Thinking of a business change? B&Bs are most expensive

FOR Sue and Andrew Burrell, creating Millgate B&B has been a labour of love, requiring a lot hard graft and saving every penny to make it a success.

Turning their home into a business worked for Sue and Andrew Burrell. Picture by Tony Johnson

And the toil paid off - within four years of opening in Masham, it was crowned the best bed and breakfast in the world, caught the attention of the world’s media and is now booked up every weekend until next year.

But according to new research by insurers Direct Line, while a charming B&B may seem like an attractive and lucrative plan to invest - it could be the most expensive type of small business to buy.

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Research suggests that for every £1 of turnover generated, bed and breakfasts have a purchase value of £4.49, compared to the average of £1.74 for the average UK small firm.

Sue Burrell advises that prospective B&Bers start from scratch rather than taking on existing businesses.

Second most expensive are care homes, closely followed by nurseries - with the three topping the table because buying them usually involves the purchase of property.

But when the Burrells bought Millgate - business was far from their minds.

The couple, who both have experience in hospitality, bought the three-storey, Grade-II listed house intending on setting up a home for their children Deborah, 37, and son Josh, 30. But shortly after moving in, both decided to move away, leaving the Burrell’s rattling around in the space.

Mrs Burrell, 59, said: “We bought this as a family home. Both our children had come home - my daughter with a baby and a partner, and my son with a girlfriend - after previously flying the nest.

“This had been on the market for three years and just fascinated me. But six weeks after moving in my daughter got a house of her own and my son got a post in Egypt, so my husband said to me ‘you’d better think of something’.”

Initially that something was childminding, but as they began to lovingly refurbish the bedrooms, they decided to open one out for bookings.

Within ten months, Millgate’s one B&B room had got them into the top 20 in Europe as voted by TripAdvisor reviewers.

Refurbishments on two further rooms followed and so did the leap in the rankings. A year later they were ninth in the world and just 12 months after that, in January 2015, it was judged to be the best in the world by its guests.

“It has been meteoric,” said Mrs Burrell. “But my advice to any prospective B&B owners is that if you are looking to get started, you have to do it from scratch.

“You can’t just buy a B&B and expect it to be a success, you have to build a reputation. It’s also about personality. You can’t have someone who is grumpy taking over a good B&B - they would totally ruin it.”

Millgate’s reputation is so high that travel writers from around the world have visited. American broadcasters CNN are planning to visit soon and following the announcement in January, they had to take the phone off the hook for a month, such was demand.

Mrs Burrell said: “Earlier this year we’d had a call asking us to accommodate a party of 28 from Japan - and with just three rooms, of course we had to refuse. But a few months later I was out doing my shopping when two Japanese reporters ran up to me and asked to be taken to the number one B&B in the world. The whole party came round just to take photos.”

Bag a bargain on the net

WHILE B&Bs may ben the most expensive to invest in, internet-businesses seem to be the cheapest to pick up.

Per pound of review, web-based businesses have a purchase value of 51p, the report said. Purchasing an internet firm involves the transfer of intellectual property, which at the small business stage does not hold as much value as physical assets.

Direct Line for Business said research - thinking about your market, competitors and customers; plus reviewing your work/life balance were among its top tips things to consider before investing in a small business.