Introduction and Greeting

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06/19/2013

Hi everyone! 

Just another humble innkeeper wannabe here -- wondering if I can pull this thing off.  Over the years, I have read and studied and researched and interviewed and slept around (in a respectable way, of course angel) at various bed and breakfasts.  I have not yet taken an aspiring class and plan on doing that soon.  My thoughts have run the gamut from "of course I can do this" to "what on earth are you thinking?".  I have proceeded forward toward the B&B goal when in my positive mindset and now find myself alarmingly close to seriously jumping in with both feet.    

My "I can do this" points are: 

1.  We already own a beautifully furnished and decorated 10,000 sq foot mansion on 5 wooded acres on the side of a hill in an upscale neighborhood with 6 nice-sized ensuite bedrooms, full gym,  2 large living areas, 2 kitchens - a large gourmet kitchen upstairs and another large kitchen (sink, microwave, refrigerator, laundry facilities, tons of cabinetry) downstairs , 2 large dining rooms, a huge game room (could be a conference center) with a huge bar (originally built to be a ballroom), 5000 sq feet of balconies with a breathtaking city view of Tulsa (population around 1 million)  and beyond that beautiful hills, a new near-olympic sized swimming pool with diving board, fountains, and hot tub.  The home overlooks the campus of a beautiful university and the 2nd largest skyscraper in the state of Oklahoma is centered in most of the homes windows.  We are  3 miles from the Arkansas river and the Riverwalk -  popular touristy restaurant and shopping area (on the river). There is also a busy mostly general aviation airport there where lots of people fly into Tulsa from Oklahoma City for weekend getaways.  We are about 5 miles from downtown Tulsa.   As we now have an empty nest, only my husband (who is an orthopedic surgeon) and I live here.

2.  We successfully owned and operated a vacation rental in a nearby community which we sold 2 years ago thinking we would rather operate a bed and breakfast. (It was kind of hybrid bed and breakfast/vacation rental as my inner "aspiring" made it luxurious, put out fresh flowers, homemade pastries and a breakfast-stocked kitchen for my guests.)  In my years of running the guest home we received only 5-star reviews.

3.  I am a people person and with my husband's long hours, I get lonely.

4.  We don't HAVE to have the money from a B&B to pay our bills.

5.  We can use the tax write-off and the extra money would be nice to go toward improvements to the property that we wouldn't otherwise be doing.  Also help paying down the mortgage (we are in our 50's) would be nice.

6.  I started and operated (and still own) a successful business in the medical field.  I have management that runs it.

7.  It would be a fun way to spend our retirement years.  (My husband is quite the gourmet cook and in in his happy place when in the kitchen.) 

8.  I don't mind (even somewhat enjoy) housekeeping chores and I totally enjoy gardening.

9.  There are only 4 fairly small bed and breakfasts in Tulsa - about 17 beds total.(Not sure if this should go on my list  of positive points or negative points as I am not sure why the other B&B's are no longer in business).  Mine would be the most upscale and would probably rate #2 as far as "interesting" inns. 

10.  I can handle the marketing, website, booking, bookkeeping myself.  I have designed several very nice, professional, and profitable websites. 

My "what on earth are you thinking" points are: 

1.  I don't want to work my fanny off ALL the time.

2.  I don't want to totally give up ALL of my free time to run the business. I love to sew and we enjoy traveling.

3.  I can cook (and do) but I would not say I'm a great or creative cook. I definitely have a hard time cooking and visiting at the same time (and walking and chewing gum?).  I tend to get rattled when too many things are going on at the same time in the kitchen. Of all the responsibilities, the breakfast thing scares me the most.  

Soooo...

Here are some of my calculations and questions: 

Based on a 50% yearly occupancy (yearly room nights 1095) which certainly "seems" feasible to me, a conservative GROSS annual income would be $202,572.00.  

1.  I don't know how to figure a price per occupied room for consumables (food, toiletries, etc.)  Is there a typical number for this taking into account bed and breakfast quality meals? 

2.  I was thinking that it might be more cost effective to hire a contract labor housekeeper for about 4 hours a day (1460 housekeeping hours/yr. at 10 dollars an hour = 14,600/yr.

