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Before you Begin

By Pattie Detwiler | October 08, 2010 at 06:29 PM EDT | No Comments

I’ve met many people who’ve told me about their dreams of owning a Bed & Breakfast, although the actual process of creating something new may be daunting.  It’s easy enough to buy a piece of property---perhaps too easy.  Before you purchase a new or used automobile, you can have it checked out by a mechanic to reassure yourself that it will perform and to be made aware of any potential items which might require maintenance in the near future.  But how do you evaluate the reliability and potential expenses of a Bed & Breakfast?  Even an existing B & B may require certain updates, not previously required, upon change of ownership.  Perhaps a certain special use permitted on the property by previous owners may not automatically transfer to the new.  There are countless such details where the advice of an expert Bed & Breakfast consultant can save you tens of thousands of dollars.

Sorting through the minutiae to find out what actually applies to your property is the key.  Recently, while registering with local authorities, a property owner was invited to fill out the very same zoning application form used for a high-rise building or a housing development--- an overwhelming challenge for someone merely wishing to establish a Bed & Breakfast and it was enough to discourage her from even beginning the process.

Knowing all the requirements and then negotiating with both Fire Marshall and Building Inspector can be difficult.  These officials have the authority to require fire sprinkler systems, monitored alarms, ADA compliance and the retrofitting of the property.  Nonetheless, Bed and Breakfast Inns are established all the time without expert advice--- even though, in the end, the cost proves to be considerably higher than necessary.  For example, lacking knowledge of the complexity of exceptions may prompt an owner to meet the standard of hotel requirements, even though a Bed & Breakfast is a different entity.  Such is often the case while negotiating contracts with fire sprinkler or alarm companies, who often are unaware of the difference and therefore submit bids for systems which are far more expensive that what is actually required.

In addition to obtaining permits, the Bed & Breakfast owner is sometimes required to present information to a Historic and/or Zoning Board.  Here, an expert can prove invaluable in analyzing and reviewing the process, not only starting the owner off on the right foot, but saving him/her time, energy and money.

As each venture is unique, it is important to investigate what the current preconditions are.  Just because a friend opened a Bed & Breakfast ten years ago, doesn’t mean the regulations have remained unchanged.  Sometimes a Bed and Breakfast is a new business for a town and its officials have no previous experience with the process, being uncertain of their own requirements and those of both County and State.  In all such cases, the process can be more expedient with the services of a consultant.