As temperatures rise in late spring and early summer, it’s tempting to think about creating your own backyard oasis, complete with an in-ground pool, outdoor grilling area, and lounge chairs for all your friends. During hot summer days, your place will be the most popular spot in the neighborhood. If you’ve thought long and hard about putting in a pool, you might be ready to take the plunge this year. It’s absolutely your decision, but make sure you have a firm grasp on the numbers so a pool’s pricey upkeep doesn’t wreck your carefully constructed budget.
First, it’s important to realize that a pool is an investment, but it might be worth more to your long-term entertainment than actually adding value to your home. Pools are a significant cost, but they might not increase the resale value of your home like remodeling your kitchen or bathroom would. “It’s not something that’s value-enhancing to a lot of people,” home improvement expert Sabine H. Schoenberg told U.S. News and World Report. “Just as there are people with positive feelings towards pools, there are those with negative feelings.”
Above all, experts say, do your research to know exactly how much you’ll be shelling out — not just in upfront costs, but over the next 5, 10, or 20 years. “They [homeowners] think about a house as a potential money pit, but they may not think about the pool,” financial adviser Elaine Scoggins told the Wall Street Journal. “I’m not saying don’t own a pool, but go into it with your eyes open.”
What does a pool cost?
Though pools can be polarizing features in real estate, they’re more common in some regions than others (think Florida and Texas, for example). If you live in a region where backyard pools aren’t the norm, you might have a more difficult time selling your property later on.
A run-of-the-mill standard in-ground pool is an average cost of about $29,660, not counting landscaping, fences (which are often required by town zoning laws), and accessories like nets to clean the pool, thermometers, and other add-ons. Depending on your preferences, these costs could add a few more thousand dollars to your tally.
Installing the pool itself is unquestionably your biggest cost. But the ongoing maintenance will take a chunk from your budget each year. The most consistent costs will be weekly and monthly maintenance, mostly dealing with balancing the chemicals required to keep your pool from becoming green or burning your nose with too much chlorine.
Recurring pool maintenance fees
According to the Wall Street Journal, the recurring fees like necessary chemicals and cleaning equipment can be the easiest to underestimate. Pool experts told the Journal those chemicals can cost between $500 and $800 per year, even if you’re buying them from discount stores and doing the work yourself. HomeAdvisor also breaks down the numerous tasks that go along with pool upkeep, including skimming the pool for debris every few days, vacuuming the pool bottom, cleaning filters, and much more.
Your time is valuable, but you’ll need to invest a decent amount of it each week to keep your pool in working order. You can choose to outsource most of this work to a pool cleaning service, but the price will vary greatly depending on the area in which you live. Realtors on Trulia estimated costs of anywhere from $50 – $120 per month, depending on the region. Regardless, you’ll want to do a search online for your area to determine the estimated costs before you dig a pool-sized hole in your backyard.
Replacing equipment won’t be necessary in your first year or so, but it’s another thing to calculate in terms of long-term costs. One pool owner detailed her pool expenses for CNN Money, which included about $1,000 per year for new pool filters and other smaller items, $600 to replace their pool vacuum, and $2,500 to resurface their pool after 11 years of use. If you live in a climate where the pool isn’t open year-round (think anywhere north of Florida, probably), it will likely cost another $500 to have the pros open and close your pool for the season, if you don’t plan to handle it yourself. Electricity is another cost to think about, which for the necessary pumps and optional heaters could cost another $100 per month.
Increased insurance liability
On top of maintenance fees, another recurring cost you’ll need to calculate is the amount of increased insurance premiums you’ll need to pay to protect your finances. Expect to see your homeowner’s insurance rate increase — insurance companies view pools as foes, not friends.
One of the main reasons for the added expense is because insurance companies deem backyard swimming pools as an “attractive nuisance.” As Zacks Investment Research explains it, these attractive nuisances are more likely to encourage neighborhood children and teens to attempt to get into your backyard, potentially injuring themselves and opening you up to a lawsuit. Of course, insurance rates vary for pools according to region just as they do for automobiles and homes. In areas where pools are common, like in the South, premium rates aren’t as likely to increase dramatically compared to northern states where pools are more rare.
In most cases, your homeowner’s policy will contain liability insurance worth about $100,000. Most experts, including Zacks, Zillow, and Allstate, suggest increasing that liability coverage to between $300,000 and $500,000, to protect your finances in case someone is hurt in the pool on your property. Depending on the region, Zacks estimates this could add another $50 to $75 to your premium. Each of the sites also suggest purchasing an umbrella policy for pool-related incidents specifically, which often cover liabilities of up to $1 million. This can add between $200 and $300 to your premium, Zacks reports, though shopping around for this policy is always a good idea.
All told, financial planners told the Wall Street Journal that you should expect the ongoing costs of a pool to be about 10% to 15% of the initial cost of your pool each year. In other words, expect to pay $3,000 to $4,500 each year for a pool that initially cost you about $30,000. If you’ve considered the cost and are still dreaming of a floating raft with a cold one in your hand, go for it. But if the necessary costs are putting your budget in the red, it might be best to purchase a pool membership instead.