Buying a bed and breakfast is a dream of many, judging by the number of visitors to our inns for sale page each year. Here is the story of innkeepers who found their futures on that page.
Buying a bed and breakfast happened “a good 20 years ahead of when we were thinking,” Jen Hinderer says.
And it happened fast.
She and husband Dan, who had been living in Indiana, toured The Lamplighter Bed and Breakfast in Ludington in March 2017 and made an offer. The sale closed June 21, and their first guests arrived two days later. Dan and Jen barely had time to set up a crib for 17-month-old Jacob and become familiar with the kitchen.
The very same day …
Down the Lake Michigan coastline, in Pentwater, another Indiana transplant, Connie Loisch, was greeting her first guests at Hexagon House Bed and Breakfast.
May 2021 update: Hexagon House is no longer a quality-assured Michigan Bed and Breakfast Association member, and Connie and her husband have sold the B&B. However, this is still an instructive story for people with the B&B ownership dream.)
Departing owners Sandy and Matt Werner pitched in for a few days, but for Connie, taking over a five-guest room B&B put her back on familiar turf.
For 20 years, Connie had been a stay-at-home mom to seven children. She had gone back to school to become a nurse when the youngest of the children — now 26 and 20 plus the 22-year-old quintuplets — were in high school.
She enjoyed serving people as a nurse, but, Connie said, “My heart longed to be at home.”
Buying a bed and breakfast was the perfect solution. She looked in Maine and down south, but “Michigan was the target. I absolutely love this state.”
Connie met Sandy Werner at an MBBA workshop for aspiring innkeepers. Education on innkeeping topics is a key mission of MBBA.
“As soon as I pulled into the village of Pentwater, I knew this is where we were meant to be,” Connie said. Eight months later, after some financing hassles, Hexagon House B&B changed hands.
Two things Connie advises prospective buyers of existing inns:
- Use a knowledgeable real estate agent who will represent your interests and guide you through the details of the transaction.
- Be proactive in researching and pursuing financing options. The first bank Connie approached “strung me along for months.” Then she developed a business plan, her first ever, and found a Huntington Bank representative who helped her secure an SBA loan.
Buying an inn: not a snap decision
Although the time between looking for and buying a bed and breakfast was brief, choosing the innkeeping life was not a snap decision for Jen and Dan Hinderer. They wanted something different, something entrepreneurial. Moves, mergers, assignment changes, and other twists and turns in their careers over 17 years had left them disenchanted with corporate life.
Two weeks before they toured the Lamplighter B&B, Jen’s company announced the closing of its U.S. division. Within three weeks, she found another position — one that would have had her traveling internationally.
With a one-year-old? No way. And Dan’s career as a site manager for a large landscape supply wholesale distributor was also at a crossroads.
Jen had stayed in B&Bs growing up, had twice interned at B&Bs during college, and had thought of majoring in hospitality and journalism before deciding to focus on international business.
As a couple, she and Dan often stayed at bed and breakfasts on vacation. “We always enjoyed being welcomed into other peoples’ homes, and of course, the good breakfast,” Dan said. They had mused about owning an inn some day.
Jen said, “When we had the idea that this was the right time, we wanted to talk to someone with the expertise to help us evaluate the business potential of various properties.” They found Gregg Smith, a Douglas-based real estate agent who specializes in selling inns and who is a former B&B owner. He helped the busy couple by touring and evaluating at least three different properties on their behalf.
“We called to interview Gregg to see what his expertise is, but the conversation soon turned into a gut check for us, with us giving him our backgrounds,” Jen said. “We wanted to see if we were absolutely nuts or was this life a good fit for us.”
“We get to be together, all three of us”
So far, the answer is yes, though Jen said, “I remember nothing about last summer.” She added, “We were already working 70-plus hours, we were already not sleeping. Innkeeping is a different kind of stress, but we get to be together, all three of us.”
2021 update: Jen and Dan’s family has expanded to include another son.
Additional insights from Jen and Dan for people considering buying a bed and breakfast:
- Educate yourself as an aspiring innkeeper. Jen said, “Without the internships, I would not have considered jumping into this.” Dan added, “People will say ‘This is such a cool industry’ and imagine that it’s a piece of cake. But this is not just a matter of being an entrepreneur and owning a business. Innkeeping is a completely different animal.”
- Buy a going concern. Even if you buy a turnkey property, “there are a ton of startup costs — insurance, marketing, upgrades…”
- Write a detailed and realistic business plan. Doing so was essential to the Hinderers securing an SBA-backed loan.
Gregg Smith of innrealtor.com, mentioned above, is a Preferred Vendor member of MBBA and a great resource if you’re interested in selling or buying a bed and breakfast in Michigan. Meanwhile, check out our Inns for Sale page.