How to Start a Bed and Breakfast in 14 Steps (In-Depth Guide)

Updated: February 21, 2024 is reader-supported. When you buy through links on my site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

Opening a quaint Bed and Breakfast allows you to work from home while meeting travelers from around the world. The Bed and Breakfast industry earns approximately $5.3 billion per year. As more people seek unique accommodations off the beaten hotel path, this homey hospitality sector continues expanding.


Whether you have an extra cottage on acreage or a spare bedroom in your house, small-scale B&B ownership lets you operate a charming small business. Transforming your residence into a restful retreat need not break the bank either. With some shrewd shopping and DIY decor touches, you can furnish spaces on a budget.

This guide will walk you through how to start a bed and breakfast. Topics include market research, competitive analysis, registering an EIN, forming a legal business entity, marketing, and more. Here’s everything you need to know to get started with your own business in the hospitality industry.

1. Conduct Bed and Breakfast Market Research

Market research is essential to any bed and breakfast business plan. It offers insight into your target market, local market saturation, and trends among services and products within the industry.

Whether you’re hosting from a private home, or you’re a professional bed and breakfast host serving a variety of guests, market research is just the thing to build a business strategy.


Some details you’ll learn through market research as you begin to add more guest rooms to your docket include:

  • B&Bs appeal to travelers craving unique, non-cookie-cutter accommodations.
  • Over 70% of patrons are leisure travelers seeking charm and local culture.
  • The business now accounts for just 15% of bookings.
  • With sustainable, eco-friendly vacations also gaining ground, small B&Bs aligned with green principles can further attract guests.
  • Typically older couples live on-site while operating their small establishments. Hence many existing owners now eye retirement and seek buyers for turnover.
  • B&Bs require lower initial investments than hotels, from $100k to $400k depending on size. Or, if you already have a home, apartment, or room, you’ll save on initial costs and it’ll be easier and quicker for you to advertise your piece of real estate on AirBnB and other B&B websites.
  • As asset-light operations, they offer new entrepreneurs affordable entry points without massive commercial loans.
  • Owners enjoy lifestyle benefits too – like tax write-offs and meeting interesting travelers.
  • Owners shoulder all duties from cooking breakfast to marketing. Hiring staff eats profits. Success hinges on superb hospitality, stellar social media, and positive reviews.
  • It takes work to stand out from intensifying competition.

Still, global B&B bookings are projected to exceed $30 billion by 2028. For plucky owners who master hospitality and marketing, lucrative returns on investment await. Whether as a full-time endeavor or a side earner, B&Bs present enticing and accessible small business opportunities.

2. Analyze the Competition

Opening a Bed and Breakfast pits you against local hospitality rivals vying for tourist dollars. So first scout your actual brick-and-mortar competitive landscape. Drive around to identify other nearby B&Bs, boutique inns, hotels, and rental cottages. Note amenities, capacities, visible occupancy rates, and ambiance. This ground research gives real-world context when customers later compare options online.

Explore online review platforms to complement your physical location competitive analysis too. Research not just overt rivals, but all accommodation choices tourists consider for a given destination. Analyze competitor profiles and ratings on niche sites like Vrbo along with mass portals like TripAdvisor, Google, and Yelp.

Evaluate multiple performance factors that sway bookings across this competitive internet terrain. Tally each rival’s review volume, quality ratings, room rates and discounts, policies, photos, and management responses. Also, assess social media engagements on channels like Instagram and Facebook. Such metrics reveal customer perceptions – highlighting where competitors succeed and falter.

Also, probe market opportunities through available industry research. For example, Skift 2021 surveys revealed over 30 percent of US travelers prefer B&Bs for future trips – presenting owner prospects leverageable in marketing.

This multi-pronged competitive research fuels your strategy. Pinpoint where you can best woo your target guests online and off through superior hospitality, pricing, promotions, property updates, or digital outreach. Stand confident new competitors have little chance of matching your competitive mastery.

3. Costs to Start a Bed and Breakfast Business

Starting a charming B&B with just a few rooms doesn’t require massive upfront investment, but does entail key expenses. Plan around $100k-$400k depending on size and renovations needed.

