Lee Rotbart

Posts Tagged ‘guesthouse’

This time we’re serious (in 3 parts)

In Second time lucky on September 14, 2010 at 12:41 pm

Part One – the overview

One thing you can say about Danny and I is that we don’t hang around! Less than 3 weeks after we lost Porthminster View we have had an offer accepted on another property in St Ives. It’s just down the road, has equally stunning views, and (for the sake of our finances, sanity and mortgage-ability) is significantly cheaper.

Friday and Saturday were two long days. 5 viewings in 3 locations across South Cornwall, a dinner with my folks, a night in a tent (told you we were budgeting), an offer and acceptance on a beautiful property that feels ‘just right’, and a brilliant two-handed play at the Tobacco Factory in Bristol.

Exhaustion may well be the reason for not updating this blog for a while, and this was not helped by Danny dragging me round Victoria Park for a ‘run’ on Sunday (it’s in inverted commas because there wasn’t much running involved, just lots of panting and complaining on my part), followed by an evening of re-jigging business plans and cash flow projections.

Yesterday was all about getting the information we needed out of the new property (via our new BFF estate agent), calling our mortgage broker, and doing yet more sums to check we can afford to do what we want to do with the property (we can!) while laying down a 35% deposit and putting us in a much better position with the lenders.

So… all in all, there’s a fair amount going on but this time we know what we’re doing. If all goes according to plan we’ll be in uncharted territory soon enough but that would be good – that would mean we have had a ‘yes’ for the mortgage, and my ever so patient buyers will still be hanging in there ready to exchange at the drop of a hat.

Part Two – the detail

When we lost Porthminster View it was both sad and liberating; sad because we’d put so much into it, and liberating because we felt that we’d finally been given ‘permission’ to look around at other properties and, as duly reported, get back in the driving seat.

Organising the 5 viewings over the weekend was exciting, looking on all the different sites and choosing properties based on size, turnover and location gave us a real insight and understanding into what we wanted (something that, because we’d just stumbled upon Porthminster View, we hadn’t had so far). As is inevitable there were 2 or 3 that we really liked on paper, and 1 or 2 that were just making up numbers.

Seeing our ‘favourites’ on Friday was a little depressing. They’d seemed so perfect, so right.

  • Property #1 was almost too perfect, what could we do with it that hadn’t been done already? Plus the location was a little out the way and Danny and I have to live where we run the guest house, we can’t just plonk ourselves in the middle of nowhere and hope for the best, hope that even though everyone that goes into business with their partner will have relationship issues at some point, being in the middle of nowhere won’t make things worse – hah (but that’s a subject for another blog).

As an aside, this was an awesome B&B, run by awesome people who were going to move onto bigger and better things down the road… not a great start for us with the original owners taking all the repeat business.

  • Property #2 was the saddest we saw. In the middle of St Ives, with spectacular views, the house was bereft of love. It was as if someone had come in and just sucked all the joy, warmth and joie de vivre out of the place. Small, cramped, basic rooms, and sad looking en suites only looked good when you compared them to the kitchen which looked like it was being prepared to get a special mention on ‘How Clean is Your House’. It made me want to buy it, gut it, and turn it into the beautiful place it had the potential to be… but at a price tag of £550k that wasn’t going to be possible.

Dinner that night was an animated affair as Property #3 had given us something to think about, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that even that one, while so much better than the other two, was too much of a ‘project’ for an inexperienced couple, and its location and view just didn’t have the WOW factor that we were looking for.

So… you probably think we were being too fussy, asking too much? And maybe we were, but if any of you reading this have ever bought a property you know that it has to feel right, on every level, and that when you’re dealing with £hundreds of thousands you can’t afford to settle, especially when it’s for a B&B where we want to be proud to open the door to our guests.

As we walked up to Property #4 on Saturday morning our demeanour would have not looked out of place in a funeral march. Vocally reminding ourselves that we had to keep an open mind even though we thought this one was a waste of time we tried to keep each others’ spirits up as we climbed the granite steps. This wasn’t as hard as we thought as we turned to see the view provided by the raised pathway and got an instant reminder of why we’re doing all this.

Our funeral-esque attitude turned to, not very well hidden, excitement as we walked through the house (Note to self: NEVER attempt to play poker). Low expectations were quickly forgotten as each room was airier and brighter than the one before. Things on our checklist were slowly being ticked off, great views from all the bedrooms, an enormous kitchen, a beautiful garden, a bright dining room and ample storage. I was too scared to look at Danny at one point just in case he hadn’t fallen in love as fast and as hard as I had; but one glance midway through the tour was enough to reassure me that I was not alone.

