Eeeek! We want to become innkeepers

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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?

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In the beautiful town of Fethiye we have a pension / bed and breakfast for sale. It is located in the prestigious and international Karagozler area, with an exclusive view on the marina. The property is 254m², it houses 16 bedrooms, all with bathroom and toilet.There are two kitchens, of which one is private and the other commonly shared. A veranda with a terrace is attached to the pension on the front side.

Please contact us for more information on this unique investment oppportunity. 450 000 GBP

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I don't think you're crazy at all. But you must do your due diligence. Shelley and I cashed in half of my 401k and we lost some of the total in fees and penalties and taxes. But we have built an asset that surpasses what we lost by a big margin. When you look at properties, be sure it is not just financially feasible, but scale-able and expandable. Good luck!

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

 

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Please take a look at my post today that might be a fit for you.  Certainly under $1 million and I will finance.

http://www.innspiring.com/node/19601

Armen Yousoufian

Maury Island, Washington (near Seattle)

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Armen Yousoufian, Maury Island, Washington

 

Tom
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And, in many markets, Air, HomeAway, Google SEO,  are changing the traditional B&B customer base.  Look at an inn's financials, but now more than ever "past performance is no guarantee ..."

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Make sure you open or buy a B&B where you want and enjoy living. You may not be profitable in a monetary sense, but for us living by the beach and enjoying a historic community like we are, then life is good.

Every innkeeper will have a different experience due to the size and financial means. Ours is a three bedroom inn that my wife easily manages. I’m still in healthcare so income is not the issue for us, but the B&B easily pays the mortgage, taxes, food, and  $ for my wife... and did I say we live by the beach! Lol. 

We have now decided and dream of living near a beach in Hawaii, so we are planning to selling our east coast B&B. Follow your dreams, life is too short. 

 

Silverspoon's picture
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We bought a historic house in an east coast tourist area 31 years ago when I was 41 and DH was 45. We both had professional careers at the time so we quit and went "cold turkey" into a new life. It took us a year and a half and everything (except retirement funds) we had to renovate a 150-year-old house as 2 guest suites and to put on a very comfortable addition for ourselves.  We opened a 2-room B+B in the historic wing of the house and later added an ocean-view cottage to max out the # of rooms allowed in our location.

I continued to work as a teacher for 15 years which freed me up during our high season to focus on the B+B, while DH was the full-time innkeeper, managing the maintenance and guest issues.  With 3 accommodations our seasonal business and my paycheck allowed us to pay off our mortgage and expenses and provided us with a very busy, but satisfying life through our 40's and 50's.  After 15 years I retired from teaching and for the last 15 years, we have enjoyed exactly the life we imagined as innkeepers.  Our home is our haven...there is no place we would rather be.  Going into our 30th year here, we are currently limiting our reservations by shortening our season and taking mostly returning guests requesting 5-7 night stays.  This allows the house to pay for itself until such time as we no longer can/want to welcome guests.  Sometime in the near future, we will only take guests in the cottage, giving us even more privacy and free time than we currently enjoy.  This lifestyle is not for everyone.  But I thought you might like to hear about an alternative to the go-get-'em, all out large volume inn with its attendant issues.

Being small has both advantages and disadvantages so get all your facts and then decide how big you want to be.  Here are a few of the advantages of having a 3-room B+B in our state.  

*We do not have to pay a staff since we can manage most details on our own, so no payroll or workman's comp insurance needed., and no scramble to find seasonal staff for the B+B.

*We do not have to collect or pay state or local room tax, making our bookkeeping simple and straight forward. 

*We have a manageable size property that can be run seasonally without unreimbursed expenses incurred during the off-season.

* The property is perfectly suited as a single family beach house with guest cottage if we should decide to sell in the future as a private residence instead of as a business.  

*We have the flexibility to tailor our calendar to suit our needs, both personal and financial. 

I hope this gives you a window into an alternative lifestyle that won't burn you out!

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gillumhouse's picture
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I agree with Silverspoon on many if these points. I have 3 rooms because i can handle that myself. I have always said IF I have to hire help, I will close as I do not wnt to have to deal with the paperwork or having to worry about what someone else says/does as an employer.

All I ever asked of my B & B was to pay the expenses of the house - and it has more or less, major things like siding, roof over the years did put a pinch in that, but we managed.

I also know me well enough to know I would not be happy to not be involved. 3 rooms makes it possible for me to be involved in my City (government as well as organizational), B & B Association, State Tourism, Rails-to-Trails on a local, regional, and State level, and in State Municipal levels.

Right now, until the new City Manager gets the new Development Co-Ordinator hired, I am hip-deep (or maybe eyeball) in planning the April Arts & Crafts Festivl, the May day at the Park for the elementary school, and the entertainment bands for the August BIG festival. THAT is what I mean by making certain this is a place you WANT to live in - a place where the quality of life is what you want and need. (and I had rooms rented in the midst of City Council, a Foundation Board meeting, and a meeting of the Board of a group in the UK. I have one 4-time guest who has YET to have me greet him on arrival- 3 times it was meetings and the 4th was band rehearsal- I am also a member of the Shinnston Community Band.) This is just to say, you will only be as "tied down" as you allow yourself to be.

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You run circles around most!   You have inspired me to join a local historical board.  I've agreed to a 2 year term.  We'll see how it goes.  Smilingsmiley  

No employees here.  Also three units.  I do hire a cleaning company for a vacation rental in a nearby city an hour away.  Very small company.  First cleans have gone well.  Fingers crossed.  

The last cleaner's boyfriend got a better job in a larger city.  I wish her the best.  She was a blessing. 

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Sorry you lost your best cleaner. That hurts. And congrats on taking the 2-year term. Volunteering gives a feeling that cannot be described - a sense of doing something besides taking up space and making a living.

I am SOOOO proud of me, I actually entered my checkbooks into the system and got everything to my guru a week ago!! I sluffed off so much the last 2 years that I filed for an extension even though all I would have had to do was get off my duff.

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Wow!  Good job.  Have started organizing for taxes but not yet entering.  Where does the time go!

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I agree. It is really importatnt that you enjoy your living space especially when you share it with others! 

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We want to find a great area to live in, small town feel without being too small. We still aren't sure where we want to be other than somewhere beautiful. Smiling

gillumhouse's picture
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Shinnston is a small town with big cities (for WV 16,000 is big city) within 10 miles north or south, 2 universities ( one 10 miles the State Uni 45 min), and they do not come any more beautiful than West Virginia.

My 3-room is for sale and there is another I know of in the mountains that is for sale (near ski resorts), and another in the southern mountains in the same city as the Greenbrier Hotel and near Lewisburg that was named Best City a couple years ago (lots happening there also). WV is a 4-season State. All of us are "one-man bands", meaning we are on our own. Just thought to give you some ideas. (Mine would probably be last on the list and I am not quite ready yet anyway.)

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Agree, being rich in life is not about money, but passing through life enjoying each day. Now my choice of weather is different, I ran away from the warmer coastal climate to the mountains, but fond memories of Tybee with mom & dad as a child.

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"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. 

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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. 

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Darren
Innkeeper & Owner

 

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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

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Julie

 

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If I had any available time I would happily take you up on your offer. Smiling

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.  

 

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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

 

 

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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.

 

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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. 

 

 

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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

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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! 

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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.

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

Good luck! 

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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. 

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 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! 

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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