Saturday, October 31, 2009

Historic Homes of Maine

The Swan Agency Sotheby's International Realty recently launched another specialty division, Historic Homes of Maine. There are several agents involved in this division who took part in a course in Portland last week which was required in order to be considered a Historic Homes Specialist. Naturally, because the majority of my listings (being inns) are historic (at least 100 years old), I wanted to take part in the class. Each of my historic listings will be marketed on a new website soon to launch under The Swan Agency Sotheby's International Realty. Besides, niche marketing is right up my alley...

We took part in a 2 hour walking tour of the Western Promenade, looking at the architectural details as explained by our informative tour guide, followed by a working lunch and classroom session. I've got a bit of education and experience in architecture and construction but this certainly helped to refresh my memory. Overall it was a wonderful day and I'm thrilled to be a part of another Swan Agency niche.

View all my iPhone photos of this walking tour on Flickr.

Visit Greater Portland Landmark's website

Friday, October 23, 2009

What's happening in the bed and breakfast brokerage market?

It's a frequently asked question by both buyers and sellers. Actually, add in appraisers and bankers as well. Everyone wants to know if there are buyers out there. The answer is absolutely, yes. However, the ratio of buyers in certain buyer pools has shifted during the economic slowdown. The following represents the bed and breakfast brokerage industry's pool of buyers:
  1. buyers who want strong performing businesses
  2. buyers who want "deals" on under performing business for growth potential (even though a property may be fairly priced for the residential market)
  3. buyers who have cash to buy an under performing property; this buyer sees the real potential and has the necessary cash to subsidize the business until the income grows to enable the business to support itself
  4. buyers who have cash to buy a "hobby" property where the financial performance isn't essential; they may have other income or retirement income
  5. a buyer who just wants to buy a B&B to have as a private residence (this desire can vary greatly by property and location)
What we are experiencing at present is a great deal of interest from buyers in pool #1 and #2. And many sellers are in need of buyers in pool #3 and #4 (and naturally #5). Can the two meet? The answer is yes, but with compromise.

Buyers should recognize that in some cases it makes perfect sense to pay a higher price for an under-performing property with real potential; buyers should also understand that properties with very strong income are going to be priced higher at perhaps 6-7 x gross income (known as a GIM - gross income multiplier); if the income isn't where it should be, chances are a property will be priced either on its potential value, it's residential value, or a combination of both. Buyers should also realize that innkeeping is about the lifestyle, and there's a price to pay for that lifestyle. Keep in mind you're buying a home and a business, not just a business. If you can enjoy innkeeping and make it a highly profitable investment, you're in the ideal situation and life is good.

Sellers should price their property fairly; understand the possibility of sitting on it longer than expected, particularly if in a situation of a limited buyer pool (unintentionally, by not having a strong income or buying at the height of the market and selling when it's down, hoping to get out without a loss); during this time it's very important that the seller try to increase the revenue. Buyers are very concerned about the financial stability of leaving their current jobs in order to buy into the lifestyle. Today's buyer is simply risk averse.

The fish are biting...just cautiously...

Saturday, October 17, 2009

New PRICE REDUCTION on Island View Inn, Sullivan, Maine

This fabulous waterfront property has been reduced from $1,200,000 to $995,000. The inn offers one of the most fantastic views of Mount Desert Island that there is. Located just 15 minutes from Ellsworth and 30 minutes from the heart of Acadia National Park, its Route 1 location makes it a great spot for day trips heading in any direction. And with 7 guest rooms, it's a very manageable size as both a bed and breakfast or a private residence. And now is the time to buy, get settled in and open for the 2010 season. It's a buyer's market either way...

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A beautifully restored late Queen Anne Maine bed and breakfast...

This is The Guilford Bed and Breakfast. Built around 1905-08, this gorgeous home several years ago underwent an interior restoration, but the exterior was never restored back to its original splendor using a three color exterior traditional "painted lady" appropriate of the era. Until now. The owners began a full exterior renovation last summer but with the level of detail they set out to achieve, they were only able to get two sides of the home painted before winter. Starting back up this spring, they completed the last two sides.

This is prior to the color change:

And this is after:

But this restoration wasn't just about the paint colors. it was artistry. The dormer window accent railings have hand turned spindles and copper caps; the vent pipes are copper clad as are the chimney flashings (and both chimneys were fully rebuilt). The roof is the original Monson Slate and looks like it was just installed. The porch screens were all replaced and custom plexi-glass panels will replace the screens in the cooler months. When the floor boards on the front porch (with the curved entry and columns) were removed for replacement, rotted wood was discovered and replaced. But the owners went one step further: the porch skirt was comprised of individual vertical hand cut decorative pieces, and most of us would simply purchase lattice from our local hardware store. But not here. A craftsman hand cut several hundred of these pieces and mounted each to a board to then fasten beneath the porch. This was not simply replacing rotted wood with what's available today, this was restoring it to its original style. There is a big difference between a renovation and a historic restoration. The Guilford Bed and Breakfast is a spectacular example of restoring the beauty of yesteryear. Not all of us have what it takes to do this and we should appreciate those who do.

Beautiful details, hand carved wood, copper flashing:

Copper flashing and vent pipes:

Hand carved individual wood slats on the porch skirt:

This grand Victorian is offered at $650,000 and should be maintenance free for years to come.

View more Guilford Bed and Breakfast property photos on Flickr

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A fantastic aspiring innkeeper "bootcamp"...

We've just completed a wonderful Fall Aspiring Innkeeper Seminar (that we refer to as "bootcamp", an intense 2 day session) full of information and interactive real-time cooking workshops for a full house of guests. This one held at The Danforth in Portland.

There were seven attendees and four participating instructors and we covered topics from the nuts and bolts of hospitality, financing, business plans, appraisal, business performance analysis, the various types of inns, websites, photography, advertising, using the right meta tags and website content, analyzing your website stats, and today's important Social Media.

Simple, basic techniques and tips were shared in the kitchen...

We made Grapefruit Brule with Vanilla Bean Cream using a personal favorite tool of mine (and found in most restaurants), a propane torch. Mine has a push button start for very simple on/off function. We were able to torch 20 grapefruit halves in a matter of a couple minutes.

We worked on slicing and fanning fruit techniques...very simple...

The class was able to see what it takes to get the kitchen and the dining room ready to serve a crowd, from coffee service to plating to table service.

Of course the fun interactive part was in the kitchen. But the very real business analysis was a focus of ours so that our aspiring innkeepers fully understand what they're getting into. This was our opportunity to educate our class and equip them with the necessary tools before they get into something they aren't prepared for. It is a business. To what level you take it up to you. There are hobby properties and there are serious performing properties and it's imperative you have the knowledge of the gamut.

Being told that we've exceeded expectations is very rewarding. We love sharing our knowledge, we thank our attendees and are eager to help them pursue their dreams of inn ownership.