Are Pools Worth the Expense?

By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR® Magazine

Backyard PoolOn a hot summer day, who isn’t envious of the house with the inviting, backyard pool to jump in and cool off? But today’s cost conscious homebuyer may be leery of taking the plunge with buying a home with a pool, viewing the upkeep as putting them in the deep-end of mounds of extra expense.

In-ground pools can be attractive features when selling a home; allows buyers to narrow their home search to properties with only a pool. However, some buyers are looking more closely at the added expense, just as some home owners are even opting to remove that once-considered jewel of the backyard.

In a recent Wall Street Journal article (Taking a Bath on Your Pool by Brett Arends), experts estimated that pools can add $3,000-$5,000 in maintenance a year. And if something goes wrong, say the filters or pump need replaced, costs can quickly add up.

For example, a pool that is five years old often needs a new filter or pump, which could cost an estimated $500, according to an MSNBC article (“Is It a Pool or Money Pit?” by Melinda Fulmer). A pool that needs to be resurfaced may cost $5,000-$10,000, depending on its size. And thinking about upgrading the tile, decking, or plaster? That could cost you up to $20,000, according to the article.

And don’t forget initial installation fees too. Pool installation fees, which vary considerably, often range from about $25,000 to $50,000.

Don’t want the pool any more? Getting rid of it isn’t cheap either. A partial removal can run you anywhere from $3,000 to $15,000, depending on the size. A full removal, which varies greatly, averages $10,000 to $15,000 for a small pool, according to

Taking into account all of the expenses, many financial advisers are telling buyers to take caution before jumping into pool ownership.

However, expenses aside, a well-maintained pool, especially in an area where you can use it more than three months out of the year, can still be an attractive feature to buyers.

The Association of Pool & Spa Professionals, a trade association representing the industry, recently posted a response to The Wall Street Journal’s article questioning the expense of a pool: “There are many, many things – including pools – which people choose to buy because it makes their lives better,” the association writes on its Web site. “A pool or a hot tub may or may not be a financial investment, but they are most assuredly a quality-of-life investment.”

Melissa Tracey

Melissa Dittmann Tracey is a contributing editor for REALTOR® Magazine, writing about home & design trends, technology, and sales and marketing. She manages the magazine's award-winning Styled, Staged & Sold blog.

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  1. Great article Melissa. I think calling the piece “Are Pools Worth the Expense?” is perfect and it’s safe to say that it is dependent on the market and the desire of the homeowner. I used to produce an HGTV show called “My House is Worth What?” and we traveled all over the country. Many homeowners wanted to find out if a pool would be a wise investment. In Southern California a pool can potentially add value to your home and be worth the expense because pools are in high demand. In colder climates pool may be viewed as a nuisance and an unnecessary expense. Bottom line, your home is meant for your enjoyment and if a pool is going to make you happy then it is certainly worth the expense since it will improve your quality of life.
    One other quick point – a lot of people are choosing to live in neighborhoods that have community pools. For a small monthly fee they get the benefits of having a pool nearby without the hassle of the upkeep.

  2. i’ve heard pools will only get you about 20-30% return on investment, is this true?

  3. In ground pools are costly, however quality of life is priceless. If the comsumer is properly informed and made aware of everything they need to know concerning owning a pool such as cost, labor, upkeep, etc..then I think a buyer who desires a pool can make a better decision.

  4. My first house came with an inground pool, my second house I built and had an inground pool installed, my third (and current home) no pool yet. I am on my 4th summer without and and I miss having one. I definitely agree that it may not be a financial investment but a pool is an investment in the quality of my family’s life. I thouroughly enjoyed every summer with my pool and hope to have another one when this economy turns around! Having a pool is worth the upkeep, labor and cost.

  5. A pool is worth having if enhances your life. Some people have physical limitations that restrict their options for getting in a little exercise and having a pool can be their only source of a work out. For those of us that live in the desert it may be the only outdoor activity possible during the hotter months.

    From an investment point of view, my observations are that pools are for the most part underutilized and definitely not worth the extra expense, with the caveat that here in Arizona having a pool helps to sell a home more quickly. However, similar homes without a pool sell for virtually the same price, which is another argument for pools not being worth the expense.

  6. I would never own a home without an inground pool. I love it. It enhances my life and has brought my family much happiness over the years.
    I love travelling in the winter, but just let me get on that raft in the summer in my own backyard! I know I could sell my home in a heartbeat…..pool and all!!
    We open our pool the first week of May and close it mid-September. Our expenses are low. We have had our pool since 1993 and have only had to replace the liner a couple times at minimal expense.
    Who would think having a pool in Omaha, NE would be a huge selling point? Several of my fellow Realtors would agree….they have them too!!

  7. Absolutely swimming pools are worth it. You just need to have it built by a experinced and up to date with technology builder, and a caring personal pool person.

  8. In Hawaii, pools run from $60,000 – $80,000 to build. While a pool definitely increases the value of your home here, it can also be a deterrent to some buyers who don’t want to deal with the added expense, headache and potential liability to neighborhood kids or their own. Having a pool, I realized the first year we used the pool almost everyday. two years later, we use it once or twice a month. From that standpoint it is not a good investment. It really depends on your lifestyle.