3.  OK -- here is where I might be wayyy off in left field.  Do you think I could hire a chef to come in maybe two hours a day in the mornings and if so - what might one charge for this? Two hours daily for a 365 day year is 730 chef hours. If I pay him/her $30/hr -- that would total  21,900 year. (We have several culinary schools in the city -- perhaps I might find a talented chef right out of school that would be interested in such an arrangement.  

I understand there are a lot of other expenses involved (many we already pay) - but these are the ones I need to get a handle on before I go any further.

I appreciate any input, advice, or slaps upside the head that you might think that I need.  

Looking forward to getting to know you all! 

Martha

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Joined:
05/30/2008

Welcome!  Lots of good questions and thinking from you here.  I agree with all of the responses about more things to think about.  And JB is spot on, you will NOT hit 50% occupancy right out of the gate.  So bear that in mind.

One thing in particular struck me personally though and that was the long hours that your dh works.  If you are willing to take this on and be at the helm of this B&B venture (along with your other business), then you might be fine.  Owning a B&B is a very personal business and having the support of one's life partner (or someone significant) is probably one of the most important factors.  Not to discourage you, but you can become even more lonely if you are juggling everything on your own and don't have support from someone that matters (either actual business support or emotional support).  Not to be a Debbie Downer here by any means....

Zoning and permits are paramount.  Sounds like you have an amazing property and need to find your particular niche.

Best of luck!

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People don't notice whether it's winter or summer when they're happy.
~ Anton Chekhov

 

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10/07/2008

And confirming what Innkeep said, it is not enough to put out a hook, you have to bait the hook. B&B's really do need a niche, they can't be all things to all people to make any $.

The road ahead is more than can I handle breakfast, or the upkeep, it is so multi faceted..You already knew that. You need to have your heart and soul into it. I think there is really good feedback here. 

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Innkeep's picture
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06/04/2008

I'm a little bit like you in that I opened my B&B in my childhood home (not a mansion by any stretch) and am doing it more to keep what little sanity I have left and for the tax benefits.  

A totally different B&B was opened in my town in a 30 year old mansion with lots of surrounding property, but this place had been bought for a song due to bankruptcy, delinquent taxes, etc.  The folks who tried to run it didn't have the knack... 

However, they did have an open house for the public, and I would suspect that 25% of the entire town showed up, mostly due to the notoriety of the house.  The property was beautiful and really had potential for weddings, retreats, etc. The guest rooms were nicely decorated, the property and buildings had all been well maintained but the bathrooms hadn't been upgraded at all.  Standard size tubs with overhead showers, single sink with a small vanity and toilet between tub and sink.  Granted the tubs were jetted and the fixtures looked like gold.  All the closets were huge. 

If I were starting with what they had, I would have upgraded and enlarged the bathrooms.  One of my guestrooms has a double sized jetted tub, and that is usually the first room to book at any given time.  They had plenty of room to steal from those walk-in closets because you hope your guests won't bring enough clothes to fill those closets.  That B&B closed in the first 6 months. (I'm sure it wasn't because of the bathrooms, but they also were charging much less than $300 per night)

At this point in time, Tulsa isn't a Bed and Breakfast kind of town.  The reason lots of people don't stay at B&B's is because they don't think about staying at B&B's.  That means you have to market differently even to get their attention in the first place.  In my case, my B&B is on the main drag, 1 mile from university and hospital, with a sign out front as large as the law allows.  I spent beaucoups on website, directories, campus marketing, even taking cookies to departmental secretaries at the U.  Tried to blog for a year, put up a Facebook page. The first couple of years were pretty lean.  Last year (now that I'm 10 years older) I said the heck with marketing, and I've had the two busiest years ever!  In my town, longevity trumps everything else.  I claim no expertise or training in marketing, but throwing money didn't work for me.  I hope "Happy Keeper" (one of the Innmates) will chime in because he has learned how to market to his upscale clientele.

I like the ideas that others have suggested.  You will control your reservation calendar, so travel when you want to.  I find that I meet such interesting guests that some of the urge to travel is satisfied by staying home!

