With the sunny days of summer already here, it’s hard to not let your thoughts turn to the cool, refreshing blue waters of a backyard pool. Maybe you’ve been considering putting a pool in for years or maybe it was just how hot it was last summer that has prompted your interest in being a pool owner. Either way there are likely aspects you’ve not considered.
A pool is hard to undo, which is why we’re going to address the top five need-to-know things about pool installation and ownership right now.
Pool Installation is Awful
Pools are cool. They are. But only when you go into the whole process and future ownership with open eyes. A pool build is not for the faint of heart, for starters. In urban and suburban neighborhoods with yards that are measured in square feet instead of acres, the process may literally destroy your entire back yard while the mess is being made. Grass will grow again, but in the meantime, it can seriously be the worst.
Taking the dog out means getting the leash and pants, he’s not going to be able to go out into the back yard. You may also have to take part of the fence down to allow the trucks and other equipment access, depending on the size of the pool and your yard’s configuration. If you’ve ever had to replace a sewer line, think about that and then multiply it by about a hundred. That’s the mess you’ll have until your pool is done.
If you can handle the stress, great. If not, your local gym or YMCA might have a pool you can use. They’ll take care of everything and it’ll spare your grass. For homebuyers thinking they can save money by building their own pool rather than buying a house with one, this may be true. But this is a big project requiring a lot of dirt work, you may be happier to buy a house with a pool already installed.
A Few Less Obvious Points to Ponder
That digging a giant hole in your yard is going to be a serious pain may be a no-brainer, but there are other things that aren’t as obvious. That’s what this is really about, after all. We want to be sure you’ve considered all the angles before taking the plunge.
Splish, Splash, You Don’t Want to Take a Bath
Real estate agents and appraisers get the same question about pools over and over again: “How much will this increase my home’s value?”
The Devil, with this question at least, is in the details.
- What kind of pool?
- Is it inground or above ground?
- What kind of neighborhood are you living in?
- Do a lot of homes in your market have pools?
- How long will you live in your home?
- What kind of equipment are you installing?
Of course you don’t want to take a bath on your pool, but it’s one of those items that you should consider to be a luxury purchase and not give a lot of care to whether or not it’ll pay for itself. Unfortunately, whether or not your pool can increase the value of your home is such a loaded question that it’s really impossible to answer.
A pool can simultaneously attract and terrify buyers, especially in the middle to low upper buying ranges. For a family with no small children, a pool might seem like a needed asset due to physical therapy that’s on-going or just to shake the frustration of swimming in a club pool without interruption. But for a family with small children, it might be the single thing about your house that’s so wrong it can’t be made right.
Ask Permission, Not Forgiveness from the HOA
A lot of people go through life asking forgiveness for something they did that they knew was questionable to begin with. We’re not saying that’s you, just that this is a common practice among humans. The problem with this approach to pool building in a neighborhood with an HOA (which is most neighborhoods these days) is that if the HOA doesn’t like what you’re doing, you’ve spent a lot of money for a big muddy hole in the backyard.
Find out if your HOA allows pools. Do it even if your next door neighbor has one because the HOA rules can be changed by the membership. If enough people voted for a “no new pools” rule, well, the ayes have it. If they are allowed, there may still be rules about how and where they must be installed in your yard. Learn the rules now before you end up learning a costly lesson.
Pools Change Your Homebuyer Profile
This was already touched on in the section about taking a bath, but it bears repeating. Installing a pool, unlike building a garage or putting in a fence, changes the kind of buyer who will be looking at your place. If your neighborhood is largely made up of the kind of people who like pools and aren’t worried about the safety aspects involved for children and pets, then when you go to sell, you may not notice a lot of difference in buyer traffic.
But, if your neighborhood is full of starter homes or just a lot of small children because you happen to be a half mile from the local elementary school, adding a pool will do you no favors if you want to sell your home. Other families with young children will be the ones looking at your house, more likely than not. Unless you get lucky and find some retirees who want to be around elementary kids, that pool might make it really hard to sell your home.
Budget Pool Buying is Worse Than No Pool
A lot goes into the decision to install a pool, including the cost of that cement pond. While you should be budget-aware, if budget is your driving factor you will not be happy with your pool. If you’re not happy with a purchase that can start around $20k and go up from there indefinitely, you might as well have not put it in.
Pools are needy and have ongoing care and maintenance. They require you to constantly interact with them to keep them working properly, as well as input from the pros now and again. If budget is your first concern, the yearly costs may not figure in, either. Plus, there’s the bump in your insurance rates to consider.
Having a pool is like having a sports car. Some people buy them and love them and can’t get enough. Some people want them, but realistically understand they can’t keep them in tip-top shape, so postpone the purchase. Some people buy the cheapest Porsche 911 they can find and then get frustrated that it’s constantly in the shop.
Your pool priorities should begin with the purpose for the pool, the site location and appropriate equipment. Then you can start price comparing. There’s no reason to miss out on a deal, but buying the cheapest pool because it’s the only one you can fit in the budget is only going to end in disappointment.
Ready to Take the Plunge?
Nothing takes the swelter out of hot summer days like leaping into your own swimming pool. But before deciding to build one, consider…
Will a pool fit on your property? Is there room to meet minimum setbacks from property lines, wetlands, and easements? Make sure it’s possible to install a pool in your yard. Call Hillsborough County Development Services’ site review staff, (813) 272-5600.
Selecting a contractor is the most important thing you’ll do. Seek recommendations from friends, neighbors, and family members who had pools installed. Check the Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation website to make sure a contractor is licensed and in good standing. Get bids from at least three qualified firms, and speak with a few of their past customers.
Average pools range in price from $20,000 to $50,000. Choose the size, shape, and features that make sense for your family, and your budget.
A swimming pool is a structure. It’s not just a big hole in the ground, filled with water. On average, it takes 60-90 days to build a pool after obtaining a permit.
A permit is required for all in-ground and on-ground pools, hot tubs, and non-portable spas in unincorporated Hillsborough County. To begin the process, make an appointment with Development Services by calling (813) 272-5600, or visit either of two locations:
• The Center for Development Services on the 19th floor of County Center, 601 E. Kennedy Blvd. in downtown Tampa
• The SouthShore Regional Service Center, 410 30th St. S.E., Suite 104, in Ruskin
The application and accompanying documents, including a site plan, provide details such as the scope of work proposed, the pool’s dimensions and type of surface finish, and the brand and size of pump(s).
After the County issues a permit and construction begins, inspectors will visit repeatedly to ensure the work is proceeding as planned. Safety is a primary consideration. Inspectors make sure measures are taken to prevent young children, non-swimmers, and other people from drowning, being electrocuted, or sustaining other injuries in or around a pool.
It’s wise to await final inspection approval before making the last payment.
The Florida Swimming Pool Association is a good resource for residents who are thinking about installing pools, and for those who already have them. There’s information about pool construction, licensed contractors, safety, and maintenance.