So you want to own and operate a B&B. June and I ran our Salt Spring B&B for two years it was a lot easier than I thought it would be. I’m not an expert but did learn a few things running ours. Here are my top 10 B&B owner/operator tips;
1. Minimum two-night stay – twice the money for half the work – one-night stays are not worth it.
2. Offer a discount if they do not want breakfast and want to go out.
3. Buy the best quality vacuum and vacuum before you clean the room. Hair and spiders are the enemies.
4. Have a non-fixed price. Charge more in the summer on the long weekends. This may sound not fair but one could fill a hundred rooms on the long weekends in the summer.
5. Even if you are mildly thinking of running a B&B register your domain name and get your website up now. It takes years to rank on Google. If you open and start your website as an afterthought you will be on page 20 of Google for the first years or so.
6. Stock the mini bar with all that will fit. People actually seem to drink a lot. It was not uncommon to find 2-4 empty bottles of wine per night per couple. Mini bar is a small cash cow.
7. Make sure all is legal i.e. zoning, suits are to building code etc. Insurance is not cheap and if something happens you will hopefully be covered if you are totally legal. Good luck on a claim if the insurance company finds out your breaking the zoning rules. My brother worked at a big insurance co in Toronto and they would spend tons of time looking at how to get out of paying a claim.
8. Every B&B room needs its own full-sized 4-piece washroom – no one will ever share a bathroom – homestay is not a B&B
9. Never sell for cash declare all income even if they pay in cash. Keep meticulous records. Everyone thinks all small businesses skim 15% Never Never do it. Audits are not fun.
10. Enjoy meeting the people this was the best part. We still have people calling to see if they can stay (10 years later). Some still want to pop in for a visit and do.
These are photos of our B&B suite that we ran for two years about a decade ago. It was simple, clean and self-contained. Each suite had its own living room, bedroom and bathroom. You can have smaller rooms and suites but not shared bathrooms.
What are the B&B rules? Here are the relevant pages out of the Island Trust land use bylaw 355 you will have to scroll down the page a little to find bylaw 355.
For those born before 1970 or so here are some imperial translations of the metric used in bylaw 355.
1.2 Hectare (ha) = 2.96526 1.2 ha is not 3 acres it is less. I have found properties that just squeak by on this and it can make a huge difference. You can only build a 56 sq meter (602.779 sq ft) guest cottage on 1.2 ha or more. You could build a seasonal guest cottage on ALR land. I know this as a fact because I built the first one ever on Salt Spring. A Seasonal guest cottage can rent for $1500 or more per week in the summer as part of a B&B. You can not rent out a seasonal cottage full-time ever. See the picture below;
70 sq meters = 753.474 square feet. 185 sq meters = 1991.32 square feet.
How much can one expect to make? This is always the big question. It really depends on how many rooms and how hard you want to work. I would guess that a good operator could expect after the first year to be full 100 days a year give or take. Let’s say your average price per night is $150 and you had two suits that would gross you $30k per year. If you do all the work (cleaning took me 45 minutes to clean one suite) one could probably expect to clear $25k per year. Which is not a bad income for the hours put in. Note in my calculations there are no-cost and time calculations for breakfast (June cooked I cleaned). Some B&B do simple breakfasts some make gourmet breakfasts you will have to calculate your own time and cost accordingly. Some B&B charge more some charge less. These are just basic numbers for research purposes only.
There is no business license required to open a B&B on Salt Spring and your property tax should not increase.
On Salt Spring at any given time there are approximately 70 B&B in operation each year there is about a 10% turnover. Some stay open for years others close.
I hope this helps. If you have any questions you can always stay at a few B&B and ask the owners most will share info readily. It’s not as if one more B&B is going to put them out of business. Most Salt Spring B&B owners get along and juggle booking with each other to accommodate clients.
Scott & June Simmons
The Salt Spring Team