What to Know Before You Dive Into Pool Ownership

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — If you're thinking of installing a pool for summer or maintaining the one you have, the cost may seem prohibitive. With proper upkeep, though, the cost of pool ownership per month is far less than the average weekend getaway. Here's a look at some of the most frequently asked questions surrounding pool ownership and what you can do to keep your costs low.

How much will my pool really cost to run and maintain during the summer months?

The cost for running on a residential pool will vary according to region, says Willan Johnson, CEO of VivoPools, based in Los Angeles. On average, the cost is $200 per month, and it breaks down like this:

  • Electrical costs to run equipment: $80 per month
  • Electrical/ Gas costs to heat pool or spa during swim season: $80 per month
  • Costs of chemicals: $20 per month
  • Costs of equipment repairs/maintenance: $20 per month

"It's hard to put a financial return on investment on pool ownership," Johnson says. "Some families spend $2,500 per year eating out in restaurants — it all depends on how you want to spend your money. If you think your pool is a worthwhile investment, the costs associated with maintaining it are just factored in to the overall budget of your home."

The cost to hire a professional service company — a "pool boy" — costs around $100 per month in California, around $160 in Texas and about $380 in New York and New Jersey.

If I were to install a pool, how much would that cost?

"If you don't already have a pool, they aren't cheap to put in," Corbett says. "Depending on what kind of decking you get or the area where you live, they can be $40,000 or more. With that said, if you're in a neighborhood where the pool would add that much value to your home, then it's a good investment."

You can also think about your pool like you think about your car, Johnson says. For example, you might buy a car for $40,000, but you're going to get enjoyment out of it, and there will be costs associated with maintaining that investment.

Will having a pool enhance the value of my home?

In some cases, pools can become the center of the home, Corbett says. They become a place for the family to gather and spend their days instead of taking expensive vacations.

"Pools are a great value-add, but you have to determine if you're going to be overcapitalizing your home," he says. "If you live in a neighborhood where pools are not common, putting one in doesn't necessarily mean you're going to get more money out when you sell your home."

For example, if all the homes in your area sell for $250,000, if you put in a $40,000 pool, chances are you're never going to get out of it what you put in it.

Over the life of the pool, will there be costly repairs? How much will they run?

Most pool owners will encounter maintenance needs every six or seven years, says Michael Corbett, Trulia's real estate expert and author of Before You Buy. For example, a new pump may be needed, and they cost around $1,000.

"Your pool might need plastering or you might need to fix some broken tiles," Corbett says. "But these are the types of things that go along with the longer-term expenses of house. Your roof is going to need maintenance too."

While a full re-plastering of a pool can cost $10,000 or more, with proper care and "patchwork" when needed, pools can go 20 to 30 years without being re-plastered.

"This isn't the kind of thing that's going to happen every year," he says.

What are some ways to avoid making costly repairs such as to pumps, tiling and plaster?

If you maintain your pool on a monthly basis, the plaster should last many years, Johnson says. Without regular checks, the acidity in the water can get too high, and will eat away at the plaster. Similarly, without regular cleaning of the pool filters, the pump will be forced to work too hard and die many years before its time.

"In terms of ongoing maintenance, the best thing that you can do is to make sure the water is chemically balanced," Johnson says. "If you don't have time to maintain it yourself, it's worth it to hire a professional."

A pool guy will typically come by once a week to clean a pool, balance the chemicals in the water and perform preventative maintenance tasks.

Is there a way to reduce energy costs for the pool?

If your pool has some age on it, it's time to look into getting an energy efficient pump, Johnson says, which can be up to 70% more efficient than pumps that are more than three years old.

"Over the last three years, people have been installing variable-speed pumps, which have motors similar to those in hybrid cars. They typically pay for themselves in six months because they're so much more energy efficient than traditional single-speed pumps."

Although replacing your pump may sound like a hassle, Johnson says when you put pen to paper on the cost savings, it really opens peoples' eyes.

"In California, the cost of electricity is high. For people spending $150 a month on energy costs for their pool, cutting that by 70% is huge."

— By Kathryn Tuggle

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