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$67 a swim: Is a backyard pool worth it?

Blogger does the math on what it would cost to install and maintain a swimming pool -- $67 for each day it's used.

By Karen Datko Jun 15, 2010 9:54AM

This guest post comes from Darwin at Darwin's Finance.

 

It's that time of year again when the weather is nice and the pool parties are starting. We recently went to our first one of the year and, as always, my wife said, "Boy, the kids would love a pool. We have the room. Would it be crazy if we did a pool?"

 

In years past, I immediately replied that she was in fact crazy. More recently, though, I've started to at least give credence to the notion of either footing the bill for a new inground pool or perhaps even moving to a house that has a pool already.

 

There are some key hurdles I continue to struggle with, though, and it's clearly a mix of tangible costs and intangible costs and benefits.

 

What does a pool cost? While the estimates vary widely by what type of pool you want, what type of landscaping, patios and fences, and even what your locale is, the high-level estimate I'll go with for our situation would be $50,000. That sounds like a huge number, but when all is said and done, that's about what we'd be looking at. If you're going to go forward with a pool, you're going to want a nice look to go with it, not to mention all the additional ongoing costs once it's in, like an increase in homeowners insurance, a tax increase, maintenance expenses like opening/closing the pool, heating it if applicable, etc. 

 

For an additional data point, we have some friends in the area who got multiple quotes last year for a small pool given their yard size, and they were coming in at about $45,000, so $50,000 for what we'd want is probably a decent bet. Of course you could argue that adding a swimming pool increases the resale value of your home, but that's not what I want to focus on here.

What are the benefits of a pool? The kids would obviously love it; that's the only reason we'd ever even consider it. 

 

When I was a kid, my friend across the street had a pool and we were at his house constantly over the summers. I still remember playing Marco Polo and all kinds of other games in there. On one hand, that meant his mom had to worry about young kids in the pool, feeding us, washing towels, and everything else that goes along with it. But on the other hand, she knew where her kid was all the time. 

 

For people who like to entertain and have young kids of their own and friends/family with kids, it's great. But then again, there are always fun summer activities you can do with your kids, even on a budget.

 

Downsides of a pool. Aside from the added ongoing costs mentioned above, frankly, it's solely for the kids. I used to love pools as a kid, but as an adult, I can't say I get giddy over a pool. My assumption is that once the kids are off to college, perhaps even once they're in high school, they're just not going to care or use it anymore and it's just going to sit there. Maybe if it's there we'd feel compelled to use it now and then, but it's not something we'd actually desire in our 50s. 

 

Perhaps if you keep it around long enough, and we never move, eventually it would be a reason grandkids would love to come visit, but that's looking REALLY far out and probably not worthy of decision-making inclusion. We may actually have to just fill the thing in someday.

There's also the constant fear of an accident. Regardless of your homeowners insurance and an umbrella policy, if a kid drowns in your pool, regardless of whether you taught your own kids to swim, that's not something we'd want to live with. But life is about risk and management of those risks.  Presumably, we'd put in place enough safeguards and ensure our presence so that the risk is manageable, but it would still weigh on us.

If we wanted to move, many homebuyers don't want a pool.  So, while the pool may be of some incremental value to homebuyers looking for a house with a pool, it would greatly shrink the population of buyers who would consider our house. So we'd lose that flexibility and I wouldn't count on any additional premium on our sale price as such.

 

Does it make sense financially? When my wife and I discuss the finances related to a pool, we delude ourselves with statements like, "If we had a pool, we wouldn't need a summer vacation," etc. The reality is that the novelty would eventually wear off and within a couple years that couple thousand dollars in vacation savings we talked about would go out the window.

For the sake of argument, though, turning this pool idea into more of a financial model, I could make the following assumptions:

  • 15 years of use. I have three kids, with the youngest at 1 year old. I figure the older boys would start getting immediate use out of it, and our youngest would lose complete interest in it by senior year of high school.  Any mild benefit of the kids coming back from college in the summer or using it in future years is excluded.
  • $50,000 upfront cost.
  • Time and annual maintenance costs negligible. While there are costs, these days pools are much easier to maintain, and since the $50K may be inflated to begin with and costs aren't thousands per year, we'll just assume it's absorbed into our routine summer entertainment budget.
  • Assume the pool is used three days per week between May and August for about 50 uses a year max. While there will be some spurts in the summer where kids are in the pool every day, there would be rainy days, travel/vacation outages and other scenarios to even it out.

With these assumptions in mind, if we were thinking along the lines of what it would cost per use for a simple day in the pool with kids and/or friends/family, that would equate to roughly $67 per swim session in our own pool. Sounds a bit pricey.

 

It's interesting to look at it that way. I mean, we could join the community pool for a couple hundred bucks for the family each summer and make that up in a couple sessions. But there's nothing like the privacy and flexibility of having your own pool in a wooded backyard -- with the convenience of your house a few feet away.

 

While initially thinking about the $50K spread over so many years, I figured the number would be much lower. But $67 per use for something we'd be doing several times per week over such a prolonged period does seem awfully expensive. I complain about spending 50 bucks at the movie theater, and going out to dinner seems expensive. Imagine spending $50 once a week across a full year for 15 years?

 

I'm not sold that it makes sense for us. Perhaps if we were thinking of a move and we were able to find a house with a pool that was being sold reasonably close to the market value it would have without a pool, I'd consider it. But at the moment, unless my assumptions are way off, it just doesn't seem to make sense for our family.


Have you considered a pool? Any good pool installation stories?

 

More from Darwin's Finance and MSN Money:

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