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Should You Buy a Pool?

My family spends a lot of time at the pool during the summer.  Nearly every day you can find one of us at the pool watching the kids swim and play.  Given how much time we spend there someone asked me why don’t we build our own pool rather then pay to use someone else’s?

A Friend of Ours Pool Costs Versus Our Pool Memmbership

A friend of ours actually owned his own pool.  It costs him about 900 dollars a year to maintain his pool.  Conversely our summer pool membership only runs $750 a year.  On the face of it our pool membership is a financial slam dunk.  But what if we dig deeper?

Benefits of Owning Your Own Pool

There are some other benefits to having our own pool.  Our summer pool membership is only open from Labor day until Memorial day.  The season for swimming in Delaware probably can be extended to mid to late September, more if it’s heated.  Which means having a personal pool would likely increase our pool time by 2- 3 weeks a year.  

In addition,  the key word here is heated.  Our summer pool membership is for an unheated pool.  So in early June the temperature can be kind of frigid.  I would never buy a pool that didn’t have a heater personally, so there would be some value in having our own pool on a colder morning day.    More comfortable morning swims at a minimum.

Finally our pool membership pool is about a 7 or 8 minute drive away.  Versus a pool in our backyard we could just jump into without driving somewhere.

Maintenance Costs Versus Benefits of a Pool are a Wash

Three key points to one in favor of buying our own pool.  I’d estimate a heated pool and 2 weeks are worth more then enough to offset 150 dollars a year to me. And yet I make no move to buy a pool.    Why?

A Pool Costs a lot to Build

Well there are a few things most people forget when doing a cost benefit analysis.  The first is the initial cost outlay.  Installing a pool is not free.  That cost has to be amortized over the life of the pool.  Installing a decent one is expensive. So it’s unlikely my enjoyment of a personal pool will cover that amortized cost over the membership.

Does A Pool Increase the Value of Your Home?    

What about the return on the pool when you go to sell your house offsetting the initial cost outlay you ask?  Well,  in my area of the country a house with a pool actually costs less than one without.  So the actual cost of the install would also depreciate our house by some amount.  Chances are high the same is true where you live.  That pretty much puts a fork in ever financially justifying building one in your yard.

What If You Bought a Home That Already had a Pool?

But that opens another option, perhaps if we bought a home with one already installed.  In reality, I could have bought a home with a personal pool and had someone else pay for the install.  And yet I still did not.. Why not?

Well we are still missing 2 additional major costs.  The first is the reason the install of one reduces the cost of a home in my neighborhood.  They take a lot of work and require increased insurance for liability purposes.  In addition, especially with young kids there is a lot of risk.  The cost of the insurance, time to maintain, and safety of my children all point in favor of the membership.   Conversely, I can just show up and use the membership.  Easy peazy.

Long Term Pool Repairs

In addition over a long period of time, pools break.  $900 a year doesn’t include major repairs due to age.  So the cost number is probably much higher over a long period.  Still there are some worlds where these two major costs would be offset by buying a home with a pre existing pool.

Short Term Purchasers Need Not Apply

But there is a key phrase in that last statement, the long term.  The only way you could ever break even on a major purchase like a pool would be if you use it year in and year out for the long term.   The problem is, how likely is it that we will be using the pool 5, 10, or 15 years in the future?

The Desire to Have a Pool Wanes

15 years from now our kids will be in college.  Our key use case for having a pool would no longer even live with us.  In investigating this piece this theme seemed to reoccur with everyone we spoke with that had their own pool.  They bought the pool and it was a family focus for about 2 -3 years.  Then slowly life happened.  After a few years it just became another chore that they had to deal with. Needs and wants change over time.

Cost to Get Rid of a Pool

And removing it after you are done can be a big deal.  We actually did almost buy a house with a broken pool a few years back.  Not because we wanted the pool but because we wanted the property it was on.  Ultimately we backed away, with one of the reasons being the pool.  It was too far gone to repair and to fill it in was tens of thousands of dollars.    Closing out a pool for good that you installed and then changed your mind can cost as much as the pool was to build.  Installing a pool is not a decision to be taken lightly.

Anyway, if you can’t tell my decision is fairly firm in favor of not buying one. But back to that friend with the pool.    There are in fact 2 friends.  

The Tale of 2 Friends with Pools

Our first friend had a pool and lived in a similar climate to our own.  He bought a house with a pool.  It worked for a while until he had kids.  Then they sold their house primarily because they were afraid of the dangers of small unattended kids and pools.  Like us he now has a pool membership.  Given some of the mid size repairs he did on his old pool he notes the cost of the pool membership is significantly cheaper for him.

Our second friend still has one he purchased.  However, he lives in a place where he nearly can use it year round.   Add to that it is a moderate size above ground installed in his heated garage so he basically uses it every day of the year and it would be easy to remove if he changes his mind.  Also, he is the primary user of the pool not the kids so longevity is less a question. Finally, he is a good hour drive away from any sort of public pool.  He is more then happy with his purchase because it fits his values and his situation.

As With Anything The Real Answer is Person Specific, But You Need to Look Before You Leap

Honestly friend one inspired this post.  But in writing this one I was thinking more about how things are working for the second friend.  The interesting thing being that even if you value something, it may only be worth doing if there are significant hurdles to alternatives.  In the case of friend 2 the drive makes in unrealistic to go for any type of regular swim.  I also know he personally likes to swim in addition to the kids.  That means he will likely find value for the long term.  Combined what would be a firm no for us, works for him.  Every choice in life, afterall, is situation specific.  Buying a pool matches his situation.

Do you own a pool?

4 Comments

  1. steveark
    steveark July 6, 2020

    Great balanced discussion. We used a pool a lot when we had small kids, but we joined a neighborhood tennis club with a pool and since my wife and I were tennis players we got double duty out of the membership fee. After the kids grew up we stopped using the pool, neither of us really enjoyed hanging out at the pool, we like active hobbies like running, hiking and tennis more. But we have friends in their sixties, nearly 70, who are just now adding a pool to their home. Their kids are long gone and far away, but the wife grew up with a pool and loves “the pool life” and they can afford it, so they are building one as I type this. Like any lifestyle purchase it just depends on what it means to you. I think for most people not building a pool but joining a place with a pool is hands down the winner, but for some, its a dream purchase.

    • FullTimeFinance
      FullTimeFinance July 17, 2020

      Interesting time of life to get a pool. Different strokes for different folks.

  2. Joe
    Joe July 6, 2020

    My wife had a pool when she was a kid. She loved it.
    I lived in apartments mostly and had a pool when I was young too. It was nice during summer breaks, but we really didn’t use it much.
    I wouldn’t get it if it depreciates the property. Also, I wouldn’t want to deal with maintenance.
    An above-ground pool sounds better than in-ground to me. .

    • FullTimeFinance
      FullTimeFinance July 17, 2020

      I agree. If I were to do it I’d want above ground so it would be easier to reverse later.

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