  9. Ah, but Kelly, you have a beach nearby wherever you live in Hawaii. Most of the rest of us don’t have that alternative. And, for that matter, when I lived in Hawaii I spent a lot of time in the pool. It was much easier to do laps. 🙂

  10. This article is somewhat generic. If you live on the north eastern coast, maybe you don’t need a pool as you will have to winterize it. But quite frankly, living in the Arizona desert, there is only one thing that can make your life comfortable in the summer. That is a pool. Yes pools took a lot of up keep in the past but now you can get everything automated and it does it on its own. Get an auto chlorinator. Make sure you have an auto filler as filling it up once a week can get timely in this area where 1″ or more a day evaporates in the summer. I haven’t met anyone that didn’t have their pool on a timer and the Hayward AutoVac is wonderful. All we do is empty the leaf catcher 1 time a month and back wash the systerm or wash the filters one every two weeks. It barely takes any time. I must admit, you have to remember to fill the cholorinator but my goodness, this pool makes you cool in our desert. Love it for what it is.

  11. In a warm place like Miami, pools are almost mandatory. However, the do add to the bottom line. In a financial bind, they can quickly go from enjoyment to burden.

  12. Although in worst case scenarios–yes, the pool can be expensive. Yet, overlooked was the built in entertainment of a pool, not to mention the baby boomers who need exercise are looking to pools for an alternative to staying in or getting into shape instead of a treadmill.
    There is also a meditation factor, as a pool owner I cannot count the time I sat by the pool and read a book or jumped in and relieved plenty of stress with my vacation/resort area only a step away. Turn on the music and turn off the phone and slip away for a few hours. What is your health worth. I mean—we could all live a lot more economical but again what about the quality of life?
    As a Solar Pool owner in Southern California my pool is a 175. a month luxury with maintenance and electricity included. Of course I have saved that much by not running to a local resort to unwind for the weekend as I can do that in my own backyard, several times a month or year. Then of course there is the Spa that is connected and for about 2 bucks in gas, it is heated to release a sore back instead of hiring a massues for 80 bucks to get rid of that knot in your back from a real hectic day.
    In my opinion a bathtub and a pool nearby is a must for me!

  13. Help! I have a listing in Kirkland WA with an in ground pool. We have a very short season and buyers are very negative about the expense and liability. How do I find a buyer who realizes the positives? Suggestions to Thanks!

  14. Paul Swilley

    Pools are definitely a life style investment. In the Houston, TX, market we can swim 6 months out of the year. I installed a pool in my own home in 2001 and it has absolutely been worth it. I have not found the expense of maintaining very high, certainly not in the range suggested in the article.

    My wife and I both enjoy the pool. After work on a summer evening, we are in the pool and that is a great time to talk to each other without TV or phones. There are many advantages including more quality time with children and grandchildren. Our friends look forward to holidays when we entertain and play volleyball in the pool.

    Pool ownership is not a dollar and cents kind of decision. Granted, the investment to install a pool is usually not translated into a full return addon to the value of your property. In this market, 20% is about right. All things considered, it does add value and it is not a big expense to maintain.

  15. More than a year ago there was a home for sale down the street from me with a pool in the backyard. The Realtor® told us that she was finding the home to be more difficult to sell because of this lifestyle luxury. Ultimately, the home didn’t end up selling and the family actually added a second story.
    So even then people were cautious of pools with their safety and maintenance costs. You just have to make sure that your clients are aware of the potential costs involved.

  16. Robbase

    Nothing is better than a nice warm day with the BBQ grill and pool nearbye. As far as pricing goes, beauty will always be in the eye of the beholder!

  17. Pool Lovers and REALTORS should know this. Are we asking all the questions we should? What if the person who owns the home doesn’t want the pool anymore? That homeowner then fills in the pool…. as they have the right to do. What happens to the next buyer or the next buyer who then wants to put a swimming pool back into the place that had a pool. MOST fill ins do not remove the entire swimming pool. MOST back yards are not big enough to put the pool in another location. The current homeowner now will probably be surprised and badly hurt by the additional cost to remove what some previous homeowner has left for them. It may be true that we disclosed that there was something there, but did we realize what it really costs to remove that pool. I submit to you that sometime in the near future, we will look back in shock and horror and realize that maybe we should have done something else.

  18. Ron

    When my wife and I were looking for a new home, I turned down all those that did not have in-ground pools. I had had the good fortune as a teenager to live in a home with a pool and wanted one of my own as swimming is my favorite exercise. We were looking in Eat Bay suburbs of San Francisco and I felt very fortunate when we found a house that we both liked which also had a pool. We put in new fencing, solar heat, an electric heat pump, a floating plastic pool cover, and an inflated plastic dome. We resigned from the swimming club. We now have very sanitary warm water which is much cleaner and warmer than that at the swim club. My wife had also lived in a house with a pool and was initially reluctant, but now joins me for swimming almost daily from early April until December. We do not have to deal with the drive to the club, swimming in a pool with strangers who may not have showered, and water that is too cold. The cost of the upgrades will come to under $1,000 a year over the period that we expect to own the house–the rest of our lives. Maintenance, heating costs, and a pool service are little more than the cost of club membership and required meals at the club. We have guests who use the pool only a few times a year and are never bothered by neighborhood children who might want to use the pool. The dome makes a huge difference in the length of our swimming season and privacy and protection from the sun when we swim.

  19. Beautifully put!

  20. Melissa your article was spot on. An agent in my office recently asked about pools and if an empty one would affect the value. Here is what I had to say….

  21. Hii Melissa ! hope you are fine. Loved you blog. Keep going. I think if anyone is spending a lot on pools then they should also pay special attentions to maintain the pool. Lots of cost friendly products are also available in market which can help resolving some the issues. but we must have knowledge about new stuff.