There are two stereotypical images of the B&B. One is the basic boarding house of old, when taking a holiday was a luxury. The other is the idyllic country cottage with rose gardens and cream teas on the lawn.
Although both do exist, the B&B has to cater for a wide variety of needs and can therefore be whatever you want it to be. You may want to cater for the luxury end of the market. You could also cater for those on a budget, though. They're two very different businesses.
Before you race down to the estate agents, there are a few things you need to consider: for one thing, you will need a considerable amount of capital. If you buy your business in November, it may give you plenty of time to get ready for the start of the season in April. Good going. Just remember that this is almost six months without any income.
You also need to have sufficient space. If you want to have a four-bedroom business you should look for a six-bedroom property so you have enough space for yourself. “You should try to keep a part of the house yours,” says Beale, “ideally you need a bedroom and a private sitting room.”
Although it’s always impressive to see a row of stars or crowns on the sign outside, you don’t need to sign up to bodies such as the Tourist Board, the RAC or AA who run such rating systems. Businesses go from being ‘listed’ to having five stars or crowns. The ratings ensure cleanliness, room and washing facilities. It’s purely optional, but Beale has this warning: “They lead the industry in terms of style in as much as people come to expect TVs and tea and coffee making facilities in their rooms.” It can do your business harm if you don't sign up.
It’s also worth thinking about what size of business you’d like. Six to 12 bedroom businesses are popular. If you have slightly bigger ambitions, many former care homes are coming on to the market and being converted into B&Bs.
But the larger the business the more likely you are to need help, which means wages. Wages mean more money and more hassle. If you are looking for more of a balance between work and life, smaller businesses allow you to do the beds in the morning and have the afternoons free.
Because B&Bs are popular, especially in places such as the Cotswolds, then they sell very quickly. This is a factor to take into account before you enter the market, says Simon Wells from Robert Barry hotel agents in Cirencester: “Many people ring up expressing an interest in properties when they haven’t even put theirs up for sale. You need to sell your house and get that under your belt. Live in rented accommodation if needs be, so that you can take the time to find what you want.”
Rules and Regulations
You should check with the planning authority, given that you may be changing the purpose of the building from purely residential to business.
Depending on how many guests you can accommodate, you may have to register with environmental health officers. With four rooms or less you should be okay. Any more and your kitchen will have to be inspected.
“They look at food safety and check that your kitchen is in line with the law. You may have to make substantial changes,” Beale explains. This is particularly worth bearing in mind given that your kitchen may just be your standard domestic kitchen, possibly ill equipped for the many breakfasts you may have to prepare each day. You may have to go on a course to help you. In a worst case scenario, you can be closed down if your business falls below standard.
Fire regulations also need to be met, again depending on the size of your business. If you are a large establishment, you may be advised to fit fire doors and fire escapes, emergency lighting and planned escape routes. Even if yours is a smaller business, if you have an attic bedroom you will need to contact your local fire department. At the very least you will need a fire extinguisher and fire blanket.