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06/19/2013

Ouchy!  Inkeep - you struck a nerve with the bathroom insight from the bed and breakfast (that didn't make it surprise) in your community. The bathrooms in my house are my concern too -- I was thinking (hoping) I could open the Inn and after money started coming in -- update them.  

My bathrooms are all in good shape and clean -  but original (30 years old) so definitely dated. 

Two of the rooms have nice-sized bathrooms with large 2-person, tan ceramic-tiled floor-to-ceiling showers (ceilings in the showers are also tiled and have a light). Glass shower doors.  No bathtubs.  The vanities and cabinetry are some kind of dark hardwood, probably oak - 5 panel doors.  Vanity tops and sinks (single)  are a tan marble with cream veins.  Floors are carpeted in front of vanities - ceramic tile around toilets. Toilets are tan.  Plumbing hardware are original gold (very upscale in their day).  I have updated the light fixtures in most of the bathrooms. Maybe a B- or C+ grade on these baths?

Two of the rooms' baths have the same tan ceramic tilework, marble and floors, but have tub/shower combinations: standard one-person (tan) tubs, glass doors, and tan toilets and marble vanity tops. Maybe a C or C+ on these baths? 

And then one of the suites has a two-person soaking tub  (no jets) with a shower and glass doors, but the tub and the other plumbing fixtures in this room are a light grey-blue, and the vanity top grey-blue marble/white veins. Ceramic tilework is kind of a pinky-tan. They are pretty but ummmm...yeah - the colors are probably dated. Maybe a B+ on this one.

The master suite (what will be the honeymoon suite) - has a wonderful HUGE jacuzzi tub (small pool?) but again - dated colors - dark gray marble with cream veins. This bathroom has so many other plusses - it's huge, has it's own huge fireplace, two person shower, private toilet area with bidet - it should earn an A even with tired coloring. 

Only two of my suites have their own fireplaces (and the honeymoon suite has two fireplaces!) but they all have beautiful views and/or private balconies or private patio/garden area.  

Soo -- now I'm really wondering -- should I open my doors with my current bathroom situations?  indecision Does a spa by the pool make up for the lack of an in-room bathtub or jacuzzi? (We'll keep the hot tub heated in the winter too).  

Also wondering about the fireplaces.  How important is it to have a fireplace in each room?  

I could go on and on with all the things I would "like" to do before we open. (Hardwood floors in all the rooms, amazing landscaping, outdoor kitchens, firepits, estate gates, iron fencing...oh my!)  Does anyone ever get their inn to that "perfect" place? 

 

Morticia's picture
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05/22/2008

If you're going to open with high prices you need to have the amenities that go with that. For the love of all that is sanitary remove carpet from the bathrooms before you open. I have never in my life seen a worse idea than carpet in a bathroom. Throw rugs that go in the wash everyday? No problem. Carpet? My toes are curling just thinking about it.

You can update fixtures relatively easily. Altho the gold finishes are apparently coming back. Saints preserve us.

To answer your final question - no.

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06/19/2013

Prices:  $300 for the honeymoon suite (it's worth it!); $165 for the 4 standard sized suites and $135 for the smallest room.  Except for the honeymoon suite, these prices are not particularly expensive for our area.   An "expensive" room downtown would be 350-400/nt.  

I see what you mean re the carpet.  It was new when we bought the house 3 years ago and only used a few times by guests  -  but yeah, I hear ya.    Will address that.

Even considering my prices, you would still do the bathroom updates before going live? 

 

 

 

Morticia's picture
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05/22/2008

Aspiring Martha wrote:

Prices:  $300 for the honeymoon suite (it's worth it!); $165 for the 4 standard sized suites and $135 for the smallest room.  Except for the honeymoon suite, these prices are not particularly expensive for our area.   An "expensive" room downtown would be 350-400/nt.  

I see what you mean re the carpet.  It was new when we bought the house 3 years ago and only used a few times by guests  -  but yeah, I hear ya.    Will address that.

Even considering my prices, you would still do the bathroom updates before going live? 

 

 

 

Yes on the honeymoon suite. You have to knock socks off being the new kid. The other rooms you can probably wait on. Definitely do not wait on the carpet.

