When looking to purchase a Bed & Breakfast there are some important details to discuss with your local jurisdiction before you dream of all the beautiful things you can do in this property...
The due diligence performed BEFORE you fall in love with a property is one of the most important (and mind numbing) first steps you can make in your journey towards purchasing or building a B&B.
“Jurisdictions have a lot more influence than people realize on the urban/ suburban fabric of most neighborhoods. ”
Start with a couple of steps....
1. Visit the accessors office for the address of your property
All business and personal property have their addresses recorded in the local accessors office. This is a great start because you can clarify ownership, purchase history, tax information as well as which jurisdiction your property resides in. This information allows you to begin narrowing down information based on location and start doing some focused research.
2. Research the Town, City, County or Unincorporated County
Every property falls into at least one jurisdiction, if not more. So narrowing your property into a specific category will allow you to verify zoning, which will tell you how you are allowed to do business, what this business can and cannot do or sell, and how this property falls in line with businesses near this property.
3. Understanding your zoning is a deal breaker
Most jurisdictions have a zoning map. A plan if you will of what the town, city or county would like their mix of businesses and residential layout to look like. These zoning rules allow them to enforce the plans structure and codes to restrict anyone from defying those rules without a lot of money and time (and sometimes legal counsel).
4. Read the fine print
These zoning plans are typically coded with colors and details about the coding code that allows you to identify your zoning area based on address or cross streets. Typically you will end up in a commercial, entertainment or residential district with allowed uses for a B&B. It is possible and industrial area would allow your use but typically you would not want your business in those zones unless they abut a commercial district.
5. Who you live next matters
How your zone abuts another zone can be a critical piece of knowledge. Understanding where your property falls in the grand scheme of things and in relationship to local restaurants and attractions can mean better occupancy rates, more regular guests and foot traffic for new guests. Understanding a town, city or county's master plan can also tell you what their vision for the future of their neighborhood. This could also help you to situate your property purchase in up and coming neighborhoods before the real estate market explodes.
6. Classifications Hurt
Once your know what your zoning classification is and how your property sits within the zone district, now you need to read the zoning code for that classification. This allows for you to allowed uses or "Use by right" for your business type. For example if you are in say a C1 zone district and they do not allow for hotels or property that rents rooms due to limited parking, etc. Then you would not be allowed to build in this area without a rezoning process. So if you plan to convert a home to a B&B, this is important to understand.
7. They like me, they really like me
If you are still awake after reading the zoning code, and you realize you have an approved use, then you need to work out any changes you want to your property. These changes, if site related are restricted by zoning and building code. ie, adding to the building footprint, adding or moving a fence line, etc. If they are interior, they are typically a building code matter. If you plan to add bedrooms, build a deck or a pergola, or change the occupancy type at all them you must understand the building code or sit down with an architect who can translate it for you. Typically, you are following an Internal building code - and a year or "IBC 2018" for example. Each jurisdiction follows their own version of the building codes and you must follow the one they use as the baseline for your design or renovation otherwise you will not pass inspections.
8. This is a good time to talk
At this point a layout of the property (Alta survey, floorplan, etc) or home provided by the real estate agent is a great discussion point to start talking to your jurisdiction about what you want to do to the property or building. You can hire an architect to do some conception of your design on paper or if you feel so inclined you can draw your thoughts enough to ask questions and verify that everything you have researched is accurate and help you connect the dots between all the details you have collected. They can also walk you thru their processes based on what you want to do and give you a feel for next steps, schedule nd possible fees.