If you’ve always dreamed of running your own bed-and-breakfast and turning hospitality into a full-time job, now is an unusually fortuitous time to do so.
Oak Park ‘s two B&Bs recently hit the market, and both offer the opportunity for new ownership to take over established books of business and homes that are uniquely situated for living and working.
In the estate section, Bishop’s Hall is on the market for $2.5 million. The property at 605 Iowa St. offers three rentable bedroom suites and has a separate owner’s unit. Steps from the Green Line, meanwhile, the Harvey House is for sale with an asking price of $1.5 million. Located at 107 S. Scoville Ave., it offers five rentable suites as well as an owner’s unit.
Bishop’s Hall was built in 1916. According to Chuck Tupta, the owner and acting real estate agent for the home, in spite of its large size, the Georgian revival style home originally had only two bedrooms along with living quarters for four to five servants.
The home earned its name due to the seventh owners, the Midwest Diocese of the Orthodox Church of America, which purchased the house as a residence for their bishop in 1990.
When Tupta purchased the home in 1998, he undertook an extensive renovation. Mechanical systems were modernized to make the home comfortable. A double staircase in the entry was altered to open up a window and provide more light to the room.
Throughout the house, original details were uncovered and restored. The garden room’s marble terrazzo floor was discovered under layers of vinyl tile. More than 1,000 pieces of original hardware were stripped and re-plated. In the library, the original paneling of rare red gum wood was retained.
Tupta created four large bedrooms on the second floor of the house. The master bedroom, now the inn’s largest suite, includes a walk-in closet and large bathroom that were created out of a sleeping porch. Two other bedroom suites include new bathrooms.
In the owner’s quarters of the inn, a fourth bedroom was created by combining two servants’ bedrooms. It, too, has a new bathroom and two closets. The owner’s quarters also include a bathroom, separate entrance and a great room space.
Tupta decorated the home to complement its Georgian revival exterior, and the furnishings would be available for sale to an interested buyer.
Likewise, Kara Keller of Baird and Warner, who is listing Harvey House, says that the owner would also sell the home furnished to an interested buyer.
Built in 2000, the Harvey House is completely new construction with a brick façade that’s at home on a block of historic residences.
“When she had this built, she gave every unit its own control for air conditioning and heat,” Kara Keller said of Harvey House’s owner. “It’s also very well insulated, which is great for cutting down any noise between units.”
The first floor of the home includes an office for business, a formal dining room, a spacious kitchen and a family room that opens to the back patio. There are three suites and a laundry room on the second floor and two suites on the third floor. A separate owner’s apartment has its own entry, two bedrooms and a bathroom. Keller says that it is purely coincidence that both properties hit the market within days of each other.
The business of a B&B
Tupta acknowledges the village has seen an uptick in Airbnb rentals in the past few years — he estimates there are at least 30 in the village — but says it has not impacted his business. Keller says the same is true of Harvey House.
“It’s hard to compare licensed versus unlicensed properties,” Keller said. “These are luxury properties that are very different. The business has been thriving for more than 15 years.”
Tupta said that not only does his property offer a different level of amenities and services than most Airbnb properties, but running the inn as a licensed business requires adhering to plenty of local codes.
He says it took him roughly two years to get the property up and running and get the zoning approved by the village. Today, he pays state, county and village taxes, and the property is subject to health, fire safety and insurance requirements that Airbnb properties do not have to meet.
The peace of mind provided by those requirements and the grand ambiance of the home set it apart from a rental of an extra bedroom in someone’s home, he remarks.
“People love Downtown Abbey, and they love this house because it has that feel,” Tupta said. “People love that the house has not been pulled apart. We still have the original servants’ call box in the kitchen, which is operable.”
Tupta calls Oak Park a unique opportunity for running a B&B for multiple reasons.
“You’re not in the middle of nowhere,” he said. “It’s very cosmopolitan, and you’re so close to the city. Because of the proximity of the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, I get a lot of architects and a lot of international travelers. I also get domestic travelers who might be working in the city or have relatives in Oak Park.”
At the Harvey House, Keller said the clientele is similar, and people love the easy access to downtown. Because it offers five rooms, she says it is also rented for group events, such as bridal parties or reunions.
Both Keller and Tupta said that there is a demand for businesses like Bishop’s Hall and Harvey House in Oak Park, as evidenced by clientele who keep them running at capacity.
As life interests move the owners on to different chapters in their lives, both Tupta and the owner of the Harvey House think an ideal buyer would continue to operate the business.
That said, both also point out that there is potential to keep the homes as move-in ready, single-family homes. The separate owners’ suites could easily be used by a live-in nanny, in-laws or boomerang children.
Tupta says there are incredible upsides for the business both for the village and on a personal level.
“From the village’s perspective, tourism is a big draw here, and there are not a lot of places to stay,” Tupta said. “I’ve had so many people here from so many different places. In all my life and career, I’ve never experienced such gratitude as I have from clients here.
“I would like for that to continue in this space. It’s a lot of people’s dream to run a B&B. You get to know the guests and spend time with them. Some of them are like family.”