Where is the best place to own a bed and breakfast? The answer is highly personal. It depends on your own vision for your bed and breakfast. If you want to offer a certain experience to your guests, some extra acreage and environmental features can come in handy.
Even if you just want to stick to offering comfy beds and good food, some local characteristics are important to consider as you continue your search. Your business probably will not survive as the only tourist attraction within a 50-mile radius, for example, so proximity to other landmarks and activities is important, and the location's peaceful and relaxing atmosphere is important as well.
From noise levels to taxes, there are many factors to consider and prioritize when searching for a good location for a bed and breakfast.
You Need a Unique Selling Proposition
If owning a bed and breakfast has been a dream of yours for a while, chances are that you have a solid vision in your mind of the experience you would like to provide. The bedrooms look cozy, charming and absolutely worthy of Pinterest, the food tastes second to none and visitors feel comfortable enough to mingle in the common rooms. This vision is definitely important, but don't forget to write it down so that it is easier to share with others and turn it into a reality; you will need a solid mission outline.
You also need to ask, "And then what?" Imagine that your guests feel bored. Boredom is definitely not part of your plan, right? So, what are you going to offer that ensures your guests have a unique experience?
Some of your offerings may require you to have a specific location, so you need to get this part figured out well ahead of your property search. Your offerings also need to be unique so that you can use them to help sell your entire bed-and-breakfast experience.
Examples of Location-Specific Activities
You will need a few quiet, wooded acres if you want guests to have a chance to take a relaxing walk through nature. If you have enough land, you can even set up wildlife blinds complete with binoculars, camera stands and comfy chairs for a chance to watch deer, birds and other critters in their natural habitat.
A modest-sized lake offers countless opportunities for family-friendly fun, from kayaking and canoeing to fishing and swimming. Unless you have the money to build and stock a man-made lake, your best place to own a bed and breakfast would already have a lake on the property. Oceanside bed-and-breakfasts are another popular option.
People enjoy learning something new while on vacation and even more so as a family. Horseback riding getaways, archery lessons, rock-climbing adventures and organic farming retreats all represent hands-on activities in which your guests could participate but only if the location is right.
A Good Location Is Quiet and Relaxing
Even if you don't want to offer any particular activity — just a comfortable place to rest and to eat great food — you still need to keep one word in mind: relaxation. People go on vacation to relax and get away from the stress of their daily life. For most, this means they want some peace and quiet. A bed and breakfast located right on a busy road could result in unwanted traffic noises while guests try to sleep.
Likewise, if your bed and breakfast is adjacent to a manufacturing district, there can be a lot of loud noises and beeps echoing from the factories and warehouses, and don't forget about the racket that trains and airplanes produce. Definitely look for these places on a map, spend a full day in the area to understand the cycle of noise and talk to locals before settling on a location.
Yes, you can soundproof the bed and breakfast with special doors and windows, but this is an added cost that you will have to swallow. What about when the weather is nice enough to open those windows? You want to let in a breeze and only a breeze, not a bunch of noise to raise your guests' blood pressure.
Cater to a Specific Crowd
When thinking about your unique selling proposition, you can also cater to a specific population. You might understand the struggle of traveling with kids, so you want to create a kids' paradise in your bed and breakfast. Another example includes pet owners. Dog-friendly bed and breakfasts are certainly trending, and some even have stables so people can bring their horses for a ride on the beach or through the mountains.
Catering to a specific crowd can influence where you want to locate your bed and breakfast. Welcoming dogs would require plenty of space for exercise as well as a location away from neighbors who might complain about barking. A bed and breakfast that welcomes children might do well located near a convenience store for medicine or snacks.
If you already have a few locations in mind, think about how you can take advantage of local events to draw in guests. Host your own version of local festivities at your bed and breakfast to give your guests a memorable experience. Celebrate big sports events with viewing parties and mini games. If the local community just doesn't seem very festive, then kick off your own unique parties (any excuse will do!) to drum up some engagement and interest.
Historic Charm Doesn't Hurt
As you continue to think about what your bed and breakfast will offer and why your guests will choose to stay with you, consider adding a historical factor. Most people can't afford to own a historic property, but that doesn't mean it's not appealing to stay in one.
The historic charm of your bed and breakfast extends beyond the actual home itself and into the surrounding location. If your bed and breakfast is firmly rooted in an old Victorian neighborhood, for example, your guests will have plenty of historical homes at which to "ooh" and "aah" during their stay.