Start-up Costs

  • Property Purchase/Prep – For a full house conversion budget of $300k-$600k. Expect lower price points if zoning restrictions apply. Or savings tapping existing personal property. Renovations like flooring, bathrooms, and exterior touches add $20k.
  • Inspection/Permits – Local regulations and zoning dictate B&B opportunities per location. Expect fees of up to $1,000 for fire, health, and safety inspections. Plus any zoning variance appeals.
  • Insurance – Property and specialized B&B business liability insurance hit around $1,500 annually.
  • Furnishings – Outfit guest rooms attractively without blowing budgets. Plan $2k-$5k per room for necessities like beds, linens, and lighting. Shop second-hand and DIY where possible.
  • Marketing Collateral – Quality photography for room images and promotional materials starts around $1,000. Launch websites through user-friendly services like Squarespace for $15+/month.
  • Initial Staff – Stage home improvements and administrative work yourself before launching. Later consider part-time cleaners at $15/hour as needed.
  • Starting Inventory/Supplies – Stock first aid kits, toiletries, and cleaning supplies for around $100 per room. Purchase food staples for breakfasts while operating initially without other staff.

Ongoing Costs

  • Mortgage/Rent – Plan for about $1,500 monthly for modest properties. This persists as your largest continual burden.
  • Utilities – Similar to residential expenses, though increased laundry and cooking boost costs. Budget $300+/month.
  • Food Supplies – Providing daily fresh breakfast remains a beloved B&B tradition. Allow $8+ per guest daily, $2k+ monthly for full bookings.
  • Upkeep Costs & Property Preservation – Expect regular maintenance, appliance swaps, and repairs on aging properties – up to $5k yearly.
  • Marketing – Ongoing photography upgrades, search engine ads, and social media efforts avg. $500/month.
  • Taxes & Insurance – Revisit liability and property insurance adjusters annually. File quarterly income tax payments. Set aside 30% of earnings.

The above overview highlights key launch costs. But personalized pro form per property and location best forecast figures and feasibility. Consult qualified accountants and local agencies to estimate expenses for your B&B dreams.

4. Form a Legal Business Entity

Building a business means registering your company as a legal entity in the United States. This is an easy process with four main types to choose from. Here we’ll more closely investigate your options.

Sole Proprietorship

This default entity exposes owners to unlimited liability – a risky approach for hospitality businesses vulnerable to guest injury claims. Income and expenses flow through directly to personal returns – enabling earnings claims but also tax burdens. Administrative simplicity appeals but dissolves if owners split.

General Partnership

Shared ownership often eases B&B operating duties and expenses. But all partners assume equal legal and financial liability too – each responsible if others cause guests harm. Income splits require complex accounting. Adding/losing partners alters dynamics significantly.

Limited Liability Company (LLC)

For B&Bs, LLC status offers ideal liability protections missing in sole or general partnerships. An LLC caps owner exposure if guests get injured. It limits potential judgments to business assets only. This structure accommodates any number of partners with customized ownership splits.

Owners report earnings directly like sole proprietors. Forming an LLC runs $100-$800 depending on state. For these reasons, an LLC enables the best legal and tax treatment for getting B&Bs off the ground while guarding personal assets.


C corps shelter owners are under a distinct legal business entity, much like an LLC. Yet stricter operation and tax filing requirements apply for corporations, like issuing stocks and holding board meetings. These administrative needs make sense for large chains but overcomplicate most small B&Bs.

5. Register Your Business For Taxes

Any business – including a small B&B – needs an Employer Identification Number (EIN) for federal tax purposes. This unique nine-digit number functions like a personal social security number ID for your company.

Securing an EIN takes just minutes online. Go to the EIN Assistant through the IRS and click “Apply Online Now”. Supply your personal identifying details like name, address, and SSN. Select your LLC or other business structure. State the reason for applying.

Next, choose if you plan to hire employees within the next 12 months. Since most early-stage B&Bs operate with just owners initially, select “no”. The site then confirms your EIN application is in process. Within seconds, your new EIN appears on the screen to save.

Going forward, use this number on all official business tax documents. Provide the EIN when opening business bank accounts too. This helps the IRS track revenue separate from your returns. Some states levy nominal EIN fees around $25. However, federal registration remains free.

Additionally, register for state-level tax IDs to legally collect local occupancy and sales taxes from B&B guests. Head to your state revenue or taxation agency site to locate the tourism tax application. For example, California ties this process to filing a sales tax permit. Some locales charge processing fees up to $20.

6. Setup Your Accounting

Careful bookkeeping provides the foundation for B&B success. Meticulous records not only fulfill tax obligations – they supply intelligence guiding smarter business decisions. Yet hospitality finances carry intricacies demanding expertise.

