At first blush, who wouldn't want to buy a home with a swimming pool?
But a closer look reveals the reality (and risks) of taking on pool ownership, good and bad, and all should be factored in before diving in head first for potential homeowners.
Real estate agents have long said pools ding your resell value. Increasingly, Americans have decided that a swimming pool is something they can do without. According to Statista, over 28.4 million U.S. households had a swimming pool in spring, 2009. By 2017, that number declined to 18.9 million by spring, 2017.
A big part of that decline is financially-based. After all, the Great Recession was still in full roar in 2009, no doubt leading many cash-strapped homeowners to stop paying for swimming pools.
Another reason could be that U.S. homeowners don't want the hassle and expense of building and maintaining a swimming pool, and interest in doing so is drying up.
Still, owning a swimming pool has its benefits, experts say. Here are some of the "pro's" linked to pool ownership:
Pros of Owning a Pool
Social benefits. "When my children were young, we lived in a neighborhood that did not have pools," says Bruce Ailion, an Atlanta-based attorney and real estate professional. "I purchased a home with a large deep pool, diving board, slide and huge deck. I was not looking for a pool, but the home was a great buy." Ailion says there were costs of maintenance, but the pool made his home the social headquarters for our pre-teen and teenage children. "It was worth the expense," he says. "Later I moved to a neighborhood with a pool and tennis facility. That was nice, but not as nice as having the privacy of your own pool."
A pool is good for your physical health and mental health. "Having a pool is great if you're a swimmer - it can double as your gym," says Jennifer Beeston, a vice president of mortgage lending at Guaranteed Rate Mortgage, in Santa Rosa, Cal. "I have a pool and some of my favorite family moments have been at that pool. Also, my son and his friends jumping off the waterfall as I lay poolside reading magazines is priceless."
It's a good look for your home. A properly designed and placed pool can look great and can tie together indoor and outdoor design in ways few other elements can, says Beverly Solomon, creative director at Beverly Solomon Design, near Austin, Tex. "I still envy a client/friend with a hilltop home/vineyard who has an infinity pool that is visible from several rooms in his home," she says. "It looks as if the water is falling off into space with an amazing mountain range mile views in the background."
Here are some of the potential downsides of owning a pool.
Cons of Owning a Pool
High maintenance. Despite all the happy ads by pool gizmo and chemical companies, a pool requires both monitoring and work, Solomon notes. "The design, site preparation and construction costs are just the tip of the iceberg," she says. "There are numerous upkeep, insurance and maintenance costs. And just the energy costs alone can add $100 a month or more to your utility bill."
Safety issues. Safety is an extremely large consideration when owning a pool, says Teris Pantazes, the co-founder of EFynch, a home improvement and homeowner community in Baltimore, Md. "Most municipalities require fencing that can be locked, as a pool is inherently dangerous," Pantazes says. "Concerns from drowning and diving are common concerns and because a pool attracts attention, these dangers tend to be on the other side of a magnet that draws everyone near. I have heard plenty of stories about intruders sneaking in to use residential pools or kids when parents are away, which is a big safety risk."
Extra insurance costs. The safety issue with pools links directly to the need for the homeowner to pay for additional insurance to cover pool accidents and other safety issues. "One factor to consider with pool ownership is the liability coverage and adding an umbrella policy to your homeowner's coverage with the added liability a pool brings," says Charlie Riley, a pool owner and director of marketing at Curbell Plastics, Inc., in Orchard Park, N.Y. "Other safety items you need to pay for include fencing requirements, potentially adding cameras and locking mechanisms when kids enter the picture. I have a 20- month-old, so that adds another layer of safety."
From a real estate value point of view, it is often said that swimming pools may not be a good financial deal when you seek to sell your home.
"You really need to consider the area you live in," notes Mark Ferguson, a real estate broker and investor. "In some areas, pools can be a great addition and value-add to a property. In other areas, they can actually decrease the value of homes."
In his home state of Colorado, Ferguson says there are very few in-ground pools, as there are only a few months of the year that they are usable. "In Colorado, it can be a detriment to have an in-ground pool," he adds. "The maintenance usually far outweighs any benefits. I have seen people buy houses, fill in the pools, and then resell them for much more money, just because the pool was gone."
The takeaway? Owning a pool can be a great way to relax, swim, and enjoy a gorgeous sunny day with family and friends. It can also be a financial, maintenance and safety-related pain in the neck.
"The lure of having a pool is like the puppy in the window at the shopping mall pet store," says Solomon. "It's so irresistible that you don't think about the downsides."
"However, like the puppy who becomes a part of the family, if you can afford all that goes with having a pool, you'll really love it."