Clarifying Home Pool Choices

Help your clients determine whether or not they should take the plunge. Evaluate home pool options based on climate, budget, style, and other important considerations.

June 21, 2013

With warm weather luring home owners outdoors, it’s a smart time for buyers to evaluate whether a pool—existing or new—is right for their house, yard, lifestyle, budget, and climate.

Help buyers and sellers think through the decision wisely, and they will better understand both the immediate benefits as well as the impact on property value over the long term. Here are key points to weigh:

Climate

It may seem obvious, but pools get greater use in warmer climates. Not surprisingly, the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals reported that the top four states for in-ground pools last year were California, Florida, Texas, and Arizona.

“Pools in south Florida are more of a commodity, with an expectation that a home will have a pool. In fact, homes without pools take longer to sell and hurt overall market value,” says Summer Greene, CRB, GRI, regional manager with Better Homes and Gardens in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

In colder climates, some home owners prefer to add an automatic or solar cover to retain warmth or build the pool inside a glass conservatory or house, says Sacramento, Calif.-based landscape designer Michael Glassman. Yet, there are also vacation areas where a pool is de rigueur, even if it can’t be used all year, says associate broker Diane Saatchi at Saunders and Associates, whose firm is located in New York’s chic Hamptons. Any pool should be designed, however, for all four seasons, which means that attractive coping and landscaping are key accessories.

Site

Home owners installing a new pool need to check that they have enough property to meet their community’s setback rules and other limitations, such as those set by wetland regulations. They should also be certain the topography allows for good drainage, says Glassman. He advises that the setting offer at least five hours a day of sun and some privacy from neighbors. Lizi Tabet with Alain Pinel, REALTORS®, in Burlingame, Calif., warns against planning a pool so big that it gobbles up the entire yard, leaving no room for a lawn or patio.

Purpose

The pool’s primary use should help determine the size, shape, and amenities. Is the pool for one person to swim laps or a place where multiple generations will cool off? Different needs will dictate a lane, shallow and deep ends, a central area for games, or even an adjacent spa, says landscape architect Steve Chepurny, owner of Beechwood Landscape Architecture and Construction in Southampton, N.J.

Style

In-ground pools are more popular than above-ground ones, especially for luxury homes. The most attractive pools are usually integrated into their landscape and complement the home’s style or materials. Rectangular or oval-shaped pools work well with classic traditional brick, stone, or frame houses, whilenatural poolsthat mimic Mother Nature often look better with modern houses and less formal settings.

One new variation, known as the Natural Swimming Pool, was developed in Germany and Austria. The product has a separate “regeneration” pool that filters water with beneficial bacteria, microorganisms, and aquatic plants rather than chlorine, then pumps clean water back to the main pool. Two caveats: Extra land is needed for the regeneration pool and the water isn’t always crystal clear, says Alan Weene, head of marketing and technical support for BioNova Natural Pools.

Extras

Home owners should consider the water’s color, which comes from the color of the interior of the pool, and whether they’d like tile around the interior. It’s also important to think about the type of coping, or architectural elements surrounding the pool—anything from poured concrete to brick, bluestone, slate, travertine, or lawn. Natural pools often include rock clusters and waterfalls to further mimic Mother Nature. The APSP reports that these other extras rank high on wish lists: an automatic pool cleaner, seating area, safety and solar cover, sundeck, salt chlorinator system, lighting, and jets or sprays.

Budget

How much home owners can spend will influence whether they have an in-ground or above-ground pool, as well as its size, infrastructure, and additional bells and whistles. The APSP estimates that costs for a modest in-ground pool average around $33,560, though numbers can fluctuate depending on features and geographic location. By contrast, the average price for an above-ground pool was estimated by the organization to be $4,700 in 2011. The newer “stream style” body of water that flows through a yard or a “disappearing edge” pool may each run in excess of $100,000, Glassman says. Whatever type is selected, Chepurny says that setting aside money for the best finishes and equipment will save home owners money on maintenance and replacement costs down the line.

Care

Pools require regular attention, though automatic devices and a competent service company can cut the time commitments for home owners. In addition, home owners may find that salt water systems require less maintenance—as well as cause less damage to hair color, skin, and plantings—than chlorinated ones. Greene advises setting aside an average of $50 to $75 a month for upkeep.

Pools become tired and dated just as interior rooms do. Pool owners should plan to replaster and seal their pool every five to 10 years, maintenance that may cost $3,000 to $5,000, says Glassman. Some materials, such as Pebble Tec, last longer than traditional plaster.

When it’s time to sell

The cost for filling in an unwanted pool can run from $10,000 to $20,000. Some agents suggest sellers have a ready-to-go bid on removing a pool when they list, says Tabet. Similarly, if the yard doesn’t include a pool in a location where it usually appeals to buyers, she suggests finding out if adding one would be feasible. Generally, pools reflect trends of the local real estate market. “The best thing for a home owner is to do is find out what those are,” Greene says.

Barbara Ballinger

Barbara Ballinger is a freelance writer and the author of several books on real estate, architecture, and remodeling, including The Kitchen Bible: Designing the Perfect Culinary Space (Images Publishing, 2014). Barbara’s most recent book is The Garden Bible: Designing Your Perfect Outdoor Space, co-authored with Michael Glassman (Images, 2015).

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