by Pamela Lanier
Once you’ve decided that you want to become an innkeeper, and hopefully have attended at least one if not several seminars on becoming an innkeeper, your next decision is whether you are going to buy or build your dream inn. There are many schools of thought here, and below we have detailed some of the pros and cons of each. The most important consideration, however, is your own satisfaction. After all, for most new innkeepers deciding to pursue this is the culmination of a life-long dream. I personally believe, based on conversations with countless innkeepers over the past 19 years, that satisfying your dream is the single most important consideration in the choice of an inn, whether built or bought.
• It is easier to get financing on a known income stream, especially if you use the bank that has been servicing the inn.
• Most inns come fully decorated, with their doors open. You may want to take some time to change a few things, but you do not have to start from zero and so can begin filling your rooms quickly.
• You begin with a list of the inn’s past guests, which is a good start for newsletters or invitations for special weekends.
• Most conditions are grandfathered into the buying agreement so you do not have to work with planning/zoning boards for issues such as parking requirements, number of rooms in the inn, etc.
• Systems are already set up and most computers and software will be in place.
• The phone number and web site are already known and passed along with the new owner, as are any established listings on other inn or bed and breakfast web sites.
• Most sellers will stay on for a little while to help train the new innkeepers.
• You do not have the opportunity to express your vision fully. Though you can redecorate, you may be limited by the confines of the existing structure and zoning.
• The style and personality of the previous innkeepers will influence everything in your inn, from decoration to computer systems to staff.
• If you want to make structural changes or additions it can sometimes be more difficult to get permits than when starting from scratch, particularly if you are in a historic building or area.
• If the inn has a large number of regular customers, they can be resistant to any changes to “their” inn, thus creating another challenge to making the inn your own.
• The inn is completely yours. You can design the inn of your dreams and know that it will completely reflect the picture you’ve had in your mind for so many years.
• You can determine the number of guest rooms you want, their sizes, and the amenities in each, including internet access.
• You can design unique features such as spas or massage rooms, playroom for kids, or your own romantic secret garden right from the start.
• You have plenty of time to think out all the details.
• Guests will not have pre-conceived expectations of your inn.
• It can be harder to get financing for an unknown entity.
• Even with the best planning, unknown expenses and unexpected delays will occur, which can cause financial hardships and force you to postpone opening your doors.
• You do not have an established guest list so will need to do some work to create a mailing list.
• Your choice locale may not allow for the number of rooms you want or adequate parking due to zoning restraints.
• You’ll have to establish phone and other services and design a web site. You’ll also need to establish listings on other inn and bed & breakfast web sites.
Whether you decide to build or buy your dream inn, be sure to do all your homework so you are as prepared as possible before jumping in. Ultimately, the decision is yours and must be made from your heart.
Special thanks to Claude Gagne of The B&B and Country Inn Marketplace and Pasty Oertli, award-winning residential realtor with deep roots in custom building, for their valuable contributions.
Pamela Lanier is author of The Complete Guide to Bed & Breakfasts, Inns and Guesthouses, presently in its 18th annual edition, host of TravelGuideS.com available on over 7,000 Internet sites and portals and, with a membership of over 6,000 inns, hers is the largest organization worldwide of independent innkeepers.
Please address article comments to: Claude or Mariette Gagne ~ The B&B and Country Inn MarketPlace
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