too spread out over too large an area. 

NTM the event side of the business could help cover costs and reduce outside funding such as the dreaded BANK.

IF it is near a main artery/Interstate, one thing you may be able to offer is the overnight stabling. My best room is usually the one chosen and the stable (farmer) gets $25 per horse in stalls. If they turn them out in the field it is $15 per. IF you are going to have the critters, your will probably already have insurance that will cover that. I do not touch the money - they pay cash or check to the farm - so I do not have liability. I get a fair amount of horse traffic because I am halfway between the East Coast horse farms and Kentucky and a day's journey for the Canadian going south (and only 6 miles from the Interstate) - I am the first night going south and the last night going north.

Weaver's picture
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gillumhouse wrote:

 

IF it is near a main artery/Interstate, one thing you may be able to offer is the overnight stabling.

Funny you should mention that, you were next on my brain picking list.  The property is about 7 miles from an east west interstate, and 5 from a north south. 

I was even considering a bring your horse and stay the weekend deal.  The property has 7 VERY nicely appointed stalls in the main barn and miles of riding trails without leaving the property.

 

 

 

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Weaver wrote:

I was even considering a bring your horse and stay the weekend deal.  The property has 7 VERY nicely appointed stalls in the main barn and miles of riding trails without leaving the property.

 

 

 

I can't even imagine the insurance for that!

 

Weaver's picture
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NOT CHEAP!

 

gillumhouse's picture
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I have a bring your horse special. The farm I use abuts the rail-trail so guests can just ride across the farm and come out on the 17 mile rail-trail. That package includes a packed lunch for the trail.

Weaver's picture
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I should ad.....in a perfect world guests would use the golf carts!  and not drive to the fitness building 1900 feet away.  LOL

Weaver's picture
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I agree I don't like the idea of cottages either from a logistical perspective, but didn't want to change the one current historic stone home, and the other (5 bedroom) does have the possibility of and addition with the right architect and a creative breeze way.

Currently zoned for B & B, I check zoning before a property even gets on the looking list. In fact zoning is why one potential went away, actually deed restrictions to be more precise.  I have spent approximately 28 hours on research on this property alone, including speaking to city, county, and state authorities.

Not rolling in $ but I will be hiring help once past the 5 room mark. The second stone house with 2200 sf and two bedrooms is over 2,000 feet down the entry drive from the main house with 5 bedrooms.  So, if you can call a 2,200 sf house,a cottage I guess one could say this property already has a cottage.

This is a unique property with some substantial history (on a private level) with my target market.

Don't think for a moment it will be easy.  Not my first choice, starting from scratch but, in a way better, I can do it the way I want, no overcoming another's vision.

BTW I am on the fence if dolies will be included. ;-) 

Madeleine's picture
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Cottages in addition to rooms in the 2 main houses might work. They'd need the right 'names' to get a draw. In re cleaning them. If you're building them you will add in locked space for all the cleaning supplies and refresh those once/week. (Enough linens, glasses, amenities for a week, refresh the supply in all the cottages once/week. That's why you need a locked supply closet with a vacuum (central vac???) and all the other stuff.)

That way housekeeping goes in, grabs what they need, tosses the rest in a sack for the laundry and there's not lugging stuff around from building to building. If they're far enough apart, get housekeeping a golf cart.

Weaver's picture
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Madeleine wrote:

...

 That's why you need a locked supply closet with a vacuum (central vac???) and all the other stuff.)

That way housekeeping goes in, grabs what they need, tosses the rest in a sack for the laundry and there's not lugging stuff around from building to building. If they're far enough apart, get housekeeping a golf cart.

Everbody will have a golf cart LOL.  Cars will be parked and unless leaving the main gate (yes I said main gate - there are three on this property, one with coded entry, 2 service gates, one for the barns and one for the auxilary buildings housing the special amenities).  The property is over 240 acres, with buildings spread throughout, a nice wooded area with riding/jogging trails, and about 1800 feet on the main creek and another 2000 feet on a small branch feeding the 2 acre pond. 

Central vac is in the main house, and a cental vac system would be part of a whole housekeeping locker in any of the cottages should I go that way.

The joy of this place is so much is done already except enough rooms.  Very well planned, no costs were cut anywhere except the caretaker apartment, which can be fitted out nicely when the kitchen is redone for commercial specifications. 

 

 

egoodell's picture
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First, it has never been run as a B&B. If you already have 5-7 rooms how do you know you can fill those? Get it licenced and up and running first.

As to additions, I would never do cottages. It is a hassle to clean. You have to lug all the cleaning equipment from one to another. If you want more rooms I would see if you can get the permit to exand a building. Uless, I guess from what you are saying you have plenty of money and plan to hire cleaning help.

And make sure that the property is zoned for a B&B. The quickest way to loose all your income is to try and change zoning.

RIki

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bc30md's picture
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 Riki brings up the points I would question... is this a location that has high tourist volume already? 12-14 rooms might be ideal for income, but only if there are guests IN the rooms... just wondering since this property doesn't have a track record to view. With no prior business traffic you need to spend a substantial amount for advertising to fill the rooms (unless you are in a highly visible location or the area is desperate for rooms for travellers).

Personally, (imho) I would lay out minimal expense on renovations/additions until after a season or two to get a feel for the market demand... only what you need to present a desirable product...

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Yes i would agree with bc that you may want to check if local tourism bureau has any kind of statistic for the past years so that you can project your occupancy rate more realistically. The target of 12 - 14 units is a lot for starting. But most important of all, you need to figure out what your occupancy rate is to break even for the month.

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