Eeeek! We want to become innkeepers

27 replies [Last post]
Offline
Joined:
10/07/2018

The other half and I are in our mid-40s and we've had it with the rat race. After soul searching and researching we decided we want to buy a B&B and live the innkeeper life. We are diligently saving our money but also visiting different areas we are considering.  I've heard 25% down and most of the places we would consider we are looking at $1M+. After our panic attacks subside we still think this is something we want to do. I've checked into converting our IRAs but we would lose about half of what we've saved to penalties.  Are we crazy or is this something doable? Are we going to trade the rat race for being overworked, underpaid, and no free time? How much is a reasonable amount we should expect to save?

Offline
Joined:
04/14/2015

"Are we going to trade the rat race for being overworked, underpaid, and no free time?"

Yes. Just like any other entrepreneur. It's scary and rewarding, and probably way more work than you think. 

PhineasSwann's picture
Offline
Joined:
09/25/2012

MikeMontana wrote:

"Are we going to trade the rat race for being overworked, underpaid, and no free time?"

Yes. Just like any other entrepreneur. It's scary and rewarding, and probably way more work than you think. 

__________________

Darren
Innkeeper & Owner

 

blackcat's picture
Offline
Joined:
09/26/2016

I am selling a lovely Inn in Clinton, NC and will be happy to provide training!  Smiling You can even come and work with me for a weekend/few days to see if Innkeeping is something you'd really enjoy. Ashford Inn.

Never a dull moment! 

 

Julie

__________________

Julie

 

notAgrandma's picture
Offline
Joined:
07/07/2017

Sounds like you are doing all of the research that I wish I had before buying our B&B 7 years ago. We were able to secure a business loan with 15% down, partially financed through a local bank and partially through a federal small business loan program. We set up our LLC with me as the "majority shareholder" 60/40 so that our business would be considered minority-owned, which helped secure the federal loan.

People often ask if there was anything that surprised me about innkeeping. The biggest surprise was how badly the previous owners had maintained the property, and how they sold us stained sheets, chipped china, and worn out furnishings. We poured a lot of money into the "turnkey" business during the first few weeks!

After 7 years, we've decided to sell our B&B. This time, it will be truly turnkey. I just posted our listing under the "inns for sale" forum on this site.

__________________

Your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are. - John Wooden

 

Offline
Joined:
09/10/2018

We are in the process of buying an inn as well and new to the trade. My wife is a family physician and I've been in advertising for 25 years. We hope to lend our skills that extend beyond just what we've done for a living (like kayaking, owning power boats, sailboats, RVing, camping, she sews and is amazing at all things craft, I am a musician that can play multiple instruments and used to be in the recording business, we both love renovation, carpentry, building and repairing.), I think we'll do fine, after the first initial WHAT HAVE WE GOTTEN OURSELVES INTO!! freak out!

ha ha. I wish you the best of luck and look forward to hearing more of your journey.

Offline
Joined:
10/07/2018

Thanks for the great advice. I've been lurking and reading, I've almost finished all the older posts. We have been doing our homework and already taken a training to make sure it's something we want to do. Every vacation we stay at B&Bs and take notes of the things we like and don't like, so we can replicate or avoid. Neither of us have hospitality experience, but the other half is a mental health provider and really good with people. I'm the cook and bookkeeper. Smiling

happykeeper's picture
Offline
Joined:
12/11/2008

We checked out several places before we opened as well. Year 14 coming up. Things I remember that caught our attention:

Didn't care for the community table or set breakfast time, so we set up with square four-tops that could be private or combined as the circumstances required.

Saw quite a few burned out types that had underestimated how much time off they needed, so we made that a priority.

Stayed at a few places that really didn't think about guest management and some that were really good at it. We decided to make it a priority to stay ahead of our guest's expectations. That means very few guests arrive expecting TOO much or something we are not. That helps us exceed their expectations without having to whirl and twirl, which can be very exhausting.  

 

__________________

Take a leap.... and a net will appear

 

Offline
Joined:
10/07/2018

How are you managing your guest's expectations? Are you doing this through your website or a general description of your place? A lot of my current job deals with managing customer expectations. We don't want to be super high end nor do we want to be motel 6, somewhere comfortably in the middle is our ideal. 

I agree with the communal table deal. The few times we've had that situation, it's been very awkward. Although, we have met some super nice couples at a few places that had just 2 tops. It seems if you're forced to converse it adds to the awkwardness but if given the option the conversation will come naturally. 

We are already planning for time off to avoid burn out, both together and apart even from each other. We are also already considering what we want for our own private areas, no basement room for us. cool

 

 

JimBoone's picture
Offline
Joined:
12/18/2014

walking dead wrote:

How are you managing your guest's expectations?

Website, but I suppose my idea is to always hold back a little and do something beyond that which is expected to send them away happy.

walking dead wrote:
 

I agree with the communal table deal. 