Have you stayed in the downtown hotels? If that's your competition you need to experience what they offer. I'll bet there are some deals midweek. Just to get a taste.

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06/19/2013

Wow, thank you for all the  great thought-out responses!

To answer some questions put out there:

My neighborhood is unique in that it is made up of acreages that wind up a big wooded hill.  There is (for some crazy reason!) no neighborhood association.  The homes are all isolated from one another by woods.  In the case of my home - I have a longgggg driveway - one might consider it a private road. 

Because I have not fully decided what I am going to do -- I have not applied for permits yet.  I have however, read the city of Tulsa's requirements for B&B's and have followed other B&B's nearby going through the permitting process - and even when neighbors disapprove - the city allows them provided there is enough off-road parking.  I have tons of paved off road parking - I could easily accommodate 20 cars (though won't need near that much.)  

Another reason I have not taken that step yet is that I still trying to understand the airbnb factor.  There are a number of airbnb rentals in Tulsa (about 45 I think) - mostly small cottage type rentals downtown or spare rooms in someones home.  I am sure they are mostly flying under the city radar.  In fact, I read an article about tax dollars being lost to airbnb rentals in OKC with officials stating that they don't have the manpower to monitor these because addresses are not listed.  Neighbor complaints are the only way they find out these exist.  Over the last two or three years I've been watching once-thriving B&B's shut their doors. Perhaps airbnb is a factor and their downfall was "doing it right" before "doing it right' went out of style?  Is this a "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em " situation?  Sure makes me wonder...

Joey -  you brought up some really good points.  Regarding heating/cooling the house - we have 7 heat and air zones.  Bedroom zones (except for the master) are in two bedroom zones.  Of course, lawn maintenance, house upkeep and repairs, mortgage, utilities, and insurance are expenses we will have whether or not we rent it out (though I know those expenses will increase a certain amount)  and we will continue to live here either way.  (Our home is 30 years old btw).  So -- any income we make from opening it up to guests I guess is just gravy.  Of course, the more gravy the better! cheeky  I'm ok with it growing slowly - and in fact, that may be preferable (give me time to learn to cook all fancy-dancy like you all do!)   I like your idea of using the home for retreats.  I think it would be great for that.  Morticia -- I like your idea of talking to the culinary schools about working here for credit.  Would that be cool or what?? That would be a win-win! 

Seashanty -- you make good points about the privacy thing -- and yes -- that is certainly something we will have to feel our way through having never had "strangers" sleeping under our roof.  And that raises yet another question -- having complete strangers inside your home.  Has anyone ever had a guest that makes you want to sleep with the light on -- and one eye open -- and hand on your gun?? Yikes!  What do you do in that situation??  

I love this forum and I already like you guys! I've been reading a lot of your stories.  I laughed out loud at someones (?) story of a guest locking himself outside naked.   I feel like I've met some kindred spirits!   Thank you again for all your input.    

Martha 

 

TheBeachHouse's picture
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06/24/2013

Like Morticia, we have a private apartment with a big ole' deadbolt lock.  

The first night we had guests, I said to my husband, as we got in bed, "there are strangers in our house."   Pretty much the last time I ever worried about it.   The strangers are in the inn, we are in our house.  The two are separate and distinct.  

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Morticia's picture
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05/22/2008

It's a big leap of faith to open your house to strangers. We have an entirely separate space with a locked door. The inn space is the business. Our space is our home. Guests are not allowed in my space. Same way I don't spend my time in what I consider their space.

All that to say I've never slept with one eye open, gun in hand. Gun is locked away. I sleep soundly most of the time forgetting I own it.

seashanty's picture
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06/02/2008

Welcome!  

 Permitting first - absolutely. That is one of the biggest challenges you would likely face. Things like neighbors who don't want traffic in your neighborhood or a business.

 I think AirBnB would be a great option to test the water and see if you like sharing your home.

I also think an innkeeping seminar / weekend would be great fun for you.

It sounds like you have a large home with enough space so that you can be completely separate from guests. That is such an advantage. Innkeeping is 24/7 and if you have a private kitchen and living room, and your bedroom private space is inaccessible to guests, all the better. One of the biggest challenges I faced (and many innkeepers do) was lack of privacy when needed/wanted. 

