Wish you were here? The truth about run­ning a guest­house

Buy­ing a B&B can change your life­style, so guest houses are hot prop­erty. Sharon Dale re­ports.

Yorkshire Post - Property - - PROPERTY - Andrew and Julie Grant Philip and Ali­son Standen, Pam Jack­son

RUN­NING a B&B in­volves far more than cook­ing a full English and chang­ing beds, as any guest house owner will tell you.

But the mar­ket­ing, book­keep­ing, meet­ing, greet­ing, dec­o­rat­ing, clean­ing and cook­ing can bring a host of ben­e­fits to those who want to es­cape the nine-to-five.

It’s an al­ter­na­tive life­style that is par­tic­u­larly ap­peal­ing at the mo­ment. Job un­cer­tainty, eco­nomic gloom and talk of more fam­i­lies hol­i­day­ing at home have fuelled a rise in the num­ber of would-be B&B buy­ers, ac­cord­ing to David Broschomb, of prop­erty agents Fleurets.

“It’s def­i­nitely a life­style thing. It usu­ally gives you the chance to live in a beau­ti­ful lo­ca­tion in the kind of house you might not be able to af­ford if the prop­erty didn’t gen­er­ate an in­come. For fam­i­lies it means be­ing able to spend more time to­gether and be­ing there for the chil­dren.

“Yes, it’s hard work, but it is very re­ward­ing and it gives you the op­por­tu­nity to run your own busi­ness.”

Although in­ter­est in B&Bs is high at the mo­ment, this doesn’t al­ways re­sult in sales.

Peter Bean, of Col­liers In­ter­na­tional, says: “Guest houses are prin­ci­pally bought by peo­ple who want a ca­reer change and have a house to sell, so the low level of ac­tiv­ity in the hous­ing mar­ket im­pacts on the guest house mar­ket.”

Fi­nance too can be hard to se­cure, but if you are suc­cess­ful, the own­ers of the guest houses pic­tured here re­veal what it’s re­ally like:

run the Lysander in Scar­bor­ough, which has 17 let­ting bed­rooms and sep­a­rate two-bed­room own­ers’ ac­com­mo­da­tion. They have three part-time wait­resses. ANDREW and Julie had a small dec­o­rat­ing and soft fur­nish­ing busi­ness in Not­ting­ham but gave it up to live and work in Scar­bor­ough, where they had spent many happy week­ends.

Julie says: ”We loved the idea of bring­ing up our daugh­ter here, so we sold our own house and bought this in 2004. It was pur­pose-built as a guest house in the 1940s, but it needed a lot of work. We put in new en-suites and re­dec­o­rated ev­ery­where over the win­ter then re-opened. The first three days I felt sick with worry but it is sur­pris­ing how quickly you learn. It’s a lovely job and re­ally re­ward­ing. Peo­ple come here look­ing shat­tered and go home re­laxed and happy. It has also given us a very good liv­ing.

She adds: “The busi­ness has changed a lot. We stopped do­ing evening meals a cou­ple of years ago be­cause there’s no call for them. In­stead we rec­om­mend places to eat and restau­rant own­ers of­fer our guests dis­counts. It works well and helps sup­port other lo­cal busi­nesses. We’ve also no­ticed that peo­ple are stay­ing for longer. They’ve been come for a week or five nights this sum­mer, which seems to be proof that stay­ca­tion­ing is be­com­ing more pop­u­lar.”

The Grants work seven days a week but close from Novem­ber to mid-March, apart from open­ing for the New Year mar­ket.

“We ren­o­vate, go on hol­i­day and lie in for as long as we like. The rest of the year it can be try­ing but we don’t mind. I look at the view and still can’t be­lieve I’m lucky enough to live here.”

Julie sug­gests that buy­ers should look at some­where with sep­a­rate own­ers’ ac­com­mo­da­tion and rec­om­mends get­ting an ac­coun­tant.

“It helps hav­ing some­where pri­vate to live be­cause it’s more re­lax­ing and your chil­dren can play their mu­sic as loud as they like,” she says.

The Grants are selling to buy a small ho­tel. “I re­ally can’t see my­self do­ing any­thing else. You get the odd awk­ward cus­tomer but that’s the only dis­ad­van­tage I can think of.”

run Acorn Lodge, Har­ro­gate, which has seven let­ting bed­rooms and a sep­a­rate three-bed­room own­ers’ house. THEY bought the prop­erty seven years ago after Philip de­cided on a ca­reer change. He gave up his job as a call cen­tre man­ager to run the guest house, while Ali­son, a part-time teacher, does the book-keep­ing. They have one part-time mem­ber of staff who helps with the clean­ing.

Philip says: “We re­ally en­joy what we do. I love talk­ing to peo­ple, which helps be­cause you have to be so­cia­ble.

“A typ­i­cal day for me starts at about 6.30am when I be­gin pre­par­ing a fresh fruit salad for the guests. Then I’m cook­ing sausages and ba­con be­fore clear­ing away the break­fast things. When the guests start go­ing out about 10am, we start on tidy­ing and clean­ing the rooms.

“We fin­ish at about 1pm and then we’re free for the af­ter­noon be­cause we en­cour­age peo­ple to ar­rive ei­ther be­fore mid­day or after 5pm. If they want to come in the af­ter­noon then we have a key sys­tem, where they can let them­selves in. That works re­ally well and al­lows us to go out. At first we used to wait in, which meant we were stuck in­doors.”

Guests in­clude con­fer­ence cen­tre del­e­gates along with those who erect the stands, tourists and busi­ness peo­ple. The Standens, who have three chil­dren, are selling to pur­sue new am­bi­tions.

“We are ei­ther look­ing at buy­ing a place in France with gites or maybe a café here. I have al­ways wanted to own a café ,” says Philip. Bram­wood, a seven-bed­room guest house with two hol­i­day cot­tages. JOHN a for­mer so­lic­i­tor, and Mar­i­lyn, who worked for the NHS, gave up their ca­reers and their Lon­don home to buy their guest house in 2002.

Mar­i­lyn says: “We were fed up liv­ing in Lon­don and John wanted a change of ca­reer. We bought this house and we’ve never looked back. It was a steep learn­ing curve. We moved up here on Wed­nes­day and spent Thurs­day cook­ing and eat­ing ba­con and eggs be­fore open­ing for busi­ness on Fri­day.”

The But­lers, who bought the house next door to cre­ate sep­a­rate ac­com­mo­da­tion, open their guest house from March un­til the end of Oc­to­ber, though their cot­tages run year round. Guests in­clude rail en­thu­si­asts, walk­ers and cyclists. The cou­ple work from break­fast un­til late af­ter­noon.

“It’s seven days a week but we have win­ter off when we have hol­i­days, do any dec­o­rat­ing and catch up with family,” says Mar­i­lyn, who plans to semi-re­tire to a smaller B&B.

runs Acres Dene in York, which has six let­ting bed­rooms. The guest house was founded by Pam’s par­ents in 1981 and she took it over in 2002.

“This is a very so­cia­ble busi­ness and you get to meet lots of peo­ple and thanks to mo­bile phones it’s not as ty­ing as it used to be. You can get out in the af­ter­noons now be­cause you can put the house phone on di­vert to or­gan­ise book­ings and arrivals. The best thing about it is work­ing for your­self and meet­ing peo­ple. The worst thing is that peo­ple think all you do is serve break­fast and make a few beds.”

SEA­SIDE DREAM: Andrew and Julie Grant have never re­gret­ted leav­ing Not­ting­ham to buy their guest house in Scar­bor­ough. They close in the win­ter, but work seven days a week for the rest of the year.

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