Accounting Software

Cloud accounting systems like QuickBooks Online automate mundane tasks like categorizing incomes and expenses, generating invoices, and reconciling bank feeds. The software imports details from linked business bank cards and accounts in real-time. This consolidates data entry while retaining thorough digital receipts. Plans start around $30/month – trivial considering the hours saved.

Hire an Accountant

Professional accounting services span from periodic bookkeeping assistance to fully handling taxes. Expect fees from $100 to $400 monthly depending on involvement. Common requests include reconciling bank statements, preparing financial statements, and guiding entity structure decisions.

Where accountants prove truly invaluable is completing year-end income tax prep. They compile deductions you may miss while ensuring full legal compliance – skills no software replaces. Expect between $500 to $2,000 for annual filings depending on complications like multiple partners or income fluctuations.

Open a Business Bank Account

The most vital tip remains to segregate business and personal finances completely. Open dedicated small business bank accounts to use for all B&B transactions via debit cards and checks. Then apply for a separate business credit card as well, which banks determine limits for based on your LLC assets and revenues.

7. Obtain Licenses and Permits

Embarking on B&B ownership without proper credentials invites legal perils from hefty fines to shutdowns. Find federal license information through the U.S. Small Business Administration. The SBA also offers a local search tool for state and city requirements.

Research-specific documentation is required both locally and state-wide. Regulations and fees vary significantly across regions. However, several universal licenses and permits apply:

Business License Nearly all jurisdictions demand a general business license – essentially an official go-ahead to commence commercial operations. Provide your business name, ownership structure, location, and intended activities. Fees range from $50 to $100+. Display your certificate prominently on-site.

Hospitality establishments must comply with fire codes regarding smoke detectors, extinguishers, escape routes, signage, and maximum guest capacity. Schedule an inspection to earn a certificate approving safety provisions. Re-inspections often follow within 6-12 months. Expect fees around $150.

Food Safety Certification While exemptions may apply for very small B&Bs serving limited breakfasts, food prep for guests still risks health violations. Complete a certified food safety training course through providers like ServSafe. Then request an inspection from your local health department. Renew certifications annually.

Not all residential properties automatically qualify for B&B conversion depending on codes. Seek proper zoning classification for your hospitality venture to avoid unauthorized use fines. Fees fluctuate greatly. Expect paperwork headaches if rezoning bids prove necessary.

Short-Term Rental Permit In popular travel destinations, additional regulations now apply specifically to short-term stays under 30 days. Registration demonstrates compliance with the state tax authority. Hospitality ventures lacking STR approval face fines or closure. Expect fees around $100.

Additionally, the ADA may obligate you to accommodate guests with disabilities. While no formal certification applies, lacking grab bars or ramps risks legal actions. Contact local regulators to discuss requirements per your property limitations.

8. Get Business Insurance

Operating any hospitality business without adequate insurance courted disaster. While no amount of coverage compensates for serious incidents, the right policies mitigate legal and financial fallouts. For B&Bs, the proper protections also signal reputable operation to patrons.

Consider if guests slipped on wet floors or got food poisoning from breakfast. Million-dollar lawsuits could wipe out personal savings without insurance backing. Or envision fire or storm damages forcing long closures absent funds to rebuild. Such perils can quickly crater businesses without policies cushioning blows.

Even small claims from minor guest injuries or food complaints extract settlements owners pay. These costs compound without insurance assuming legal burdens too. Just a few incidents can devastate B&Bs lacking coverage.

Shield against such scenarios through business insurance bundles tailored for hospitality ventures. Packages mix:

  • Property coverage guarding real estate assets and furnishings
  • Liability insurance handling legal claims
  • Loss of income safety nets during closures
  • Commercial auto policies on vehicles

Rates range from $600 to $3,000+ annually depending on claim history, property values, and policy limits. Expect higher premiums in litigious regions too. However, secure quotes from multiple providers before committing. Surprisingly affordable options do exist for smaller B&Bs with clean records.

Start the insurance process by detailing your property, capacities, amenities, and safety provisions. Next, pinpoint your coverage tier needs per gaps in personal homeowner or renter plans. Then reach out to insurers specializing in hospitality sectors like Progressive or regional trusts. Discuss tailoring an inclusive policy protecting both your business and personal assets.

9. Create an Office Space

Even small-scale B&Bs demand occasional administrative handling offstage from overnight guests. An office enables owners to field calls, manage finances, update web listings, or plan events in privacy. While an extra room works initially, evaluate options as your hospitality venture grows.

