How to make sure owning a bed and breakfast is right for you.

Owning a bed and breakfast is a great lifestyle – if you are prepared for the reality of it.  Having realistic expectations will pave the way for a happier experience, for both you and your guests.  Here are 5 questions to ask yourself to find out if it will bring you the satisfaction you are hoping for.

Why do you want to own a bed and breakfast?

Do you want to do it because you love to cook, decorate and meet people?  Is it because you’ve become an empty nester and have extra space? Or do you want to make money while running the B&B?

These questions do not preclude having fun, or making money out of your hobbies.  However, your answer will determine how you will judge whether your B&B is “successful”.

What will success look like for you?

Will you count success by the number of people you have stay with you?  The number of nice guest reviews you receive? The amount of revenue you generate?

Can success not be all of those things?  Yes, they can.  But having a clear idea of how you will measure success will help you figure out what you need to do, focus on and quantify so you will know for sure – rather than depending on your “gut”. In addition, it will help you stay on course, and pinpoint where you need help if things aren’t going the way you planned.

How much money do you need to make?

A number of new bed and breakfast owners start out by saying that if they re-coup their costs of running the B&B and have fun while doing it, it will be worthwhile.  Others want to be able to make a living from their home.  Some people need to supplement their current income or a pension.

In most places, to be classed as a bed and breakfast, the owner must live on site, and you are limited to the number of guestrooms you can have.  You will face increased costs for things like advertising, insurance and utilities Depending on how you choose to run the B&B, you could be technically on call 24 hours a day – and in peak season, 7 days a week. You are guaranteed to have to work weekends and holidays – when most of your family will be off work.  Is the amount of money you need to make worth that type of time commitment?

What kind of personal support do you have for this venture?

Having the support of family and friends makes owning a bed and breakfast so much easier.  Getting their buy-in for your idea will help you tremendously – from having a shoulder to cry on when you have to deal with difficult people, to a safe place to vent when people complain your prices are too high.

It will be even more important if you are going to be using your existing home.  Having guests in your home will change the way your space will be used.  It will also impact on how family members can interact and communicate(no more yelling up the stairs), and especially if you expect help from family members.

Are you prepared to be self-employed?

If you’ve never been self-employed before, it is a shock to find out all the ways owning a bed and breakfast impacts your finances.

You need to realize that you will be responsible for making the all decisions, and dealing with the outcomes. Not everyone is comfortable making decisions.  In addition, without an employer guaranteeing your pay cheque, getting credit and health care coverage becomes much more difficult, and more expensive.

It is important to be honest with yourself about why you want to own a bed and breakfast.  This type of business has a big impact on both your personal life and finances.  Having clarity around your expectations will help you to focus on the things that will bring you satisfaction at the end of the day, and will make for happier guests, too.

To help you get started on making your B&B dream a reality, download the new 3 Questions Everyone Who Wants to Own a B&B Asks – or Should!  It contains some exercises that will help you answer some of the questions posed in this article.


  1. Brian Thorpe

    Planing to build a B&B with a event room looking for an education, I have need a small business owner for 24 ys

    1. Susan Poole Post author

      Glad to see you are doing your homework Brian! Hopefully the location you pick will allow you to carry your plans to fruition. Good luck and let me know if you have any questions.

  2. Michael Lee

    Recent retiree, single, own a charming 116 year old home in the country. Kitchen and baths are updated, fireplace, hardwood, etc. House is on 4+ acres and in a shaded yard. I have always loved to cook / entertain guests, although my busy work schedule did not often permit it.
    The home is 30 minutes from a popular tourist destination, but in a scenic area away from the traffic and hustle of the city. Still, fine dining , antiquing and cultural venues are only a few minutes away. As a retiree, guests would be guaranteed my full attention, and enjoy a tranquil and rewarding stay, with choice of pursuing their own interests.
    However – the house only has two bedrooms (one full / one twin, each with full private bath).
    I’d like to generate small additional income each month, but wonder HOW MUCH I myself will have to spend. I’ve read of need for licensing and additional insurance coverage. Is this a feasible idea? Where do I begin?

    1. Susan Poole Post author

      Dear Michael:
      Your first step is to check with the local town or county to find out IF you can even legally run a bed and breakfast where you are located. They will also supply you with some additional information on requirements for a bed and breakfast. From there, you might want to check with some local B&Bs as to additional requirements, such as liability insurance. If you want to do an in-depth exploration of what is required, and to know if the investment will be a good return on your investment, you’ll want to check out the courses I offer at Design Your Dream B&B System

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