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Column: Pools are great, but don’t add much to property values

July 13, 2018

It’s hotter than Hades outside. With temperatures hovering close to 100 degrees day in and day out, today’s dip to 94 feels like a cold front. We live in a desert, and there is nothing more inviting on the dog days of summer, in the middle of a desert, than water — cool, blue, deep, refreshing, luxurious water — preferably in the form of a swimming pool, and preferably in the form of someone else’s swimming pool, not mine. Simple enough, I don’t have one — not because I don’t enjoy the act of swimming, or even better, laying in the sun with a book by the pool. You don’t have to ask me twice. If I can fit it in my schedule, I’m there.

My sister has a pool. It’s a fairly large, salt water pool featuring black, high-sheen aggregate concrete and stunning deck jets that arc toward each other on either side when we run them. Our family congregated there on the Fourth of July. As we arrived, she was just finishing up “vacuuming” the pool. The “vacuum” is a robotic, Rumba-type suction device that runs along the bottom of the pool in rows and cleans up the dirt and sand. It takes about four hours to complete. She had already tested the pool’s chemical levels and skimmed the top with a net to take out any leaves, bugs and debris. She had been up since 6 a.m. prepping the pool.

As we were leaving late that afternoon, my kids (most of whom are adults), turned to me and said, “Mom, you should put a pool in.” I explained to them that there is no way in the previously referred to place of Hades, that I would put a pool in. I have no desire to maintain it. I have no desire to oversee construction. I have no desire to spend that kind of money. We already have access to my sister’s pool as well as my friend’s pool, who lives much closer than my sister. And, most importantly, it would not necessarily increase my property value.

“Seriously, Mom, does everything you ever consider doing to your house have to increase the property value?” In short ... yes. I’m kind of a killjoy when it comes to property value. I can’t help it. It’s in my blood. It must add value if I’m going to do it.

It’s not that pools carry zero appraised value everywhere. The fact is, however, that we live in this desert state where we get summer approximately three months out of the year. All the other months are winter. That makes an outdoor pool useful for a very short period. As a result, it is far less likely to add actual value to a home than it would in a state like Arizona, where it is summer nine months out of the year and the other three are an inferno.

I asked both my sister and my friend what they spent on their pools. After the landscaping, required fencing, liner, pool cover, equipment, boiler, engineering and grading, my sister is into this pool about $120,000. My friend is into it a little less, but still around $70,000. Neither of these guys will ever get this back in equity. Yet, at the same time, both know this. They knew it at the time they put their pools in, and they wouldn’t change a thing.

Utah appraisers pretty much agree; in an older neighborhood, where there are fewer pools and the pool is not maintained, it would be a more likely deterrent and certainly wouldn’t add to the property value. However, in an area where there are a number of homes with pools and they are well maintained, the value may be a little higher and the homes tend to sell a little quicker. We are not talking about numbers anywhere close to what the initial cost and yearly maintenance of a pool would be, but how can you put a price on experiences?

As for me, as long as I know someone with a pool, I’m content.

Jen Kirchhoefer is an associate broker and Realtor. She can be reached at jenkirchh@gmail.com or 801-645-2134.

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