Adrenaline coursing through us an hour later we phoned up and put in an offer, not a doubt in our minds… then, as was necessary, we quickly focused our attention on Property #5.

Without going into much detail about this one (as it seems quite pointless at this stage) it’s only worth me saying that this was a close second, and Watergate Bay is quite possibly the most beautiful place I ever seen in the UK.

Driving up the M5 on the way home a few hours later I noticed my phone had an answerphone message. It was Steve Cross informing us that from a remote beach in Thailand the owners of our dream house had accepted our offer.

Part Three – the irony

Yesterday morning Porthminster View’s proprietress phoned me to say that their new buyer had lied to them and the place was ours if we wanted it.

Suffice to say, we are going ahead with the new property. I guess everything really does happen for a reason.

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The end (of phase 1)

In The beginning on August 25, 2010 at 12:34 pm

It’s ironic that when I set up this blog I tagged the first lot of posts ‘The beginning’ and now it seems we’re at the end and I don’t remember the middle.

Around 8 weeks ago Danny and I received a phone call that changed our lives, and yesterday we received another phone call that changed the direction. The beautifully patient and enthusiastic proprietors of Porthminster View finally accepted another offer on the building. After putting off their estate agent for over a week in anticipation of a successful mortgage application our last rejection was the final straw and they just had to pin their carriage to another train – one that doesn’t need a mortgage to get it moving. If ours is a steam engine – traditional and nostalgic, theirs is an express – fast, efficient and less likely to break down.

I don’t blame them. This has been a highly emotional journey for both us and them, and I truly believe they were as disappointed as us when they called yesterday. The saddest thing about the whole affair is that the new owners are not going to run Porthminster View as a guesthouse and so another B&B bites the dust, and another view of the St Ives beach and harbour is privatised.

In an environment where holiday companies are going bust left, right and centre, and oil prices are going to restrict the number of people who can afford flights more and more each year, it’s a sad state of affairs that one of the UK’s busiest tourist destinations is likely to run out of medium priced guesthouses due to private purchases and a banking industry who make it impossible for small businesses to get a break.

On a personal, less holistic, note I am sad for us. Sad that something which for the first 4 weeks seemed so right, could go so wrong. The accidental visit, the ease with which I sold my flat, and the accepted offer so far below the asking price all combined to give us a very strong feeling that this could not go wrong.

However if we’re going to be positive about this and, let’s face it, what choice do we have? This hasn’t gone completely up the spout. OK, so Porthminster View wasn’t the place for us, that doesn’t mean that another place won’t be. It doesn’t mean that the guesthouse we should be running isn’t out there somewhere waiting for us to come along and take it over. After all we now have the following information, none of which we had 3 months ago.

  1. We know we want to run a guesthouse
  2. We know we want to be in Cornwall, preferably St Ives, definitely by the coast
  3. We have a template for a guesthouse business plan
  4. We have projections for a guesthouse turnover
  5. We know the lending criteria we need to meet
  6. We know our budget

So the only question remains is what to call this blog. I’m regretting calling it after the name of the guesthouse we were hoping to acquire (maybe I jinxed it?!), but I have never once regretted starting it up and I certainly don’t want this to be the end.

Will think on it… Watch this space.

Guesthouse adultery

In The beginning on August 23, 2010 at 1:56 pm

Don’t tell anyone but yesterday we went to see another property in Cornwall. I actually feel a bit guilty for looking further afield, and if this blog had a voice it would definitely be a whisper.

We were recovering from being turned down by yet more lenders, were in the South West (Bristol to be exact), and attempting to be a bit ‘onwards and upwards’ about the whole affair, consequently in a fit of spontaneity we decided to hot foot it down to Truro to see a property that had been on and off our radars for the last month or so.

Don’t think that it didn’t occur to us, as we got on the 4 hour train journey to Truro, that it would have been much more helpful to fall in love with a B&B in the Cotswolds; with or without a car (and we are without) Cornwall is not an easy to place to drop in on.

While we’ve explored all the really interesting options that people are flagging up for us we’re not getting very far. Ultimately this guesthouse venture is just for us, so private investors, the EU, the government are just not really interested in helping the two of us relocate and keep a guesthouse open. We’re not going to make £millions, and we’re not going to employ half the Cornish community in our bid for world domination, consequently our options are limited.

The message we got was loud and clear ‘Porthminster View needs to make more money than you’re projecting, or you need to find a cheaper property’. Not happy about inflating figures until it looks like we’re about to open the St Ives Hilton, we opted for the latter and found ourselves in Truro yesterday afternoon.

