Hiring a real estate agent to help you buy your B&B is important and challenging. The ideal situation is to find an agent who know and understands both the real estate and B&B industries. If you can’t find such a person for the area you are considering for your B&B, then the next best thing is to find a person who is hard working and industrious, one who understands the challenges in buying a residence with business attached, and who you communicate with well.
Communication is challenging on the best of days with both parties wanting to communicate together. Take away the desire to communicate and you have a mis-communication waiting to happen.
When a B&B broker isn’t available in your area I used to recommend finding the best residential agent in town. Then it occurred to me that commercial experience would be helpful instead because a B&B sale transaction isn’t as simple as a residential transaction. I have finally come to the realization that the training and background are what is important, but attitude is also important in the agent you choose to work with. Shop carefully.
Here are the first few questions in this four part series.
- Do I need an agent?
Yes! And you want an experienced one. If you have the luxury of finding a B&B Broker the most important question to ask is how many inns have you sold in the last three years. Not every part of the U.S. has B&B Brokers, so you don’t have the luxury of choosing between them. If you can’t work with a B&B Broker, consider hiring a B&B Specialist (broker or consultant) to at least consult with you through the process).
- What is your experience with B&Bs?
This is one of those open-ended questions that’s good to ask during interviews to see what the person has to say. You not only get an answer, but you also get a sense of the person and their communication style. Has the agent helped anyone buy or sell a bed and breakfast?Have they even stayed in a B&B? Several? That’s a decent first step in knowing about them and having an affinity for the business. Has the broker attended any B&B conferences or seminars? Just how involved has this person gotten in the industry? Do they network with other B&B Brokers around the country? Are they a resource for B&B Appraisers?
- Do you network with other B&B brokers or B&B consultants?
Yep, this is another approach to take to get more details about the agent’s interest in and exposure to the B&B industry. Maybe it was addressed when you asked what their B&B experience is, but if it didn’t, now is a good time to ask.This is a small industry, being a B&B Broker, and the active agents attend conferences and network. As with innkeepers, brokers have lots to learn and gain by networking, like at conferences. Not only will the brokers meet other brokers, but also the consultants and vendors who participate, making them a more valuable team member and asset to a new innkeeper.
Answers to these questions may not be relationship breakers but the answers do give you a clue to their level of involvement in the B&B industry, their level of understanding of B&Bs and how they can help you best. However, if the agent tries to convince you that such questions are not important or relevant, that is a relationship breaker — move on immediately!
Ideally you will be able to hire someone who is involved and knows the industry well. If you can’t find that person, at least seek someone who will care enough to learn more. You may be their first opportunity to be involved in the B&B industry so you can help them learn as you go — if they are the right person to work with.
If your agent isn’t aware of the hours an innkeeper can make the inn available to you for inspection, you should be aware and guide them. Innkeepers are busy with their guests during breakfast and at check-in time; those are bad times to try to visit an inn and innkeeper. Between breakfast and check-in innkeepers are tending to other business matters like housekeeping, reservations, and marketing (both at the grocery store and in the promotional sense); that’s the best time to visit, but do be aware that you may not see rooms that haven’t been cleaned and readied nor may you see rooms that have guests in them. Ideally the innkeeper will have gotten the guests’ approval to see occupied rooms, but you can’t count an that. Awareness will go along way in winning the seller’s respect for you and your search.