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So you think you want to open a bed and breakfast?

Perhaps family and friends who visit your house often marvel at its roomy layout and fabulous decor, declaring what a terrific destination it would make for travelers.

Maybe, with the economy in a slump, creative methods of paying the bills have prompted thoughts of turning a profit with vacant bedrooms in an oversize house.

Whatever the reason, starting a bed and breakfast inn is a viable means of earning at least a supplemental income, but it's about far more than making a great batch of blueberry pancakes.

When Cobblestone Cottages Bed and Breakfast owners Sarah and Darrell Maple bought their property on the outskirts of Medford six years ago, they admired its quiet location and spacious layout.

Darrell and his wife did not purchase their Ross Lane property with visions of creating a bed and breakfast there, although they had always wanted to operate a bed and breakfast of their own. But when plans to find a secondary property for such a venture fell through, the option presented itself.

"We did some looking around but didn't see anything that would pay the debt service and we were not interested in cleaning toilets for nothing so I just said well, maybe we could turn our house into a bed and breakfast," Sarah recalls.

Taking the slower route of establishing a bed and breakfast where one did not previously exist, the Maples first faced a series of hurdles with county officials who initially rejected their plans.

First and foremost, setting up a new bed and breakfast requires determining if a property could function as a business. Legally, some properties are zoned to allow such uses while others are not or require special permits.

And, if allowed by a local municipality, of primary importance is whether potential travelers would want to visit.

"Location. Location. Location. You know how they say it for real estate? It's triple for bed and breakfasts," says Chanticleer Bed and Breakfast co-owner Ellen Campbell. "It goes true for establishing one or shopping for one. You have to have the best location in town and then figure out why your guests are coming..."

Truth be told, most bed and breakfast gurus advise against amateurs setting their sites on properties not already established.

For the Maples, their business plans were denied at first, and eventually approved on a smaller scale, for just two rentable units at their Cobblestone Cottages outside Medford. Six years later, the spare income from the two rentals is nice, but nothing to live on.

When shopping for a property, determine the size and number of rentals best suited for a property and its location. Bed and breakfast inns usually have from two to 20 guest rooms.

Taking on too large a bed and breakfast will bring more income but requires hired help and the risk of reduced levels of personal service while too small a space could turn guests away due to non-vacancies as well as turn a minimal profit for a lot of work.

Alternatives to too small setups may be modest additions. If property acreage and local officials allow, consider adding individual cottages or extra rooms.

While the house may not always serve as a bed and breakfast, renovations like added bathrooms or commercial quality flooring will hold their value, says Connie Ronda of Ronda Construction in Medford.

"Adding a bedroom and bath is still adding so much value whether a family comes and buys it some day or whether they're renting out rooms," Ronda says.

In addition to guest accommodations, renovations may be necessary to bring older homes up to par, says John Turman of Design Residential in Medford, such as providing individually keyed locks or meeting health standards.

"ADA is a big thing," Turman says. "A bed and breakfast is considered like a hotel so there are some modifications you have to do, minimum openings for doors, halls, stairs, things like that."

Finally, and perhaps more emotional than technical, is whether life as an innkeeper is a viable option. Consider the duties of a homeowner, housewife and maintenance man rolled into one.

All told, operating a successful establishment is about far more than whipping up a tasty breakfast, says Under the Greenwood Tree Bed and Breakfast manager Anna Lilley, whose family established their own bed and breakfast in Medford just a few years ago.

"You're planning meals, fixing things, being personable, decorating, welcoming people in and being ready for small talk and sometimes long conversations into all hours of the night," says Lilley.

"But the good outweighs the bad. You get to meet a lot of people from all over the world you never would have met and you're sharing your home with people. If you love people and you love entertaining, it's a great way to earn a living."

So you think you want to open a bed and breakfast?