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Buying Homes With Swimming Pools

Should You Buy a Home With a Swimming Pool?

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home with a pool

Pool homes may not appeal to every home buyer.

© Elizabeth Weintraub
My first home had an indoor swimming pool. One day I turned off the dehumidifier without realizing that the walls would perspire. The dampness caused subterranean termites to crawl out of hiding and zip around the room. As a result, I paid a small fortune for pest extermination, painting and floor covering replacement.

A lesson many pool owners learn the hard way, as I did, is that proper pool maintenance is of primary importance. Of course, most pools are located outdoors, which makes taking care of them a bit easier, but you should also find out if your pool complies with federal and local pool barrier laws regarding enhanced safety regulations.

Who Buys Homes With Swimming Pools?

When it comes to buying a home with a pool, most home buyers fall into one of three camps:

  • Home Buyers Who Won't Look at Homes Without a Pool

    For these buyers, a pool is paramount because a home is not a home without a pool. Pools are very popular in warm states, where they are used year round.

  • Home Buyers Who Won't Look at Homes With a Pool

    Buyers with small children are often concerned about accidental deaths by drowning. Some buyers don't want the upkeep or expense of a pool.

  • Home Buyers Who Never Thought About a Pool

    If the home has everything else a buyer desires but it also has a pool, these buyers may face a quick decision they hadn't anticipated. Some buy the house and fill the pool with rocks.

Should You Buy a Home With a Pool?

According to the The Association of Pool and Spa Professionals, the number of new in-ground pools in the U.S. grew by 10% from 2002 to 2005, and some 4.7 million U.S. homes have in-ground pools.

Studies show that most low-end and many middle-range buyers do not want a home with a pool. Higher-end homes are more likely to have pools, but some are never used. Some pools exist for decoration. If you enjoy swimming, then a pool might be right for you. But wisdom says buy a home with a pool only if you will use it. Otherwise, your sparkling pool could turn into an expensive pond for ducks.

Types of Swimming Pools

If you're planning to install a swimming pool, hire a reputable pool contractor. In California, for example, contractors who do more than $500 of work on a pool must be licensed and are required to have a swimming pool specialty classification for the license. The cost for a new pool starts around $30,000, but can easily soar past six figures, depending on desired amenities such as fountains, landscaping or decking.

  • Gunite Pools

    Gunite pool construction, which is achieved by spraying a mixture of concrete and sand into a pool-sized hole, is the most popular. Unlike above-ground pools, which are temporary, these in-ground pools are permanent structures. Gunite pools can be laid out in almost any shape the home owner desires and last for years. But gunite is pricey.

  • Vinyl Pools

    Vinyl in-ground pools are generally rectangular, but other configurations are available. They are less expensive than gunite because the pools are lined with vinyl; however, the liners often need replacement after 10 years. They are popular in areas where temperatures dip below freezing and the pools are drained in the winter. To prepare for a vinyl pool, the ground is excavated and support walls are constructed from a variety of materials such as wood, steel, fiberglass or aluminum.

  • Above-Ground Pools

    The National Association of Realtors says above-ground pools add no value to the home because they are portable. Above-ground is an inexpensive option for a pool. Some home owners buy do-it-yourself kits and assemble their own above-ground pools. Unlike in-ground pools, which can require weeks to complete, these pools can be installed in a few days.

The Advantages of Owning a Home With a Pool

  • Many people believe pools increase the aesthetic value of their yard.

  • People who host a lot of parties utilize their pools as an entertainment center, and kids love pools.

  • Pools provide an easy way to instantly cool down on hot days.

  • Some people use swimming pools exclusively for in-water exercises and say pools add health benefits for them.

  • Swimming pools can bring added value at resale, especially in hot climates.

The Disadvantages of Owning a Home With a Pool

  • Regular maintenance. Pools require chemicals, cleaning and over time, repair.

  • Children can drown. Drowning is the leading cause of accidental death among children ages 1 to 4, says Safekids.

  • Pool homes appeal to fewer buyers.

  • Pools consume valuable yard space, and in a small yard, they can overwhelm.

  • It might cost more to insure a home with a pool, and heating it can drive up utility bills.

Do Pools Add or Detract From the Value of a Home?

Whether a pool adds value to a home depends on where you live. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, the three most popular states for pool homes are California, Arizona and Florida. The National Association of Realtors says an in-ground pool adds about 7.7% more in value to the home's market value. However, in colder climates, such as Minnesota, a pool may add no value at all.

Pam Erickson, a Realtor at Coldwell Banker Burnet in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, says, "We price the house as though the pool does not exist and hope it does not detract from the house. But it most always does. So I keep showing until that ONE buyer comes through."

Erickson says there is a growing segment of baby boomers who pass up buying a vacation home to invest in their own back-yard paradise. They install complete pool systems boasting waterfalls, hot tubs, climbing walls and extensive landscaping. That's a lot of money for a pool, she says, especially in an area where pools are used three months out of the year.

Disclaimer: Ms. Erickson helped me buy several homes in the early 1990s.

At the time of writing, Elizabeth Weintraub, DRE # 00697006, is a Broker-Associate at Lyon Real Estate in Sacramento, California.

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