The Bed & Breakfast Bonus

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Wakefield Quebec bed & breakfast B&B front porch and tree

   Few realize that a neighborhood bed & breakfast can be an extraordinary money machine for its surrounding neighborhood. With the McMansion Era grinding to a sickening halt post-Meltdown, most people are looking for new ways to make every dollar count. Consider the heret0f0re-required guest room: if you build a guest suit complete with bedroom, bath, and closet, you'll be hard-pressed to design it to pre-Meltdown suburban standards in less than 250 square feet. Construction costs for well-built homes are approaching or have exceeded $200 per square foot in many parts of the country. That means the guest suite may add up to $50,000 or more to the cost of the home!

   Think back for a moment - how many nights has someone slept in your guest room this year? Probably not so many, if you are like most of us. Today, how can we tolerate throwing away $50,000 on something that is rarely used? Most of us can't.

Wakefield Quebec bed & breakfast B&B front gazebo

    That's where the bed & breakfast comes in: if there were a bed & breakfast in your neighborhood center, you'd have no need for a guest room, would you? Guests staying a 2-3 block walk away would still feel close to you, but more independent, and they likely feel like they aren't burdening you… so they might even come visit you more often. And you would likely feel less intruded upon, so you would welcome those more frequent visits.

   You might even offer to pay for their nights at the bed & breakfast. If so, you would almost certainly save a lot of money over building the guest room. Financing that $50,000, plus paying property taxes and insurance would definitely run $500 per month or more in most places. That means you would have to have a large number of visitors each year to pay more for the bed & breakfast than for the guest room… assuming you're paying to put them up in the first place. Most people who do would save thousands per year… quite a bonus!

   Think for a moment of the cumulative bonus: A neighborhood of 1,000 homes, for example, would save $50 million in construction costs on those homes! There are few other things a neighborhood can do to save so much money.

   But what about existing places? As we work to repair sprawl by gradually transforming sprawling subdivisions into sustainable neighborhoods that are compact, mixed-use, and walkable, there will be several opportunities:

Wakefield Quebec bed & breakfast B&B front door

   1. We'll be adding businesses where today there are nothing but houses. Normally, we should look first for the fabric in the subdivision that most needs to be healed - maybe where there are a few vacant lots. It is here that a bed & breakfast would fit in most easily.

   2. Making sprawl sustainable also means making the existing fabric more compact. We do this by allowing the existing homeowners to build accessory units on their lots and rent them, or actually subdivide their lots and sell the new units. In 60 years of home-owning, you're likely to have kids at home for only about 1/3 of that time… if you ever have kids in the first place. So roughly 2/3 of the homeowning public would be fine with only one bedroom if there were a B&B nearby. This means the existing homeowners might be able to build more than one accessory structure if their lot size allowed, making more money.

   3. Once the B&B starts operating, homeowners in the existing larger homes are freed up to use their guest suites for something else if they like. A home office is one obvious use for that suite, and you likely can think of others as well.

   We'll talk more about other businesses that should be added to help transform sprawling subdivisions into neighborhoods, and also how to go about sprawl repair in ways where everyone benefits. But for now, what's not to love about a neighborhood B&B?

~Steve Mouzon

© The Guild Foundation 2013