Old rustic farmhouses have just as much appeal as richly ornate mansions but simply draw two different crowds. Remember that people like to go on vacation to escape from their day-to-day lives, which means they don't want to stay in a home that looks and feels just like theirs. If you can add a sense of historic charm to your bed and breakfast, even if you only go back a few decades to the '70s in your decor, do it.
Neighborhood Walking Score
Another factor to keep in mind when looking for a good location for a bed and breakfast is how easily your guests can get around the area. The best place to own a bed and breakfast will have efficient and accessible public transportation and/or have an exceptional walking score, especially if you are catering to the city-break market. This means that your guests won't necessarily need to worry about renting a car to get around during their stay, and trips to convenience stores and even tourist attractions can be accomplished on foot.
On the other hand, if your guests step outside the bed and breakfast and don't even have a sidewalk on which to stroll, they won't feel very welcome in the surrounding neighborhood. Bed-and-breakfast guests want to feel at home and safe, and a walkable area provides both. You can search online for various walking score rankings or just get a feel for the area yourself.
Nearby Tourist Attractions
A bed and breakfast in the middle of nowhere might be exactly what some families have in mind, but for others, sitting around for too long will make them more stir-crazy than relaxed, and they will be curious about exploring nearby tourist attractions.
The best bed-and-breakfast locations will have a great mix of peace and quiet plus convenience. It ensures that each family member can find something fun to do during the stay. Museums, historical buildings, amusement parks, nature preserves, famous landmarks, outdoor adventures, day spas, farm tours and even shopping malls all represent family friendly locations that your guests may want to explore.
These attractions don't have to be within walking distance (though it is a bonus if they are), but it shouldn't take a three-hour drive to get there from the bed and breakfast either. Try to stay within an hour's worth of travel to a variety of tourist attractions when choosing a great location for a bed and breakfast.
Possible Business Partnerships
Another reason for having local tourist attractions nearby is that you can potentially build a business relationship with them, especially those that operate as small businesses. Your guests may be able to receive discounts to these attractions, and in turn the attractions might help advertise your bed and breakfast.
While you can still forge business partnerships from afar, choosing a location in a community-oriented town can help ensure success. Do businesses seem to already collaborate for their mutual benefit, or is there a "every man for himself" attitude? Talk to locals in the tourism sector to understand how things work.
Don't Forget About Taxes
In all of the excitement of preparing to purchase your bed and breakfast, don't forget to consider taxes. It's all fun and games until you realize you have not been setting aside enough of your revenue to pay for property and business taxes.
Taxes will affect your choice of bed and breakfast location because rates vary from state to state and even county to county. For best results, consult a tax professional with experience in the bed-and-breakfast industry to help you understand what you can afford in terms of taxes.
Develop a Budget for the Location
As you get further along in the process and start to look at specific properties and buildings, research and come up with a budget for each one. How much do local competitors charge for a room? That will influence your own prices.
The number of guest rooms in the building will also limit your monthly income. And if you want to expand, you need to be realistic so that you don't build a costly addition with rooms that you can't fill. Your bed and breakfast needs to end up paying for itself, and then some. Get a clear idea of how much a particular location would cost you in upfront and monthly fees, and determine how successful your business would need to be in order to meet your financial goals.
Keep in mind too that many locations will attract guests on a seasonal basis. If you're looking at a bed and breakfast in a ski town, winter undoubtedly represents the busy season, so make sure your budget and plan takes into account the seasonal ebb and flow of tourists. For example, you might have to offer discounted rates to attract tourists during the slower months.
Is Location Everything?
Remember that even the most beautiful and charming bed and breakfast won't bring in customers without marketing and advertising. Even if you feel like the location you have chosen leaves something to be desired, you can make the most of it by focusing on exceptional service to create a long list of happy customers. Ask guests to leave you a review online to help with your marketing efforts.
Maintain a strong online presence with a beautiful website and active social media accounts. Use high-quality photographs to share day-to-day life around your bed and breakfast. Make people long to be there, relaxing in a cozy room, eating from a delicious menu, taking in beautiful scenery, making new friends around the table and having fun with various activities.
Don't feel like you have to please everyone or cater to everyone's tastes. Focus on what you love and make sure you do it well. Get your name out there by following the best online and print advertising strategies, and guests are sure to start booking their stay.
Cathy Habas specializes in marketing, customer experiences, and behind-the-scenes management. Cathy has contributed to sites like Business and Finance, Business 2 Community, and Inside Small Business. She served as the managing editor for a small content marketing agency before continuing with her writing career.