Seeing a lovely B&B and meeting the very friendly and hospitable owners did little to dissuade us that Porthminster View is the place for us. We dabbled in the excitement of an affair which, in the current circumstances, seemed exciting, full of possibilities and very tempting; however in the cold light of day we came to realise that our first love was the best, the longest lasting, and more fit for purpose than anything we’ve seen so far.

It was simultaneously both a disappointing and uplifting afternoon. Disappointing because we’d built up Truro in our minds to be a real possibility (damn those wide-angled camera lenses), and uplifting because it quashed any doubts we had about Porthminster View, and made us even more determined to do everything we possibly can to get the money. Plan C is forming, and at the moment – as with all plans at the beginning – it seems promising.

Having sat through the first round of auditions for X-Factor on Saturday night I’m well aware that telling the four judges (in our case it’s the banking equivalent of Simon, Cheryl, Louis and Dannii)  about Porthminster View being ‘our dream’, and saying things like ‘we’ve never wanted anything more’ is just not going to cut it if we’re hitting a load of bum notes. For that reason alone we are sneakily looking around Cornwall for the next ‘perfect opportunity’… but we haven’t given up on Porthminster View, not yet. It still is (and always will be) our first love. A bit of playing ‘hard to get’ never put off Casanova  and it sure as hell isn’t putting off us.

Afternoon teas

In The beginning on August 16, 2010 at 12:56 pm

Over the weekend I baked, and when I say baked I mean I made more sugary, floury, eggy things than can be found in the bakery section of a small supermarket.

I made banana and walnut loaves, cookies, muffins and brownies. I made enough to feed the 16 girls that came round for tea 5 times over; and as I was cleaning my flat, setting out the muffins, and plumping up the sofa cushions I realised that I was genuinely excited about opening up my little flat to the masses, and playing the hostess. As I was pouring my 20th cup of tea and trying not to eat too many chocolate brownies it occurred to me how much I am going to love doing exactly that in St Ives.

After so much activity in the first 4 weeks of discovering Porthminster View, the last 4 weeks has been painful to say the least and, as regular readers of this blog will know, frustratingly uneventful. Consequently I was relieved to find that baking and hosting gave me more ‘job’ satisfaction than working as a strategy consultant for a web design agency ever had; it reinforced my belief that I am doing the absolute right thing for me, right now.

Throwing this little tea party, inviting people into my home, and then doing everything I could to make sure they enjoyed themselves when they got there was one of the best things I’ve done in a long time. Now I know working full time in a guesthouse won’t be all baking cakes, cooking breakfast, and chatting to friendly guests; and I also know not all the guests will be as friendly as I would hope them to be. However, it’s a darn sight more similar than writing a strategy document for a big international airline to help them make even more money than they’re making already; and it’s a thousand times more relevant than sitting in an office, overlooking a Soho back alley, listening to awful music and staring at a computer screen.

I’ve had thank you emails and lovely comments from everyone who came yesterday afternoon, and I have been equally gushing in return. Even Monday doesn’t seem so bad because I’m still basking in the glow of Sunday, and I get to go home to a flat which is filled with the smell of baking and sunflowers.

I don’t have a single, solitary doubt about Danny and I making wonderful hosts; and this weekend has made me even more determined (if that’s possible) to not let a little thing, like lenders not giving us a mortgage, get in our way.

St Ives here we come!

The Waiting Game

In Getting the mortgage on August 11, 2010 at 5:30 pm

I have no idea why they call it the waiting game.

There may be waiting involved, but it’s not a game. It’s not fun, competitive, or remotely satisfactory.

My English teacher (c.1987) told us never to use the word ‘nice’ or ‘boring’. She said that it didn’t describe anything; I’m sorry Mrs. Hunn, but I’m BORED of waiting. I want news, even if it’s bad news, and I suspect Danny is deeply concerned that I’m going to drive our new mortgage broker mental while he’s away in France for a week (yes, he’s going away again – don’t worry, I’ll get my own back eventually).

Waiting: not something I’m proving to be very good at and, funnily enough, that doesn’t surprise me in the least.

Danny seems completely capable of sending the odd email, and just sitting back and saying ‘He’ll call if there’s news’. Me, on the other hand, I am suggesting that we call the proprietors of Porthminster View every week “just to ensure they don’t sell the house to anyone else”, or the mortgage broker every day “to see if he’s heard anything”. I am perfectly capable of driving everyone around me completely bonkers, and can only thank the relevant God that I have people in my life that offer me some sense of perspective, and remind me on a daily basis that I cannot affect the outcome of this, no matter how many calls I make, or how many times I rewrite the business plan.

To all of you out there that are following our journey, and being incredibly supportive, and loving, and patient… thank you ever so much, and in answer to your question there’s no news yet.