REAL ESTATE: Accomodation ownership offers rewarding lifestyle, investment

Columnist Freddy Marks talks about how you can find a business and vacation lifestyle

By Freddy Marks

Being the owner-operator of an accommodation lodging can offer a lucrative and rewarding lifestyle that allows you to be your own boss while creating unforgettable memories for thousands of travellers every year. There are many investment opportunities coming up in this multi-billion dollar industry, as numerous operators are nearing their retirement and looking for new owners to continue their legacies.

If it’s time to semi-retire, or you want a change of pace from a hurried urban lifestyle, owning a rural resort, commercial accommodation property, bed and breakfast or campground could be the change and investment you are looking for. With a passion for hospitality, a solid marketing plan and the ultimate location you can bring your resort ideas to fruition.

RELATED: REAL ESTATE: Thinking about resort property ownership

The tourism accommodation and hospitality industry in B.C. is large and diverse, and every year thousands of travellers from all over the world come to British Columbia for their dream vacations. The biggest portion of visitor spending — 25 per cent to 30 per cent — is spent on accommodation, and those visitors are looking for one-of-a-kind lodging that will let them experience the natural adventure B.C. is famous for.

There are hundreds of different types of lodgings and accommodation choices when planning a trip through this province, from luxury urban hotels to wilderness lodges, guest ranches and guide outfitters to bed and breakfasts or niche recreational resorts.

Today travellers are savvy and seek out the most unique accommodations and experiences guaranteed to make unforgettable holiday memories. A few examples of one-of-a-kind B.C. tourism accommodations include: Goldenwood Lodge Teepees in Golden, where visitors sleep in traditional teepees with a fire pit overlooking the majestic Rocky Mountains; the whimsical handcrafted sphere tree houses in Qualicum Beach at Free Spirit Spheres; or the waterfront Hot Spring Escape Chalet on Arrow Lakes in Galena Bay, where you can soak day and night in your own private halcyon hot spring pools.

In recent years, the new RV rental industry has generated a large segment of visitors who are touring and exploring B.C. on their own. For many travellers, being able to directly engage with B.C.’s raw nature is why they chose to come here. According to the Camping and RVing British Columbia Coalition, B.C. is home to 340 vehicle-accessible campgrounds managed by the BC Society of Park Facility Operators, and Destination British Columbia inspects and approves over 500 campgrounds across the province. Seven national parks within the province contain an additional 14 campgrounds, and the BC Recreation Sites and Trails Branch manages more than 1,200 back country sites including campgrounds and other facilities. The over 300 privately-owned RV parks and campgrounds host a mixture of longer-stay residents and overnight guests.

When viewing potential properties, keep in mind your goals. Short term, does the property have the potential to be a viable business with your ownership? Long term, do you plan to sell when you retire, or subdivide and sell titles of the acreage to fund a comfortable retirement living? Do you plan to purchase an existing resort or tourism accommodation property, which is easier than a bare-land startup as it can be fully operational and turn a profit sooner?

Once you’ve found a few properties that really stand out, stay at the resort or campground as a guest for a few days. Try to do this before anyone is aware that you are considering the property, as this will give you the opportunity to view it as a guest would.

RELATED: REAL ESTATE: What type of recreational property user are you?

Know the zoning; find out if the property is sub-dividable, in the ALR, or has any other regional restrictions that would hinder your future plans. A qualified accountant can help you examine the businesses financial records and analyze them to mitigate your risk. As well, a professional inspection of the entire property can look at all the dwellings and services that are above or below ground, as well as examine in detail any environmental bylaws, water licenses, permits and building code compliance. This may also help you figure out how you will renovate any existing structures to meet your exact needs.

Look at the financial statements for the past two or three years, including the occupancy rates and expenses for running the business. As always, verify all financial information.

It is usual for the buyer to have a 30-day study period, and this is usually set down in the letter of intent or the agreement of sale. Use this period to check things out to your satisfaction. Of course, always work with a confident and knowledgeable commercial realtor and a reputable solicitor to help you navigate the documentation that accompanies a commercial property portfolio.


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