Home Office

Converting a spare bedroom or basement corner offers an affordable, convenient daily workspace. Expect under $1,000 to add a desk, file cabinet, phone line/VOIP, and chair. However, boundaries between professional and personal spheres blur when working just steps from the kitchen or bedroom. Distractions hamper productivity.

Coworking Space

As B&B owner teams expand or solo entrepreneurs crave community, shared workspaces allow professional environs under $500 monthly. Hot desk rates at WeWork start around $300. Dedicated offices with doors run $600+ monthly. Favor this flexible approach to access meeting rooms and networking without assuming longer leases.

Storefront Office

For B&Bs with gift shop components in popular main street locales, a storefront combining retail and back office operations makes sense real estate-wise. Renting commercial square footage aligns with planning special events or appointment-only tastings too. Expect rents from $1,500. However, retail build-outs carry extensive upfront costs of around $100k.

Commercial Space

Leasing office suites in a business complex centralizes operations company-wide once your hospitality venture scales to multiple locations. Expect mundane build-outs of about $50/square foot for spaces like two rooms and a reception desk. Then budget minimum three-year leases running $2,000 monthly all-in with parking etc. Justify such investments once management staff expands accordingly.

10. Source Your Equipment

Furnishing a home into an inviting B&B need not drain accounts when sourcing secondhand finds and bargains. Key gear like beds, desks, linens, and appliances often surface affordably through creative hunting. Approach purchases strategically across these channels:

Buy New

While buying brand-new beds and furniture at full-price retail suits deeper pockets, certain items do warrant quality investments upfront. Splurge on commercial grade mattresses expected to withstand years of guest turnover, with warranties covering wear. Bedding also directly touches patrons, so purchase fresh linens, duvets, blankets, and pillows new for hygiene.

Buy Used

Fixtures like armoires, luggage racks, tables, and chairs readily find new life after a coat of chalk paint. Scout second-hand inventory on Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, thrift stores, and consignment shops for gems. Talk down prices for minor repairs or flaws that won’t impact durability or function. This economical approach channels character and charm visitors cherish in homey B&Bs too.


Before assuming long-term equipment loans, investigate occasional rental options for large events or overflow needs. For example, during weddings or holidays, bring in extra chairs, tables, linens, and even temporary housing via vendors like Peerspace. There’s no need to store such items full-time when affordable rentals supplement inventory precisely when demand dictates. This prevents wasted investments.


Similarly, evaluate leasing commercial-grade laundry machines or professional kitchen appliances if purchased equivalents strain startup budgets. Expect rates around $50-100 monthly for workhorse items like high-capacity washers and dryers that ensure reliable performance over years of continual guest usage. Build a customer base and revenues before tackling major capital equipment purchases outright.

11. Establish Your Brand Assets

Distinguishing your hospitality venture starts with nurturing a distinct brand identity. More than a business name and logo, your brand essence shapes customer perceptions through websites, custom décor, memorabilia, service style, and messaging unity. Investing in professional assets fortifies your platform to stand out amid intensifying travel sector competition.

Getting a Business Phone Number

Toll-free lines sound sizable. RingCentral offers vanity numbers from $30 monthly, forwarding calls anywhere as you multitask remotely. Toll-free services ensure you catch reservation opportunities without guests absorbing charges.

Creating a Logo and Brand Assets

Bold, creative visuals like logos stick in travelers’ minds, driving referral traffic and returns. Looka’s AI generation tools create custom, on-brand marks for under $50 no design skills necessary. Iterating proposed logos helps land an ideal fit. Adapt logo files into signage, merchandise, websites, social banners and more so branding permeates every touchpoint.

Creating Business Cards and Signage

Once logo decisions are finalized, order professional business cards through convenient online printers like Vistaprint. Expect 250 basic cards for around $20. Rep personal contacts sporting these cards as roaming ads. Balance digital convenience with classic hospitality.

For exterior signage on period buildings, splurge on quality carved wood backlit or metal lettering evoking heritage. Illuminated plastic detracts charm.

Purchasing a Domain Name

Secure matching .com URLs anchoring online identity using domain registrars like Namecheap for under $15 yearly. Opt for email addresses tied to your chosen name too. Then customers easily discover websites and contact inboxes.

Building a Website

While hiring web developers costs $1,000, convenient DIY site builders like Wix enable attractive, responsive designs for under $100 yearly. Leverage beautiful photography alongside booking functionality, policies, and tempting descriptions to convey your brand vibe digitally 24/7.

Alternatively, you can hire freelance web designers through affordable marketplaces like Fiverr. Expect custom 5-page site development costs between $500-1,000. This assigns website duties so owners focus on hospitality.

