Starting a Bed and Breakfast

A Bed & Breakfast (B&B) can generate income to pay down a mortgage and allow you to meet people from other parts of Canada and around the world.  It can be a very rewarding experience in many ways, especially if you and your home meet some important criteria.

1. Is your property in the right location for a B&B?
Location is a key consideration.  Ideally, you should live in a community that attracts tourists and is located near a major attraction such as a ski hill, a beach, an amusement park, or even a university offering summer classes.  Check with your municipal government regarding zoning on your property.  Each community establishes zoning regulations regarding home-based businesses.  Although a B&B may have a minimal impact on neighbours, there may be concerns about parking, noise, etc.  It is possible to petition for a zoning change, if needed.

2. Is your home right for a B&B?
Charm is a word often used to describe the B&B experience.  The most successful establishments are in restored historical landmarks such as a grand, older home.  If your home lacks history, it may appeal for other reasons: architectural interest, amenities such as a pool, a view of a lake or mountains, etc.  Another important consideration is space.  Your home should have at least two spare bedrooms to make the effort and expense worthwhile.  Patrons also appreciate an ensuite bathroom or a bathroom for their sole use.  

3. Are you a ‘people person’?
Owning a successful B&B involves advertising in a variety of mediums, answering inquiries, making pleasant conversation with guests and serving breakfast.  Being generous with the waffles and coffee is just as important as being a generous host.  Many people stay at a B&B for the personal interaction and attention.  For example, they may be eager to learn about the local community and history.  Your business can excel at something even a quality hotel cannot: personal service.  A B&B owner should also be energetic.  You will need to rise early to cook breakfast and be able to keep your home spotless or hire people to assist with these tasks.  
 
If you answered affirmatively to these questions, you are ready to proceed to the next steps in operating a home business.   

Regulations, Permits and Licenses

Every B&B needs to meet government regulations and requirements for licenses and permits.  
  • A variety of regulations may apply including those related to food safety, parking and fire safety (e.g., requirements such as fire alarms, carbon monoxide detectors, and multiple exits from the dwelling).  Check with your municipality.
  • Regardless of whether you intend to renovate, you may need a B&B building permit.  Your municipality may only issue permits to detached homes of a certain size, homes occupying lots of a minimum size and in certain neighbourhoods.
  • Some municipalities require that B&B owners obtain a business licence, which involves an annual fee.
  • In order to do business as a company with the ability to accept cheques and credit card payments in your business name, you must register with the provincial government.  Registering as a sole proprietorship compared to incorporating offers the benefits of lower registration costs and less paperwork.  As well, you may lose money in your first years in business; a sole proprietorship allows you to reduce your personal income taxes.  However, consult an accountant for advice on your specific situation.
  • You may be required to charge hotel room, provincial and/or federal taxes.  Begin by enquiring at your provincial business centre where you register your business.

Running a B&B also requires careful accounting of income and expenses.  If you are unfamiliar with accounting and tax preparation, your provincial business centre or community college may offer courses.  

Ingredients for Success

Competitive Pricing
Researching the competition is a good way to determine the best price for your accommodation.  If your property is far superior to your competitors, it is fair to charge more keeping in mind that B&B visitors are price sensitive. If possible, have a conversation with an experienced staff person at a tourist information center.  In just a few minutes, they may be able to give you some candid feedback on tourists’ expectations, accommodation budgets and preferences.

Best in Show
Attractive landscaping, a well-maintained exterior and a clean, inviting interior are essential to a successful B&B.  If your home is an historical treasure, antique furniture and accessories can add to the experience.  Through the power of the internet, word can spread quickly about your business so try to ensure that your visitors’ reviews are positive!  

Great Food
Giving guests an extra tall stack of pancakes, fresh fruit and a hearty omelette costs a little bit more but it is money well spent.  As the saying goes, the stomach has a long memory!  A delicious breakfast is a great way to fuel their day and create some positive buzz about your business.

Running a B&B may never make you rich but it offers its own rewards!