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By Damon Poeter
How much does it cost to build a pool? This is a question many homeowners ask. The next one that typically follows is, “Does a pool add value to a home?”
The truth is that building a pool on your property may only be the first of the costs you’ll incur over the years, which could include the cost of pool maintenance, insurance and even removal. There’s also a chance that even if you’re able to sell your home at a higher price because of the pool, the price of the initial installation of the pool may end up costing you more in the long run.
“People should view their pool not so much as an investment but as a cost that they lovingly enjoy,” says Matthew Angel, a USAA advice director and CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™. “If you put a $40,000 pool in your backyard, it doesn’t necessarily increase the value of your home by $40,000.”
In addition to the monetary price of a pool, there’s the time you spend cleaning and maintaining it, he adds, but that can be balanced by the hours of enjoyment spent with family.
Let’s break down the areas that a pool may cost you:
This first stage depends on a lot of variables:
• Pool-building specialists in different parts of the country may charge different amounts for their work.
• In ground pool or above ground pool? In ground pools are typically more expensive to build because they require excavation, which can add to installation costs.
• Where do you live and on what sort of ground? Building an in-ground pool might cost more if it involves excavating harder bedrock rather than working with softer ground material.
• Drainage issues might be a factor in how much your pool costs and whether you live on flat ground or on an incline might affect the price of construction as well. If you’re not sure about this, consult a pool-installation specialist to find out how much it will cost to build one at your home.
• Do you need special permits from local government or an HOA to build a pool? Before you break ground, make sure you know you have permission to build a pool in your area or what it will take to get it.
• How big do you want your pool to be? Larger in ground and above ground pools tend to cost more in labor and materials, which is why some people opt for “spools,” which are pools that are larger than a typical spa or hot tub but smaller than a standard-sized backyard pool.
• What materials are you planning to use? Materials used to line in-ground pools, spools and spas include concrete, fiberglass and vinyl liner. Typically, concrete is the priciest material to install and requires the most maintenance but is the most adaptable to the shape of pool you want, very durable and is considered an attractive finish. Fiberglass is moderately priced, very durable, considered to be attractive and very low-maintenance but is not very adaptable to use for custom pool shapes and sizes. Vinyl liner is typically the least expensive but is also the least durable and regarded as the least attractive material for lining pools.
• Are you planning on doing any of the construction or logistical work yourself? If you DIY your pool, it could save you money, but make sure you are capable of tackling such a project yourself before starting. It’s also possible to save by organizing different phases of the construction and material sourcing yourself instead of hiring one contractor to do the entire project.
• What other add-ons do you want? If you want to add a slide to your pool or want heating and cleaning systems installed to make your pool more comfortable and cleaning it less of a time commitment, this will be a bigger hit to your wallet.
• Is the pool a part of a larger home improvement project? People often make the addition of a pool the centerpiece of a more sweeping overhaul of their property, like adding new landscaping features, installing outdoor lighting and re-doing patios and porches. Obviously, the bigger your total outdoor project, the more it’s going to cost.
Bottom line: At the end of the day, hiring a company to build a basic, no-frills 9’-by-15’ in ground pool is probably going to cost you in the tens of thousands of dollars. If you add a spa and other features, you’ll probably be looking at additional thousands of dollars or more pretty quickly.
Now that you have a pool, you have to maintain it. That might include heating, cleaning, repair costs and chlorinating the pool to keep it free of harmful bacteria. You’ll also need to maintain any systems connected to the pool like heating and cleaning systems.
Depending on the size of your pool and how often you clean and chlorinate it, this could cost you hundreds of dollars a month. Expect to see your water, electricity and gas bills tick up when you put in a pool, spool or spa, especially during the months when it’s in use. Naturally, larger pools cost more to heat and clean.
If you have small children, you might consider installing a fence around your pool so they can’t get to it when the gate is locked. In addition, think about the sheer amount of time you may need to spend watching kids play in the pool – or hiring someone to do that.
Finally, floaties and swimming vests aren’t huge expenses — but they do cost money.
Putting in a pool can mean increasing the potential of someone getting injured on your property, Angel says. That means you might need to add to your liability protection—which would add to your monthly bills.
“You should assess the level of your assets and what could be at risk when a pool has possibly increased the likelihood someone could get hurt. Suppose a teenager hops the fence and gets injured in the pool – if there’s a lawsuit you’d likely want enough liability coverage to protect you,” he says.
“Your homeowners policy typically will have some liability protection in it, $500,000 of liability coverage is common, although your policy could be higher or lower. A good rule of thumb is to carry as much liability coverage as your total net worth, although individuals may have more risk they want to cover. An additional umbrella policy could give you even more liability protection above and beyond the limits in your homeowners policy.”
If you’re still just dreaming about putting in a pool, it probably hasn’t crossed your mind that you’d ever want to get rid of one on your property. But kids grow up and move out, maintenance costs become less justifiable and people can just get tired of the hassle of keeping up a swimming pool. The good news is, filling in a pool is a lot less expensive than installing one—but it does still cost money and could take days or weeks to complete.
Swimming pools and spas are not set-‘em-and-forget-‘em home improvement projects. Keeping a pool clean, safe, functioning and insured is an ongoing effort that takes a lot of time and money. Choose wisely.
Matthew Angel serves as an advice director at USAA, focusing on the personal finance tenets of short-term saving and home advice. Matthew holds professional credentials including a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ designation, AAMS® and a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Texas San Antonio. Matthew’s history at USAA includes serving members as a financial planner and leading teams of financial professionals to help members achieve financial security. Outside of work, Matthew enjoys hunting and riding motorcycles and is a proud husband and father to four kids.
Umbrella insurance provided by United Services Automobile Association, USAA Casualty Insurance Company, USAA General Indemnity Company, and Garrison Property and Casualty Insurance Company, based San Antonio, TX; USAA Limited (UK) and USAA S.A. (Europe), and is available only to persons eligible for P&C group membership. Each company has sole financial responsibility for its own products.
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