 

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10/07/2008

Welcome to the forum Martha!

I was following right along, a bit excited for you then I read this:

"Based on a 50% yearly occupancy (yearly room nights 1095) which certainly "seems" feasible to me, a conservative GROSS annual income would be $202,572.00."

Do you think the size of the home, the proximity, the amenities, etc will fill your rooms? You may find you cannot expect anywhere near this right out of the gate. So saying that, would you be willing to struggle for a few years to reach 50% occupancy? Being open for one nighters left and right? I am answering only this part of your question and answer section.

If you have one or two rooms at a time are you willing to heat and cool the entire 10,000 feet and have the lawns and grounds manicured for $300 room rate? 

If you want to be able to have a life as well, are you willing to give it your best college try? Even when you have guests who won't appreciate all you have offered them? You think it is great, I think it is great, someone else won't. It is the law of averages.  Will you sink so much time and effort and throw in the towel at this point?

End note: B&B's are viable mainly because we do everything ourselves. When we begin to hire things out it really cuts into the bottom line. As you know what would come in would turn right back around into the place, whether it is old or new there are still maintenance and upkeep expenses.

I know that everyone has said to you "This would make a great B&B" anyone with a huge house is told that, over and over again. You have to pay diff expenses to host guests vs friends and family, business licenses, inspections, annual fees, marketing, liability expenses. In other words, there is overhead. No one will come without being told you are there, so the first couple years it is difficult to get above the curve.

I hope you take my words in the way they were given, to be helpful. This is a great place to find a variation of answers from different style inns in various locations across the US and World. I do know that I would love to stay with you, and swim in your pool and hike your hills and meander into town. I know your love for your place will shine through whatever you decide to do. smiley 

My suggestion would be maybe a retreat/venue to see if this is something you like, or are you saying you prefer the one to one interaction with people vs the events (that is also something to consider).  If you don't want to go into all the initial costs, try doing what you have done and go on AirBnB if it is legal in your county/locale and give that a shot. I know unusual and lavish homes are on their radar. If you rent out a certain amount you will fall under different tax codes, so check into it if that interests you. Then you can turn it on or off at will.

All the best Martha, I am still excited for you! 

gillumhouse's picture
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05/22/2008

Check the ZONING and get it in writing before you do anything. Once you have that issue out of the way, go to the culinary school and offer internships (with stipend). That would solve your chef problem without messing up someone working/needing full-time. If you end up doing Conferences, breaks/lunches/dinners would be needed. More work for the intern(s) to put on resumes.

Best to you in this. You already know you will be the high-end - where those ranchers and big farms want to go to relax and be pampered in luxury. Whatever made the other B & Bs go out of business will have no bearing on yours as you will be marketing to the big bucks people. Yours will be the place they  (Joe Schmoe) will save up for a year or more just to be able to say, "we stayed there".

TheBeachHouse's picture
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06/24/2013

You only need to be open when you want to be open.   So you don't HAVE to work all the time.   Pick the river walk season and maybe Homecoming or 'take the kids to college' weekend so your market is the best during those times.   Travel when you want to.  Close the inn in advance for your vacations.

If I'm a chef, I'm not sure I want a two hour a day job.   But you can certainly find a good cook or a baker or other kitchen savvy part timer to help out.

Your house sounds amazing!

Morticia's picture
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05/22/2008

It certainly sounds like yours would be an upscale property. I'm assuming you have buy in from the neighbors concerning traffic and from the town concerning business in home.

You don't have to do this full time. You can certainly pick your seasons to be open. So that may cut down on the stress involved in not wanting this to consume your life.

I would focus on getting to know those folks at the college to get them on board with how well any dignitaries they want to bring in will be treated at your home.

It sounds like you've picked your price point if you are calculating possible revenue. If you don't want to hate this job hire out the crappy jobs like housekeeping. You may like a spotless house but you will hate your guests if you have to pick up after them.

Getting a chef sounds like fun. If you can get in with the college and have students work there for credit that might work in many wants for everyone.

Good luck with the planning!

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