The True Costs of Owning a Pool

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ZillowThis California home on a hillside in Laguna Beach has a swimming pool as well as views of the Pacific Ocean.

By Susan Johnston

As summer approaches, perhaps you're daydreaming about putting in a swimming pool or buying a property with a backyard pool. That way you can take a dip and cool off in your own pool whenever the mood strikes, never mind piling the kids in the car on a hot summer day or jockeying for space at a community pool. (Plus, a beautiful pool can make you feel like you live the glamorous life.)

But before you dive in (pun intended), consider these financial implications of a swimming pool.

Upfront Cost

If you're planning to install a pool, be prepared to open your wallet. PK Data reports that the average cost of a residential in-ground swimming pool was $39,084 last year. Don't expect to recoup all of that money when you sell your house in the future, cautions Sabine H. Schoenberg, a home improvement expert and founder of "It's not something that's value-enhancing to a lot of people," she says. "Just as there are people with positive feelings towards pools, there are those with negative feelings. I would never put a pool in as a speculative builder." Whether to buy an investment property with a pool is another decision to consider carefully.

If you decide to move forward with a pool installation, Schoenberg suggests thinking carefully about the placement of the pool in your yard. "If it's in one faraway corner, people aren't going to use the pool," she says. "You need to look at the natural daylight as it travels around the house. I don't think it's a good idea to put a pool into a dark, shadowy place." She also suggests finding an installer who offers a five-year warranty, not just a one-year warranty.

Also investigate your town or municipality's regulations around pools. "Each town will have its own definition of a 'pool,' often based on its size and water depth," says Loretta Worters, spokeswoman for the Insurance Information Institute, an industry organization that provides insurance information to the public. "If the pool you are planning to buy meets the definition, then you must comply with local safety standards and building codes. This may include installing a fence of a certain size, locks, decks and pool safety equipment."

Ongoing Maintenance

Before you buy a home with a pool, try to get the pool inspected. "The best way, I find, is to get a pool company to come and look at the pool closely," Schoenberg says. "Sometimes that's a challenge if it's the winter, and the pool is partially drained down, so you may not be able to do a full inspection."

Also, find out if the previous homeowner had a pool company servicing the pool so you can find out if it's been serviced regularly and what that company charges. Peter Wingskam, owner of Crystal Clean Pools of New York, says the quality of a pool's construction matters more than its age. "You might have above-ground pools where you've got ladders pulling on the side and ripping the vinyl," he says. "Some people cut costs, and there's thicker vinyl or better grade vinyl available." In-ground pools can also get cracks, he adds.

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