Just to be different, my favorite was a B & B with 29 (probably half children) at a large table, had the feeling that many of these folks returned that same week each year, but I believe your choices should reflect you and cultivate those guests that like the same, best way for both to be happy.

walking dead wrote:

We are already planning for time off to avoid burn out,  We are also already considering what we want for our own private areas, no basement room for us. cool

My thought is that it is not how much I take in, but how much we keep when the bills are paid, the property we choose will have a bearing on that amount and the time left for enjoyment. I wouldn't be happy living in a closet or basement either. Our building had been an eleven room motel, three of those rooms got added into our living area making for a large comfortable space, it has contributed to our being happy over the years. As you look at places, don't rule out non traditional looking properties, well just a suggestion.

 

__________________

Jim & Maxine

 

happykeeper's picture
Offline
Joined:
12/11/2008

There's a book called Attracting Perfect Customers. We did some of the exercises (separately so we could compare) in there and it helped us fine tune our website to appeal to the folks that we saw as our perfect guests. That was a good way to start. Over time, we have developed phrases and comments that set the table when our guests first arrive. We do a tour type check-in with no paperwork and, although it lasts just a short couple of minutes, we don't leave a lot for them to figure out. For example, we both greet every guest when they arrive and when they return from a day out. They come to expect that and we make sure we provide it. We rarely bother a guest in their room and they come to see it as their private space. We do our very best to honor that. OTOH, we do not pour or serve alcohol to our guests. We provide beverages with our compliments, but we make sure they no that if they want something, they must serve themselves. They come to expect that is how to do it and we don't cross that line. Guests learn immediately that they need to provide us with an approximate breakfast time before they retire, and with an occasional exception, they do. All in all, staying in front of these things and ensuring that your guests are managed without them feeling managed makes all the difference. Once they know what to do, they are very good at policing themselves. The local custom of no shoes is a great example. IF they begin to walk in on the wood floors, they almost always realize they forgot and come right back. We never remind them as if it were a rule. Just wait 5 seconds and they'll catch themselves. 

 

 

Offline
Joined:
10/07/2018

Your guests are shoeless in the house? OMG! That's awesome. Most guests in our current house kick off their shoes when they come in and we love it. I never thought we would be able to have our guests do that. yes

happykeeper's picture
Offline
Joined:
12/11/2008

Remember that we explain that it is the local custom when they arrive on the front lanai and show them where they can leave their shoes. You'll want to have something similar to avoid the worst of all things- an arbitrary rule that makes your guests chaffe. These are the little nuanced differences that make for fine hosts. 

"Oh- it's the local custom. Well of course I'll want to honor that." instead of "Why do they make you take your shoes off? Are the floors that delicate?" 

We stayed at one place where you couldn't roll the luggage on the wood floors because the wood was too soft. Too much of that and folks never get comfortable. 

Morticia's picture
Offline
Joined:
05/22/2008

walking dead wrote:

Thanks for the great advice. I've been lurking and reading, I've almost finished all the older posts. We have been doing our homework and already taken a training to make sure it's something we want to do. Every vacation we stay at B&Bs and take notes of the things we like and don't like, so we can replicate or avoid. Neither of us have hospitality experience, but the other half is a mental health provider and really good with people. I'm the cook and bookkeeper. Smiling

We pretty much had zero experience dealing with the public. Been at this almost 15 years, so it's totally doable.

__________________

Never judge a person's story by the chapter you walked in on.

 

Highlands John's picture
Offline
Joined:
04/16/2010

Morticia wrote:

walking dead wrote:

Thanks for the great advice. I've been lurking and reading, I've almost finished all the older posts. We have been doing our homework and already taken a training to make sure it's something we want to do. Every vacation we stay at B&Bs and take notes of the things we like and don't like, so we can replicate or avoid. Neither of us have hospitality experience, but the other half is a mental health provider and really good with people. I'm the cook and bookkeeper. Smiling

We pretty much had zero experience dealing with the public. Been at this almost 15 years, so it's totally doable.

Same here, no hospitality experience, no experience dealing with the public, did what you're doing, trying places and seeing what works and what doesn't, also thinking about what's missing. We've been at it for 15ish years also, we're currently #12 out of 1,100 B&Bs in the Scottish Highlands on TA.

Best advice I can give at this point is make sure when looking at places that they have a good split between guests space and your private space.

__________________

If you wanted hotel facilities you should have booked a hotel and paid hotel prices!!!

 

Offline
Joined:
10/07/2018

Private space is a must, the other half is an introvert.

ChrisandShelley's picture
Offline
Joined:
04/13/2014

We took out half of our 401k money for our down payment. We didn't need as much as we thought we would. However, I was working overseas, and had a lot of tax breaks due to foreign income and some other complex tax stuff that only my account knows.

