When Steve and Debbie Loughborough bought the nine-bedroom hotel in 2003 they were newcomers to hospitality and had to learn the ropes as they went, so when they decided to sell up they told the agent they'd be willing to let potential buyers try out the business before committing to buying it.
Lesley Watmough, divisional director at Fleurets, who brokered the sale, said it was the first time she'd encountered the approach, but it was a prudent one as new operators would feel more confident about running a new business.
"It was the vendors' idea," she said. "When I met Steve and Debbie they said when they took on the property 13 years ago it would have helped if they'd been able to shadow the owners and gain some insight before taking it on themselves as they were new to the industry. When we had some serious interest we put the idea to the potential buyers and they agreed."
The hotel's new owners - Lyn and Mark Rogers, spent a week at the hotel while it was half full, shadowing the Loughboroughs as they continued to run it. The Rogers went ahead and signed the deal when the week was up.
Lyn, a former teacher, said: “We are looking forward to the challenge, and we have now been running the property for, almost, our first week. Although we have been extremely busy, once we find our own routine, things can only get better.”
Watmough said she'd encourage other operators to offer similar opportunities to purchasers when they come to sell, especially as hospitality was seeing a number of people leave other careers to enter the industry.
"By prior agreement, a serious potential purchaser can stay at the hotel for a few days and shadow the current owners. This will allow the perspective purchaser to understand and digest both the business and lifestyle,” she said.
"I've been at Fleurets 22 years and have done a lot of deals. Some hotels are bought by experienced operators and they will come in and put their own stamp on it, but for those who are stepping into a new career, this approach can be really helpful. Sometimes new hotel owners ask the previous owners to stay on for a week in a consultancy role, but this was a different as it took place before they actually bought it."