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Whanganui’s historic Braemar House ready for new chapter

An internationally known and loved Whanganui accommodation house that was built a century ago as the home of one of the city’s best-known postmasters is up for sale.

Positioned near the Whanganui River, just north of the city centre, historic Braemar House is today home to a thriving three-star bed and breakfast and backpackers’ hostel. It has just been put on the market as a freehold going concern with the capacity to lift existing guest numbers.

Braemar House attracts guests worldwide through global booking sites, Expedia, Hostelworld, Airbnb and the Youth Hostel Association (YHA), as well as domestic travellers and visiting sports and school groups.

Guest reviews rave about its character ambiance in a historic area handy to attractions such as Durie Hill, Virginia Lake, river cruises and the internationally renowned Sarjeant Gallery. Stays at Braemar House also offer a slice of Whanganui’s heritage.

John Frame MacBeth, Whanganui’s chief postmaster, built the original home on the Plymouth Street site in the 1880s. The second-storey building was added by Hopeful “Hope” Gibbons, who became mayor in the 1920s. Gibbons was known nationally as a businessman behind the Colonial Motor Company, which held the Ford franchise for New Zealand and assembled their cars.

The building was later converted to Braemar Private Hospital, providing private surgery and maternity care. After lying empty for a year, it was reopened as an accommodation house with bed and breakfast. The current YHA-affiliated hostel was established in 1987.

With the current owners since 2016 now ready to move on after significantly building up the business and restoring the buildings, Braemar House awaits its next custodian to add their pages to its history book.

Braemar House, located at 2 Plymouth Street, Whanganui, is being offered for sale as a freehold going concern, through John Bartley and Amie Rowan of Bayleys Whanganui.

The land, building and business, as well as a comfortable owner’s private residence, will be sold by way of a tender closing on Thursday 6 June, unless sold prior.

On offer as part of the sale are the approximately 640-square-metre two-storey building on some 2,023 square metres of residential-zoned freehold land, with six car parks.

Bartley said the bed and breakfast wing contained eight rooms, a deluxe lounge, and an intimate dining room, along with a bath, two showers and two toilets for the exclusive use of the B&B guests.

“The backpackers is made up of four cabins with shared bathroom facilities comprising two toilets and two showers and access to the well-equipped communal kitchen and inviting lounge. There is a larger family cabin with an ensuite and two dormitory rooms with four and three bunk beds respectively. Laundry facilities are also available.

“As well as this beautiful building and thriving business, there is the spacious private owner’s residence, in the form of a self-contained second-floor apartment, with a full kitchen, dining room, lounge, and bedrooms – the perfect retreat after a busy day accommodating guests.

“This historic property has been well maintained and was recently repainted, optimising the condition and appearance of its character features. These include high ceilings, a grand staircase, and native timber doors and railings,” said Bartley.

Rowan said the property’s good condition, and the well-established nature of the operation, meant the business was ready for a new owner to step in and take it into its next chapter.

“Braemar House is currently owner-operated. The owners believe it can be comfortably run by one full-time manager and two part-time staff.

“Most guests currently are tourists, with the majority of stays booked online via major accommodation booking sites. Braemar House receives outstanding guest reviews and has a ‘Wonderful’ 9.0 rating on Expedia, ‘Excellent’ 8.6 on, and ‘Fabulous’ 8.6 on Hostelworld,” said Rowan.

The accommodation is also frequently booked by sports and school groups coming to the area for competitions and events. Both the hostel section and the bed and breakfast wing can be hired out completely for group bookings.

Rowan said the accommodation enjoyed strong occupancy levels, with immediate scope to further grow guest numbers.

“The current owner-operators have chosen to cap guest numbers at 30 to keep the operation manageable, but a new owner could increase this by up to 40 percent, to 42 guests at full capacity.

“Visitor numbers to Whanganui continue to rise since Covid restrictions lifted. The outlook for the tourism industry, especially in the accommodation sector, is looking positive.

“On offer to buyers of Braemar House is a slice of Whanganui’s history, a source of income, and a unique home in the heart of the city. This sale is sure to attract buyer interest from well beyond Whanganui,” Rowan said.

Business financial information is available to potential buyers subject to signing a confidentiality agreement.

Click here for more information on the listing.

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