My philosophy is that life is short. If your dream is to own a bed and breakfast, then I say go for it. Yes, there will be times when the dream is more of a nightmare, but if you do your due diligence, ask a lot of questions from people who have been there, but take advice with a grain of salt, you will live a life that most people just dream of. Even though we cashed in a good part of our 401k, we now have built up an asset that is worth so much more than what those mutual funds are worth.

You never know what the market is going to do. But you can be in charge of your money and your life when you build your assets with a business. If you don't, you might find that one of you doesn't make it to retirement, that retirement money is sitting there not doing anything for you, and you sit in a nursing home full of regret.

Just my humble opinion.

__________________

Christopher and Shelley Smith, Innkeepers
The Wildflower Bed & Breakfast, Mountain View, AR

 

Morticia's picture
Offline
Joined:
05/22/2008

I turned 50 just as we completed our second year owning our place.

I would not use my retirement money if I was going to lose a chunk of it to taxes and penalties. We looked at converting the retirement money into an investment in our business, but it wasn't really clear to us 15 years ago how that worked. I think there is way more info about that now.

Instead, we sold our house and used that money for the down payment. I'd advise having at least 30% down if you're looking at $1m+ properties. A $700k mortgage is big enough. More than that can be a burden if you hit a slack year.

You need money in the bank as well. Repairs always cost more and happen when money is tight. Having a full year's mortgage payment in reserve is something to think about.

Take classes nearby where you live. Then figure out where you want to live and check out classes there as well. Check out state innkeeping associations and go to their annual meeting or other sponsored activities.

Focus your attention on buying a property where you'd like to live. No sense buying something if you hate the location, no matter how profitable.

Think about who your perfect guest is. What kind of place do you want to run? Are you perfectionists? Casual? Do you want to host weddings? Family groups? Do you see yourselves having a swank City location or artsy vibe or farmhouse type place? What's comfortable to you? Whatever you buy it will take on your personality, so it's best to know what you're like so you're not fighting the property vibe that was already in place.

IE - if you're happiest in the city, don't buy a farm because the numbers are good. Ditto don't buy a family-friendly B&B if you want to host romantic weddings and happy couples. Find something close to who you are and life will be easier.

Anon Inn's picture
Offline
Joined:
09/26/2011

Much good advice in the archives on this forum.  Sounds like you have a realistic idea of the property you'll need in order to make inn keeping your sole source of income.  Keep working the numbers for acquisition and running costs for at least your first year while you get the hang of things.  Regulations vary widely from state to state and county to county.   

You haven't said what your working backgrounds are.    Prior customer service is extremely helpful.  Management and bookkeeping skills are good to have in your satchel.  Restaurant/catering very helpful in the toolbox.  Understanding property maintenance is essential.  

Our business has changed in the 11 years we've been doing this.  We started in 2007 with 2 bed and breakfast rooms then added two vacation rentals, the first in 2011 then the second two years ago.  The vacation rentals now bring in 60% of our income.  

Identifying your target customers then serving them better than anyone else around will serve you well.

Best of luck! 

JimBoone's picture
Offline
Joined:
12/18/2014

To me everything depends on you, your desires in life, your vision of innkeeping and a certain amount of luck or skill. We started in our late 40's and after close to 30 years I still love what we do and have no desire to retire to something different. Feel free to email me if more detail is desired.

What to purchase and how much to spend. Most of the houses I've lived in (and this place) might be considered projects from which I created my desires. I'm not saying purchase a dump, but be cautious about paying big dollars for someone else's dream that they no longer desire as there might be a reason they now want to depart.

In one sense it doesn't matter how much you owe on your place as long as the income makes the payments, however the hitch is the pressure that is upon us if something changes in our health or the economy. We chose smaller/cheaper, remember you want to get away from the rat race, not just swap rats and problems. We're on the simple side, but it has made for a happy life.

IRA-Retirement. I expect it depends on how much you have and your current tax rate. I didn't draw my meager retirement to purchase this place, however I did cash it in some years later when my income was down, at that point it was a better deal to me to pay the penalty and use the funds to reduce the interest rate and length of my loan.

Health insurance, don't forget this need you're reaching that age when it becomes important. I continued to work a job in addition to being innkeeper as for personal reason insurance was not available to us on a private plan.

TheBeachHouse's picture
Offline
Joined:
06/24/2013

There is an inn for sale in rockport ma for under a mil.     Search 49 Broadway, rockport, ma.     

Good luck! 

__________________

TBH

 

PhineasSwann's picture
Offline
Joined:
09/25/2012

And don't cash in those IRAs. Find one of the companies that help you set up a rollover program where you can buy your inn with some of your retirement money without the penalties and fines. 

happykeeper's picture
Offline
Joined:
12/11/2008

 For those that have heard me go on and on over the last ten years, please forgive me in advance. blush

The life of an innkeeper can be many things. It can come with many challenges. There will be times that you are unsure where to go next or even how to get there. Like most things worth doing, it will require your very best and it will remind you when you need to look inward to be better. It will also give you something that most people don't have. It will give you freedom. That said, there are some caveats that you ignore at your your own peril. No doubt, you will hear many of those from my fellow innkeepers.

