The UK is currently home to 25,000 B&Bs and guesthouses. The B&B industry turns over £2 billion each year and this figure is expected to grow. Running a guest house can offer many people the chance to turn the dream of a lifetime into reality, working from home with flexible hours and meeting new people along the way. But ensuring your guest house is successful all year round isn’t as easy as it looks; the competition can be tough and visitor expectations are high. It’s thought that one single bad review online can lose a guesthouse or hotel up to 30 customers, which means every detail counts.
Choose the right location
If you’ve yet to purchase your guest house, you’re in luck. Choosing the perfect location is half the battle when it comes to running a successful guest house or bed and breakfast. First, it’s important to think carefully about who your clientele are and why they’ll want to stay at your B&B.
In most cases, this will mean choosing an accessible location within convenient distance of a tourist hot spot. This could be a Victorian terraced townhouse overlooking the beach in a coastal town or an 18th century cottage set at the foot of Snowdonia. The most important factors to consider is that your nearest attractions are conveniently close at hand, preferably within walking distance, and your local surroundings are scenic and safe.
In terms of profitability, guest house owners might enjoy similar yields to those found in holiday lets throughout the country. Holiday lets in affordable but scenic spots such as Pembrokeshire, Northumberland and rural Scotland often offer the best returns in terms of annual yields
Keep it Clean and Contemporary
Once you’ve found the perfect location, it’s time to create your own perfect getaway. Before you get carried away, in most cases this really means two things: cleanliness and contemporariness.
Surveys have shown that cleanliness is considered to be the most important factor in choosing accommodation by 97% of customers. While we all like to think our houses are clean, when you run a guest house it’s important to brush up – pardon the pun – on your housekeeping skills. Aside from the obvious tasks, you’ll need to do between guests such as taking out bins and changing bedding, you should also dust skirting boards and architraves, as well as ensuring public areas and landings are spick and span, too.
It’s also a good idea to update your guest house’s decor semi-regularly, perhaps every five years or so. This doesn’t have to be too costly – sometimes just a fresh lick of paint and some new bed sheets will do the trick. You can choose your own style in keeping with the rest of your property, but it’s hard to go wrong with crisp, clean, contemporary design.
Go the extra mile
The truth is, your guest house is competing with hundreds of other similar guest houses across the UK, most of whom will be offering a similar standard of accommodation to yours. Aside from your prime location, what will make your guest house stand out? It’s important to think about the little things, because it’s these details which will give you the edge and net you five-star reviews online.
You don’t have to do a lot. Even small gestures, like leaving complimentary chocolates and bottled water out for guests, can make a big difference in people’s minds. Little extras like matching slippers and bathrobes or sticker books left out when children visit will make guests remember their stay with you.
If you offer food, such as a cooked breakfast in the morning, spending time on your menu and improving your dishes is a simple way to add value to your guest house without increasing your outgoings. Browse recipes for inspiration, and make sure you offer plenty of options to cover guests who want to enjoy a leisurely meal as well as those who prefer a quick snack on their way out of the door.
It doesn’t matter how idyllic your guest house is if nobody’s heard of it. Luckily, it’s easier than ever to market your property to a wide audience thanks to the internet. Research suggests that 700 million people will be booking hotel and guest rooms online by 2023. You don’t need to pay a marketing expert, either; even just paying annual fees to have your guest house listed on accommodation websites like Trivago and Booking.com will make a world of difference.
You can also use your marketing skills to get to know your target audience better. Different guest houses may have very different clientele; a guest house in a scenic tourist hot spot may be popular with couples and families, while some guest houses may be more often frequented by contractors working nearby. Once you know your market, it’s easier to refocus your attention on your real audience.
Keep your finances in check
It’s impossible to run any business successfully if your finances aren’t in order. Keep an eye on your incomings and outgoings and make sure your guest house is turning over a decent profit throughout the year; this will put your mind at rest and mean you’ll notice any red flags in your accounts before they snowball into bigger losses.
No doubt one of your expenses will likely be a mortgage or loan which you may have used to finance your guest house. Whether you require a residential mortgage or a commercial mortgage will depend on how much of the property will be used for guests; if less than 40% of the property is for personal use, a commercial mortgage will usually be required. You’ll usually need a deposit of at least 25% to take out a commercial mortgage and show proof that your new business venture is profitable.
It’s important to be realistic when taking out a mortgage like this, ensuring that you can pay it off each month. If you’re struggling to cover mortgage payments, see if there’s any way to cut down on your outgoings or boost income temporarily.
Remember that running a guest house is a seasonal business; if your guest house turns over higher profits in summer than winter, don’t be tempted to spend everything you make: put some aside to help even out your income and pay essential bills during leaner months when fewer people are travelling.