What could be better on a hot summer day than a beautiful shimmering swimming pool right there in your backyard? No need to drive anywhere, no need to pay for a nice hotel, no need to win a cage fight to get a good lounge chair. Just walk out, hop in and relax. Perfect, right?
Well, it depends on who you ask, I guess. Personally, having never lived in a home with a swimming pool, I would have said “Absolutely perfect!” In fact, I recently spent some time thinking pretty seriously about finally going for it and having a pool put in. In so doing, I did a bit of research and was surprised to find that not everyone loves having a pool. I was taken aback by the naysayers.
Are you thinking about buying a house with a swimming pool? Or buying with the intent of installing a pool? What should you expect in terms of maintenance, ROI, repairs, etc.? Let’s look at it from two opposing perspectives. In one corner, we have Rolan, who happens to be my father-in-law. In the other, a random internet commenter we’ll call Bob. Thankfully, I’m not related to Bob.
Rolan Loves His Pool
My wife’s dad swims nearly every day, and he’s done so for roughly 40 years. He used to swim when he got home from work, but now that he’s retired he hits the pool after some yard work or just randomly when he gets the urge. Rolan has had approximately close to one million pool parties at his house over the years. Weekends would find the pool area filled with kids, friends and family. Eventually it was grandkids, and I’m kind of wondering how long it will be before great-grandkids. Few residential pools have ever been used more.
Nationally, a pool doesn’t seem to be a huge factor in the resale price of a home, but there are other factors to consider such as your local market and the time it takes to sell.
My father-in-law is a DIY type, one of those guys who can fix literally anything. Therefore he’s always taken care of the pool himself. He maintains the pump and the filter, he adds chemicals when necessary, etc. So his maintenance costs have been negligible. I called him and asked for all the gory details and it sounds to me like he puts an average of about $250 per year into the pool, counting for a pump replacement about once per decade, which he does himself. His labor time is really kind of a side piece of his swimming time, but he figures maybe an hour a week.
Rolan’s pool is going on 44 years old now and his costs have been nothing compared to his usage. In the unlikely event that my in-laws decide to sell the house at some point, they’ll get more in value for the pool than the original cost of installation back in the '70s. So they have great ROI all around and continue to get daily enjoyment. They live in Florida, which provides for year-round use.
Bob Hates His Pool
Bob, on the other hand, isn’t a fan. His advice to anyone considering buying a home with a pool is “Do yourself a favor and just don’t do it!” That’s the Public Service Announcement I read from Bob in response to a question regarding the best way to finance a pool. Easy, don’t!
He goes into detail as to his experience with a swimming pool. I’ll boil his overall comment down to a quick and easy bulleted list of the costs he pointed out:
- Cost of building the pool
- Increased water bills (Rolan is on a well, so couldn’t comment on that)
- Increased electricity costs for the pool pump. (Rolan says it’s not much … a few dollars per month, he estimates.)
- Maintenance time of two hours per week and $500 per year for chemicals, OR ...
- $150 per month for a pool service
- Resurfacing every 5 to 10 years. (Rolan has yet to resurface, but his marcite is showing some wear.)
- Deck repairs “every so often”
- Pump replacement
- Filter replacement
- Increased homeowners premiums
To make matters worse, I think Bob was so busy adding up the costs, he didn’t have time to swim.
Kidding aside, Bob makes good valid points that come from his personal experience as a pool owner. And his experience seems to have been mostly negative as he said nothing about lounging around the pool on Saturday afternoons, cold drink in hand.
What About Resale Value?
Bob also doesn’t mention his resale value, but I think if I were to ask him, he’d say “not much” and according to all of the information I could find, that was “sort of” true. Nationally, a pool doesn’t seem to be a huge factor in the resale price of a home, but there are other factors to consider such as your local market and the time it takes to sell. Imagine two houses, one with a pool and the other without, otherwise equal. Which one do you think would sell faster? Time on the market is equal to money out of your pocket.
But the only time you’re likely to see a positive ROI on the installation of a pool is in a high-end community where pretty much every house has one and there’s no way to get top dollar without one. Or, as in Rolan’s case, if you own the home so long that the original purchase price eventually looks like chump change.
Major Repairs: The Ticking Time Bomb
A friend of mine owned a pool that suffered a broken wall when the retaining wall behind it gave way.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that pools do sometimes just go bad. I’ve seen many a fixer-upper with an empty inground pool in the backyard. The kind of deal where you’d see kids skateboarding where the water used to be. Usually that’s because something really bad happened. A friend of mine owned a pool that suffered a broken wall when the retaining wall behind it gave way. And it's not uncommon for a wall to pop out of the ground when we have a particularly rainy year and a homeowner goes to drain a pool for resurfacing. Last week, when I looked over the fence at the service vehicle in my new neighbor’s driveway, I saw the words "Pool Leak Detectors." They just bought the house and are fighting a leak they can’t find.
So, if you really want to be sure you’ve considered what can go wrong, keep in mind that sometimes pools can go pretty wrong. But it’s rare.
So Are You a Rolan or a Bob?
As you’re out there looking to purchase a fixer-upper and considering the question “Do I want the house with the pool?” the answer really boils down to you. First and foremost, will you use it? If you’re not going to use the pool, you’ll resent every penny and every hour of your time invested in it. Also, are you handy enough and have the time to maintain the pool yourself? Is the climate in your area going to give you enough warm days to swim? Is the pool in obvious need of any major repairs?
Only you can answer the question for you. Personally, I’ve always kind of liked the way Rolan rolls.