Depending on the area of the country you live in, a swimming pool in the backyard is a must-have real estate feature. A pool can boost the worth of a home significantly. According to the National Association of Realtors, in-ground pools increase a home’s market value by an average of 7.7 percent.
“In theory, a pool is worth to an appraiser anywhere from $8,000 to $15,000,” says Katie Walsh, a realtor with The Walsh Team at Keller Williams Realty East Valley, based in Tempe, Arizona.
But like any part of a home, sellers will want to ensure the pool is in good condition. If the pool is not in optimal shape, you may have to fix it up or lower the price of the home to make up for the poor condition of the pool.
“It’s a showpiece. It’s a major upgrade to the house,” says Scottsdale, Arizona realtor Jeff Sibbach of the Realty One Group. “You’re trying to create that oasis experience.”
Here’s what you need to know when selling a home with a swimming pool:
Make Aesthetic Changes
If your home is on the market, you’ll want to ensure the pool looks appealing to potential buyers.
Jon Hutchings, owner and builder at the Georgia-based company Bikini Pools and Spas, says you’ll want to pay close attention to the overall appearance of the pool.
“If it looks like it’s beat up, it probably hasn’t been maintained,” he says.
Take note of any aesthetic aspects that may put off a potential buyer. Ensure that the pool, the deck and the grout all look well-maintained. Trim nearby trees and clean up nearby landscaping.
Hutchings recommends spending about one hour per week cleaning the pool of debris, balancing the pH to ensure algae doesn’t grow in the water and adding chemicals to the water. If the pool is closed for the winter, you could get away with cleaning every two weeks. Walsh recommends hiring a pro to handle cleaning for you while the home is on the market.
Keep documentation for maintenance and repairs
“I recommend to all sellers to fix any issue they are aware of, if they want top dollar for their home, and not to risk a cancellation or long repair list request coming in during inspection,” says Walsh.
If you arrange any repairs, keep all documentation of pool work completed, including vendor contact information, to prove to the buyer that your pool has been serviced regularly.
Hire a pro to assess your pool
To get the most accurate assessment of your pool’s condition, it’s best to call a pool professional for a pool inspection. Many pool companies offer this service. For example, Phoenix-based We Fix Ugly Pools offers a pre-sale inspection that costs between $95 to $155. Unless a home inspector has a background in pools, Walsh says, it’s unlikely he or she will know specifically what to look for.
Look for warning signs
So what should you look for? The biggest warning signs are cracks, Hutchings said. Cracks can be signs of normal wear and tear, but they can also indicate structural damage — an expensive problem to remedy.
A finish crack, which isn’t as serious as a structural crack, is often shaped like an eggshell or spider web. A structural crack is usually one long line or a line that splits into a fork. Structural cracks tend to occur at the “break” of the pool — the spot where the pool depth increases — or across the bottom and up a pool wall. Horizontal structural cracks can occur at the tile line, about halfway down the tile.
Horizontal tile cracks can indicate that water is leaking and rusting out the steel bars holding the pool together. Rust spots, typically at the base or bottom of the pool, may be signs that the pool will need to be replastered in a year or two, says Walsh. A deck drooping or pulling away from the home, an uneven water line or cracked concrete can signify that the entire surface will have to be replaced and the ground problem addressed, says Hutchings.
Be aware of the costs of repairs
If the damage is extensive enough that the pool has to be replaced or rebuilt, this can cost $40,000 to $50,000. Patching the finish can cost between $5,000 to $7,000, depending on the size of the pool, the local market and other factors. Redoing the finish entirely can cost around $15,000, says Hutchings.
Improve pool safety
Most local building codes require swimming pools to be surrounded on four sides. This enclosure often entails fencing or walls on three sides and the back of the house acting as the fourth side.
However, it is more common for homeowners to add an incremental barrier to a pool. These barriers serve as an additional layer of safety for children and animals. While not required in all municipalities, having a pool barrier could be a selling point for a family with small children.
Plan for the right time to sell
If you’re selling a home with a pool, when you sell may play a factor in how fast your home sells. Selling in the summer might help your home sell faster, especially if most of the homes in the neighborhood don’t have a pool.
“During the summer, you’ll get the lack of a pool being a deal breaker,” Walsh said. “In the winter, people tend to forget how much they want one.”
Sibbach notes that winter visitors will typically want a heated pool.
Don’t build a pool to increase your home’s value
If your home doesn’t have a pool, it’s usually not a good idea to add one to help your home sell. To be worthwhile, adding a pool would need to increase the value of the home by more than the building costs plus $10,000 to $15,000, Sibbach says. This is typically not the case because pools are just too expensive to build.
Higher demand in warmer climates
It will probably come as no surprise that cities in warmer climates have the highest percentage of backyard pools and that pools can be a more important factor to buyers in these areas. Research by realtor.com found that most of top 10 cities with backyard pools were in Arizona and Florida, two of the warmest states.
“We have 300 days of sunshine, and we have a long hot summer,” says Sibbach, who’s based in Scottsdale, Arizona. “It is very relevant.”
While some buyers with children don’t want pools due to the safety hazards, others will insist on pools. Most buyers with kids who want pools want the pool to one side of the yard so they also have an open green space where their kids can play.
When it comes to pools, size matters.
According to Sibbach, one that’s too big can ultimately end up costing too much. He tells us one of his clients had a $600 monthly electric bill due to the costs of running pool equipment. But a pool that’s too small also can be unappealing. A “spool” or cross between a small pool and a spa (usually with water features like small “waterfalls”) is not always ideal.
“It takes a really particular buyer to want a spool,” he says.
So what types of pools do buyers want? In general, Sibbach says, a pool that’s roughly 25 to 30 feet by 50 feet and holds around 12,000 to 15,000 gallons of water.
Sibbach says play pools — the ones that are shallow on the edges and deep in the middle — are more desirable than diving or classic pools, which are shallow on one end and deep on the other.
If you’re selling a home with a pool, you probably have an edge in the market, especially if you live in a warm-weather climate. Many buyers want pools and will be willing to shell out for them. However, you must maintain the pool and make any necessary repairs, which can be expensive, to ensure you get top dollar for your home.
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