It’s roasting hot, and you just finished a long morning of backbreaking yardwork. The sun is high and it’s only getting hotter. From next door, the sound of splashing floats over the fence. It’s a pool—and you’ve always wanted one. But does a pool add value to a home? Or should you take a cold shower instead?
Whether to install a pool is a question that many well-to-do homeowners face. And while taking a cool dip during a hot summer day is undoubtedly enjoyable, steep installation costs and ongoing maintenance make many savvy homeowners think twice.
“We installed a pool because Florida summers can be pretty miserable, and the property had more than enough room to accommodate a pool,” said Courtney Keene, Director of Operations at MyRoofingPal. “It seemed like a sound investment to increase the value of the house, and it was going to be immediately useful to us, so it felt like a no-brainer at the time.
“During the summer, the pool was a godsend, [but] problems started happening in the fall and the kicker was when we decided to sell the property,” she added. “The agent who was finally able to sell it told us that the pool added little to no value in our area, so we basically ended up eating the full cost.”
It turns out that even in an area where having a pool seems like a surefire win, it’s never a guarantee. Here’s what you should consider before building a pool or buying a home with a pool already installed.
The true cost of owning a pool
For many homeowners, emotions override logic when it comes to owning a pool. Depending on where you live and the type of pool you install, you can plan to spend at least 20 or 30 thousand dollars, just for the build.
Keep in mind that this doesn’t include extras that you’ll probably want, such as a pool surround. This can include stonework, landscaping and lighting. There’s also filling, weekly maintenance, repairs, fencing and insurance increases to consider. Finally, don’t forget fun add-ons like toys, and necessities such as a security cover or swimming lessons for kids.
“Pool ownership is expensive, and the $30,000 initial investment is only the beginning of the cost,” said Connie Heintz, a Toronto real estate agent. “On top of that, you’ll spend at least a thousand dollars a year on the chemicals and electricity that maintenance requires. Plus, if you pay someone to handle the three to five hours of cleaning each week, you’ll spend even more money.”
As for Keene, she found that the initial expense to maintain her pool—“I think I remember us paying about $2,500 to $3,000 annually in the beginning”—manageable. But when debris began clogging the drain and the water turned funky, she paid a professional several thousand dollars to come out and fix the issues.
“That $3,000 we were paying went up to around $7,000 on the worst year,” Keene said.
Does a pool add value to a home?
As Keene learned, even in Florida—where owning a pool seems like a safe bet—the amount you spend to build one won’t necessarily increase your property’s value. But, Heintz noted, investing in a pool can be a smart move, depending on the neighborhood.
“In my opinion, pools are only smart investments in wealthy neighborhoods,” Heintz said. “The people who are looking at homes over $600,000 often want a swimming pool or plan to have one installed if the property doesn’t have one already. So, if you bought your house for more than a half-million or the median value in your neighborhood is climbing to that range, installing a pool could be a good option.”
A pool may add value to your home if:
You live in a wealthy neighborhood where owning a pool is expected, or in a hot region where daily use is the norm. “In Arizona, Florida or the Hamptons, where pool use is a part of daily life, to not have a pool would drastically decrease the value of a home,” said real estate expert Alison Bernstein.
You invest in a concrete or gunite pool (rather than a vinyl-lined or above-ground pool). According to Realtor Ben Mizes, “In-ground pools add value, but above-ground pools can actually decrease a home’s value.”
Buyers in your area desire homes with a pool. A Porch.com study found that Gen X and Baby Boomer buyers are more likely to pay extra for a pool, according to Denise Supplee, a realtor, Property Management Specialist and co-founder of SparkRental. But she also added, “if your sole purpose is to increase the value of your home, then it’s not such a grand idea.” And if you’re marketing to families with kids, they may not want the added worry (and expense) that accompanies pool ownership.
A pool probably won’t add value if:
The pool is above-ground or in a bad location. “If it is difficult to enjoy the pool without becoming an exhibition for neighbors and traffic, it may be less than ideal,” said Ron Humes, the owner and principal broker of Post Modern Marketing. “In-ground pools are typically more attractive and desirable than above-ground pools,” he added.
Your pool will take up most of the space in your yard. “If the pool eats up all the functional space, it will be a detriment to many,” said Humes.
You worry about your ability to maintain the pool yourself and you have a limited budget to outsource necessary pool services. “If you own a pool, you have to maintain it if you ever want to sell your house,” Heintz said. “After all, a swampy green pool in your backyard isn’t going to make your house very appealing.”
Is it worth keeping the pool if a house already has one?
Filling in a pool may be worth it under the right circumstances.
“I recently had a client who filled his pool when he lost his job to automation,” said Heintz.
“Filling in a pool isn’t cheap, either, but he knew he wouldn’t be able to care for it. So instead of selling his home, he decided to stay and pay off the mortgage, but fill the pool to maintain the value of his property. I thought this was very smart, as keeping an abandoned pool in your backyard can drag your property value way down.”
Other times when Heintz recommends filling in a pool include:
When the pool needs excessive repairs. “If you hardly, or never, use your pool and the tiles start chipping off, get rid of it,” she said. “There’s no reason to shell out thousands of dollars on a pool you don’t even swim in.”
When the space the pool occupies could be better used. “You could create space for a patio, a garden or even just a plain old lawn,” Heintz said.
When the owners aren’t able to care for it any longer. “It’s a sad fact of life, but people often outlive their ability to maintain their swimming pools,” Heintz said. “If your pool is growing greener by the day, consider filling it in. You’ll pay a few grand now but it will make your home more appealing to potential buyers later on.”
A pool is an investment in family fun, not equity
From installation to maintenance to getting rid of it altogether, a pool is a significant financial investment. But for many people, and especially parents, the memories made splashing in the pool are a worthwhile investment in the family.
Realtor Benjamin Ross noted that people who plan to stay in their homes long-term should consider it.
“A pool creates wonderful memories with family and friends that has no price tag,” Ross said. “However, if you are staying short term and plan to sell it, it usually is not a good idea to install a pool. Much of the time, it is a deal the homeowner can’t win in the short term.”