What’s the perfect location for a bed and breakfast?

Almost every day I have a conversation with the people who describe what they think is the perfect location for setting up a bed and breakfast.  They think it will be great because their guests will be able to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city to a cabin in the middle of the woods in an isolated setting.

I too struggled with the decision about where to locate my B&B – in a town or outside?  My biggest fear was that in the “low” season (yes, I never anticipated before opening that I wouldn’t get guests on weekends all year round)  I would end up isolated which wouldn’t be good for my mental health.

I understand that there is a good chance that your property taxes will be lower.  But once I started talking to real estate agents and property owners when I was searching for my own B&B property, here are some of the things I discovered you need to consider about your chosen location.

Water & Sewer

In a town, you can expect safe drinking water and generally a sewer system.  If you aren’t on town services, you will have to be responsible for your own septic system or holding tank, and well.  In Ontario, if your bed and breakfast is on a well, you are required to have your water and well tested at specific intervals.

Road Maintenance

Living in a town, you expect your roads to be maintained and plowed.  Once you get outside of town, some roads are considered “private”.  If access to your property is via one of these private roads, you will be responsible for road grading and upkeep and you will have to make arrangements for the road, your driveway and parking area to be cleared of snow by a plow.

Heating/cooling your property

Unless you are located in a town, what are the chances that you will have access to natural gas for heating?  Your options can be propane, oil, electric, wood, pellet, etc. – there are many options.  But unless you get a propane or oil furnace, wood and pellet stoves require stoking.  Electricity is very expensive these days, and cooling becomes a challenge without a forced air system.  (There are some advantages though – you won’t end up having to heat or cool rooms that aren’t being used.)

Power interruptions

As a child, our summer home was located in the “middle of nowhere” and losing hydro was a common occurrence.  Even though I lived in an area with buried wires, I would get antsy when a big storm came – filling bath tubs, pails and kettles with water in case the water pumps failed.  However, water isn’t the only problem – how are you going to cook breakfast for your guests; keep your food from spoiling and keep everyone entertained while waiting for the power to come back on?  Even worse is when the power interruption is because a tree on your property fell on the hydro lines!  Back-up generators are available – but check out the prices.

House Insurance

If you look closely at your insurance policy, you will note that most policies have an area that indicates the distance from the nearest fire hydrant to your property.  The further away, the more your insurance costs. Even though I was located in town and I was close to a fire hydrant, my insurance was more because we had a volunteer fire department.  These volunteers are trained and have access to all the equipment; but since time is of essence during a fire, there is a time delay from when the call is made to the station to getting the information out to the firefighters and they can get to the scene.   Items that will also add to your property insurance costs are the type of heat source you have, and the number of systems (like well & water, road and power) that you are responsible for the upkeep of.

Communication Networks

Here’s something else you may not have thought of – a lot of the “middle of nowhere” areas don’t necessarily have access to cell phone service and/or high-speed internet.  Not only does that make it hard for you as a business owner to conduct your business (i.e. many credit card companies require a high-speed connection to be able to use their services), it is very expensive to have those services put in – if they are even available –  if not already on the property.  Cable may not be available (although satellites can take their place)

Living in the middle of nowhere sounds like a great life, but it does have it drawbacks.  When I was starting my search, I was only worried about becoming isolated and depressed!  By the time I learned about all the systems that were required to be installed and maintained so I could have the type of bed and breakfast I envisioned, I realized that any money I would save on property taxes wouldn’t even begin to cover it all.

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