You’ve found the perfect house to buy in the perfect location at the perfect price, with one unexpected twist: it has a swimming pool. You don’t despise pools, but it wasn’t exactly on your top 10 list of home features, either. How do you make sure that buying a home with a pool won’t sink you?
To help you stay afloat, the following are the top concerns I commonly encounter with buyers who have never owned a pool, but are considering a home that has one.
Is a Pool Worth It?
The benefits of having a swimming pool are clear: a quick swim just steps away, relaxing afternoons afloat with a book in hand, weekend pool parties, and when not in use, a swimming pool can even enhance your view. However, the flipside of pool ownership can be a tidal wave of responsibility that a buyer might decide to walk away from, including pool maintenance, safety, insurance, and home value concerns.
Common costs to think through include daily heating and filtering, weekly cleaning, yearly inspections, occasional major repairs, and resurfacing every 10 years for in-ground pools.
- Heating & Filtering: Pool heating costs can run anywhere from $100-$300 per month and vary depending on the climate you live in, your pool temperature preferences, and how you power the heater and filter (electric, gas, or solar). You can usually get a rough estimate on costs from your local electric or gas provider to understand typical monthly fees for the home, but in general, electric is the most expensive per month, followed by gas and then solar. In warmer climates, heating costs are less of a concern because the pool only needs to be heated one or two months out of the year.
- Cleaning: Pool services typically charge $80-$100/week to clean, add chemicals, and replace the occasional filter or submerged light bulb, depending on how your pool is equipped. You could choose to do this maintenance yourself, but then you’ll need to factor in $5 per week for supplies plus your time. Foregoing weekly maintenance is not a good idea because skimping on cleaning will result in bugs, bacteria, and if left unattended for months, a soupy eyesore.
- Major repairs: While you can’t predict if you’ll ever have to repair a leak or replace a broken pump or pool liner, these types of major repairs are measured in thousands of dollars when it comes to cost. A more predictable expense is resurfacing the pool, which a homeowner should expect to do every 8-10 years for $1,500-$2,000 a pop.
Safety & Insurance
Keeping kids, pets, and visitors safe from pool-related injury or drowning is another biggy for buyers. Make sure the residential pool meets the minimum code requirements for your city, which may include a fence, alarm, or additional safety measures. If the pool isn’t equipped when you buy the home, installing safety measures could be another up-front cost you’ll need to account for. The latest on standards, statistics, and simple safety advice is available at www.poolsafely.gov.
Impact to Home Value
Your homeowners insurance is likely to be higher when a pool is involved, and you should get a clear idea of what is covered by your policy. In South Florida, for example, pool enclosures are typically not covered by insurance because they are easily damaged or blown away in a hurricane.
In warmer climates where residential pools are common, they are more likely to bolster a home’s value. In South Florida, a well-maintained pool can contribute $35,000 to a home valued at $500,000 (or seven percent of the total home value). In colder climates where there are fewer warm months to enjoy a pool, it may not factor into a home’s value at all.
So You’ve Decided You’re Ready to Dive In… Now What?
When you tour a home for sale that has a pool, look for obvious warning signs: needs resurfacing, has cracks, or is visibly in disrepair. Ask if the homeowner has kept detailed maintenance records.
If your offer on a home is accepted, the pool should be inspected along with everything else. Keep in mind that a general property inspection may not catch all possible issues, especially challenging things to test for, like leaks. If you still have questions about the pool’s condition and maintenance records aren’t available, look into having a qualified pool specialist inspect it, too.
If you’re sold on the home but not the tidal wave of responsibility it brings, you still have options: buy the home and then fill the pool or remove it altogether. The Redfin Forums are full of discussions about how much pool removal costs (approximately $6K-$10K), regulations and permits required (varies by city), and nightmare scenarios (sinkholes due to poorly compacted dirt).
One extra caution: if you’re thinking about draining your pool for an extended period of time, do some research first. Drained pools are a safety issue when not appropriately enclosed or fenced-in and, if at sea level, can pop out of the ground altogether! You may think you’re saving money in maintenance by draining it, but can end up with a more expensive mistake to tackle.
Did you buy a home with a pool and love it? Or do you have a huge case of buyer’s regret? Tell us all about it in the comments!