Want to own a B&B in Wine Country?

  • The owner of Aurora Park Cottages, Joe Hensley, walks by the trail around his six cottages for sale for a cost of $1.55 million in Calistoga on Friday, Aug. 8, 2014. (Conner Jay/The Press Democrat)

When friends on LinkedIn saw that Jenny Lamarre had become an innkeeper along the Russian River, many of them gave her the same response.

They wrote, “Oh, I’ve always thought about doing something like that,” said Lamarre, who with husband Sherman Tyler moved out from Massachusetts this summer and in July purchased the Fern Grove Cottages in Guerneville.

This year many aspiring innkeepers are doing more than merely thinking about switching careers. Lodging Brokers Network, a Napa-based brokerage for a variety of California lodging properties, reports that the number of its completed sales of bed-and-breakfast and other inns in 2014 has increased by more than 200 percent from a year earlier.

More than 20 inns are currently on the market in Northern California, according to Lodging Brokers. And Wine Country is part of the hottest region for those seeking to become innkeepers.

“The Bay Area is by far the most popular area that buyers are looking at,” said Kathryn Proctor Seo, who specializes in B&Bs and inns for the brokerage.

Proctor Seo and others said some innkeepers are ready to sell now after holding on through the recent recession and its aftermath. As tourism has bounced back, so has the value of lodging properties.

Among those selling are Joe Hensley and partner Celeste Ford, the owners of Aurora Park Cottages in Calistoga. The couple has put their property, including six guest cottages and an owners’ unit, on the market for $1.55 million.

“We’ve got nine grandkids back East, so that’s the magnet” pulling the two away from the business, said Hensley, who worked 20 years in the software industry before becoming an innkeeper in 2000. The couple had contemplated selling earlier, but the recession hit and the value of inns tumbled.

“This is a better economic time to be selling than it was three or four years ago,” Hensley said.

Inns vital to tourism industry

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