What I can tell you is that it has given me and my husband a chance to live a life we did not think was possible twenty years ago. To be able to travel as extensively as we have, to be able to attend game two of the 2016 World Series (lifelong Cubs fan - shook Tom Ricketts hand), to meet some amazing people (just had the xprize people here), to incarnate Chef Kenny and be invited to Ferrandi's School of French Cooking in Paris to cook and demonstrate our breakfasts, to have my dream class one commercial kitchen (took several years), to still have more steps ahead (new greenhouse and permit to serve farm to table to the general public, and on and on. 

The key has been a passion for what we're doing, a determination to live a BALANCED life, a series of good choices, and fortunate turns that have helped us along. To that end, I say:

  1. If you have a passion, build it into what you do. 
  2. Adhere to the rules about how much time you MUST take off and make sure you can sustain that.
  3. Have a business plan you believe in.
  4. Be open to what opportunities knock at your door. 
  5. Acknowledge and be grateful for the fortuitous meshing of circumstances that help you succeed. 
  6. Have an exit plan. We are in year 3 of a 5 year exit plan. 

Want to change your life? Just do it! 

gillumhouse's picture
Offline
Joined:
05/22/2008

I have 3 rooms in a city too small to be on most maps (pop just under 2300) with a rail-trail on my door step, just under 7 miles from the Interstate, one university 10 miles north  and the big STATE University 45 minutes away (neither bring business today as well over 2500 hotel rooms have been built since I opened in 1996), covered bridges, wineries, history, yadada..... I have made it the destination it is.

ALL I ever asked my B & B to do was cover the expenses of the house, and most years it has done just that. I do everything - if I ever have to hire help I will close because I do not want to deal with workman's comp, FICA, unemployment, etc. What I DO have instead of a lot of money, is the time to be involved in my City & State. Now City Clerk, on several Boards & Commissions of the City, in several organizations in the city, involved in the State B & B Assoc, on the Board of a Rail-Trail Foundation, and on the Board of a UK B & B group. I am truly enjoying my life. (I  was active in the church I attend until my son started calling me on Sundays and I never know what time it will work for him as we have a 7-hour time diff - BUT I DO keep an hour of vigil every Saturday night from 9:00 to 10:30 at the catholic Chapel of Perpetual Adoration) I have the best of both worlds - being ancient helps though  since the SS + the B & B gives me all I need. I figure when I sell, the new innkeeper will have new ideas to bring more guests.

When I sell (or try to) I will be selling for the market price of the house - AND IF they agree in writing, to operate as a B & B for at least 3 years (long enough to give it a decent try), I will be taking ONLY my personal property - the only thing the new owners will have to do in guest territory is buy new paintings for the walls as my husband'soriginal painings are up now.

Generic's picture
Offline
Joined:
02/24/2011

To avoid doing taxes, we simply use an agency and pay them a fixed hourly fee. They take care of everything else. And she leaves her for another job when she's done for the day. 

__________________

Permission to quote in whole or in part, other than usage on this forum, is entirely forbidden.

 

Arks's picture
Offline
Joined:
05/22/2010

Others here will chime in because several have done exactly what you are dreaming of. I haven't. I kept my full time job and run an inn too, but I did it in a way where the inn almost runs itself (paid housekeepers, no breakfast, guests come and go and 98% of the time I never even see them).

My thoughts are:

  • If you have to throw away half of what you've saved, in IRA penalties, don't do it!
  • Yes, you'll be overworked and underpaid. The running joke here is about people who think you just serve breakfast and sit and talk and sip wine with your guests all day. That's not the case. You work work work, cleaning rooms and trashed bathrooms, answering the phone, doing extra shopping to satisfy those who demand gluten-free vegan meals that are 100% organic, etc.

    Your only free time will be when you close the inn and have zero income on those days. There are no paid vacations, no paid sick leave, no paid retirement other than social security you're forced to pay in. I think most will agree that the inn helps you pay for a very nice big house that's hard to sell when you want to retire, but doesn't produce much additional income for living expenses. 

__________________

All saints can do miracles, but few of them can keep hotel. ~ Mark Twain

 

happykeeper's picture
Offline
Joined:
12/11/2008

Talk about getting ahead of the crowd! You've been paying attention all these years Arks! 

Arks's picture
Offline
Joined:
05/22/2010

happykeeper wrote:

Talk about getting ahead of the crowd! You've been paying attention all these years Arks! 

I have, and I've been well paid by all the good info I've learned here.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.