12. Join Associations and Groups

Embarking on B&B ownership can feel daunting lacking hospitality experience. However, a wealth of shared wisdom from fellow hoteliers eagerly welcomes new properties through several supportive communities. Tap this camaraderie early on for insider tips on scaling success while avoiding pitfalls.

Local Associations

Local Associations State-level groups like the California Association of Boutique & Breakfast Inns offer both networking and regulatory advocacy, even guiding disaster preparedness. Expect around $275 yearly for resources like seminars and listings. Regional bed & breakfast associations also share meetups and marketing collaborations.

Local Meetups

Local Meetups In many cities, B&B owners coordinate regular peer gatherings discussing current issues over coffee or lunches. Discover these via sites like Meetup. Exchanging ideas produces new revenue opportunities – like jointly promoting romance packages across properties near vineyards. Find your tribe.

Facebook Groups

Facebook Groups With over 50,000 global members, the Bed and Breakfast Owners and Bed and Breakfast Owners Group streams endless advice threads offering support new innkeepers appreciate – not corporate pamphlets. Ask specific quandaries about problem guests or commercial laundry etiquette and crowdsource solutions. Online communities make navigating the hospitality maze much less intimidating through shared experiences.

13. How to Market a Bed and Breakfast Business

Promoting any nascent business proves essential to viability. While exemplary hospitality and alluring spaces attract initial B&B bookings, sustaining awareness demands ongoing marketing. Blend digital and traditional channels cultivating lasting clientele.


Personal Networking

Tap your network first. These existing relationships often convert into inaugural guests or enthusiastic referrals. Make enrollment effortless through referral reward programs too – like offering friends 20% off stays. Then ask satisfied visitors to endorse your property online to perpetuate bookings.

Digital Marketing

  • Run Google Search and Display ads geo-targeting travelers browsing nearby accommodation options or attractions. Expect to budget around $400 monthly to effectively saturate presence.
  • Create social media profiles raising online visibility, then sponsor posts showcasing stunning photography of available rooms and common areas. Plan $300 monthly for active boosting and management across Facebook and Instagram.
  • Publish YouTube video tours revealing your property’s hidden charms invisible in still photos. Boost viewing traffic through Google and Facebook embed links.
  • Launch email nurture sequences that trigger when tourists browse your website. Deploy sequences reminding them to finalize travel plans.
  • Distribute an e-newsletter or blog covering upcoming community events and exclusive B&B packages. This engages regional travel prospects already inclined to visit the area if persuaded by your property specifically.

Traditional Marketing

While digital channels drive most opportunistic travel bookings, classic regional marketing still influences guests planning longer family vacations:

  • Secure concierge recommendations from nearby attractions to enable cross-promotion opportunities for tourists already committed to visiting your hospitality hub.
  • For special events like weddings or wine tastings, create postal mail invitations for locals complementary to online event pages aimed at preexisting customers.
  • Arrange inclusion in regional tourism guide mailings from chambers of commerce.
  • In particularly competitive markets, localized radio spots on popular stations perceived alignment to specialty positioning like eco-friendly B&Bs.

14. Focus on the Customer

In the hospitality realm, customer service makes or breaks reputation and revenues. For intimate B&Bs boasting few rooms, each guest interaction carries a magnified influence in shaping referrals and online reviews.


Some ways to improve customer focus in bed and breakfast work include:

  • Exemplary service touches like boutique glassware or freshly baked breakfast bread reflect sincere attention to detail.
  • Asking visiting families about local sightseeing plans demonstrates genuine care beyond minimal polite exchanges.
  • Efforts creating custom experiences breed deep trust and loyalty over merely functional transactions.
  • The business impact surfaces in guests who evolve into beloved regulars frequently returning while informing networks of friends.
  • Positive online reviews also drive sustained bookings when travelers drawn by your five-star ratings discover equal warmth awaiting their arrival as well.
  • Appreciative patrons offer the ultimate compliment: sending family members to celebrate weddings amid the same wondrous hospitality.
  • Conversely, perfunctory or inattentive service forfeits this well of goodwill. Minor oversights undermine otherwise gorgeous rooms if suffering guests later lament lukewarm welcomes to the community.

For B&Bs, the exceptional assistance aspiring innkeepers offer directly fuels growth. The more you give, the more guests want to give back through enduring praise, promotions, and repeat visits for years on end. Your commitment to hospitality excellence keeps the rooms occupied season after season.

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