For most of us in the Midwest, the image of clear blue pool water stirs up emotions of summer time fun and carefree moments. At some point as a home owner, you might dream of either installing an inground pool or purchasing a home that already has one. It’s definitely a decision to think through thoroughly. Because we enjoy only three months of sunny, warm weather in the Greater Cincinnati Area, you might be wondering: “Would an inground pool add value to my home?”

Will It Pay Off to Add a Pool to My Home?

The answer, of course, is that it depends. Let’s clarify right now that we’re just talking about inground pools. While above-ground pools have come a long way in their options for aesthetic appeal, the inground pool still is viewed as the more sophisticated, more attractive, and more upscale amenity. And an inground pool is far more expensive to install. Expect to spend anywhere from $30,000 to $50,000 for an average size pool. The price tag can go much higher depending on added features and poolside landscaping. Annual maintenance costs range from $1,200 to $1,800, and after adding in utilities cost and occasional repair, the annual cost is around $3,000 to $5,000. Expect your home insurance policy to also increase.

Different reports have estimated that the most added value you’ll see from having a well-kept pool is 5 to 7%. When you factor in the cost of installation and yearly maintenance, repair, and insurance, you’re probably spending more than what you could recoup. Because of location, housing in our region isn’t positioned to command large premiums for homes with pools, like in Florida or California, where they might gain tens of thousands in value-add. What you might see instead is that a move-in-ready home with a pool commands a higher price than a similar home in the same location because it’s one of few homes in the neighborhood with that feature.

If you’re a Cincinnatian considering the installation of a pool, it might be more useful to think of the pay-off in terms of family enjoyment, entertainment, and leisurely living rather than in high dollar returns. For home improvement ideas that more commonly gain a return on investment, see this article.

As a Buyer, Will I Always Pay More for a House with a Pool?

The answer depends on the condition of the house and the pool and what’s available nearby. The value-add of a pool depends on the neighborhood where you’re buying. In luxury neighborhoods, there might be many homes with pools, in which case, not having a pool might actually get you to a lower pricing tier, depending on the home’s other features. If there are fewer homes with a pool in your desired location, the one with the pool may be more coveted, driving up the cost because of scarcity. But not all pools are equal. Let’s be clear, if a home has overall great amenities, is in pristine condition, and has a fine-looking pool, then the pool is probably icing on the cake to a high-value home. In other words, it adds value. If a home is in good condition but the pool shows signs of neglect, the pool is likely to bring down the overall value of the home because it’s seen as a potential money pit.

What Makes a Pool Polarizing for Home Buyers?

In areas such as Florida and Arizona, a pool may be an expectation for most buyers because of more months of warmth and sunshine. In the Greater Cincinnati Area, having a pool is not at the top of most buyers’ wish list. It comes down to practicality since there are just three months’ of pool weather per year and there is not an abundance of homes with pools in our region. In the Midwest, it can be difficult to justify the cost and maintenance that comes with a pool for such a short time of usage. As attractive as a pool might seem, many buyers just don’t want another responsibility to handle. Also, families with very young children often see a pool as a safety concern. HOA neighborhoods with pools are an appealing alternative to a lot of local families because they can enjoy summer swimming without taking on pool care responsibilities themselves. And the cost of maintenance is shared among all the HOA members.

On the flip side, there is a population of buyers who view a pool as an essential part of their lifestyle and they are willing to weed out otherwise suitable homes to get one. These folks tend to value privacy with their swimming and leisure, and they also like to entertain guests outdoors. Some may view a pool as a status symbol. And now, in an era of the pandemic altering our vision of home life, there’s been increased desire for pools to enhance the new normal of doing more at our own home. Whatever the reasons, there is definitely a specific set of buyers who want a home with a pool, albeit, it may be a smaller segment in our region.

Real Estate Term of the Week

Pool Filtration: A system that keeps a pool clear of dirt and debris. The most popular systems are sand and glass filters. Sand filters are less expensive and require a sand change every 3-5 years. Glass filters cost more, but can last as long as 15 years before a change is needed.

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