The top keyword search on Zillow last year was … pool.
That probably won’t surprise anyone in a second home market. Requests for homes with pools are on the rise. Swimming pool contractors are booked solid.
About 94,000 new in-ground residential pools were built in 2020, based on permit data through September, according to Janay Rickwalder, a spokesperson for the industry research group Pool & Hot Tub Alliance.
This represents a 21% jump from 2019, and states such as Arizona, Texas and Florida saw permits rise by 30%, Rickwalder said.
“This is historic growth for the industry — the next closest growth period was in 1983 with 16% growth over a much smaller base,” Rickwalder said.
The obvious reason for the growth is not the only one. Yes, people do not want to deal with others’ germs thanks to COVID-19, but experts say there’s more than that.
Homeowners have “refocused themselves on creating a vacation spot in their backyard,” said Kelly McKelvey, a spokeswoman at Northeast Spa & Pool Association, which has chapters in Long Island, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania.
This bucks decades of real-estate advice: Install a pool, not to increase your home’s value but to enjoy it.
“Traditionally, our data has suggested that pools are polarizing for buyers, which is why they command a relatively small sale premium of 1% and can contribute to homes staying on the market nearly five days longer than expected,” said Amanda Pendleton, a Zillow Home Trends expert.
Between maintenance and monthly expenses on heating and cleaning, many buyers typically weigh the negatives higher than the positives. That’s changing.
Sara Jennen, a veterinarian and real estate investor in Cabot, Arkansas, says these concerns dissipated as travel restrictions prevented trips abroad.
For those who rent their homes out, via Airbnb
or VRBO, pools are an added benefit. From her research, Jennen noticed that she was able to charge approximately $200 more per night for a property with a pool than a comparable property without one. Compared to last year, Jennen said she will be making around $20,000 more this year on her short-term rental near the resort town Heber Springs with its own pool.
Deciding to get a pool is the easy part; installing one in this pandemic has proven more challenging.
Many of the members with the Pool & Hot Tub Alliance are already contracted out into 2022.
Bilal Altintoprak, owner of Long Island Pool Care Corp., in Southold, New York, said his fellow contractors in the area are booked through to September and even October. Altintoprak also said there are waitlists for materials and some are priced 40-50% higher than usual.
Due to these shortages in materials and labor, Altintoprak said you cannot get a pool for less than $50,000 in the Long Island area, whereas Jennen said that the costs in her area are around $30,000.
There is also the issue of added liability. Some insurance companies even mention short-term renters and risks from pools in the products they offer to protect homeowners.
Many insurers recommend that homeowners who build a pool should increase their liability coverage from the standard $100,000 to as much as $500,000.
It’s not just pools that are in high demand; In some areas, demand for hot tubs is up 400%, with manufacturers reporting six-month waits on building and shipping orders, Rickwalder said. Delays are due to very high product demand, factory shutdowns and material shortages in this market.
According to Zillow, properties that mention pools in their listings sell for 1% more than expected and properties with hot tubs for 2.7% more. However, these properties do sit on the market for a few days longer.
Nevertheless, “The demand is there,” McKelvey said, “a result of people realizing the quality of life and how having a swimming pool right outside their backyard really creates a vacation where you know you have total control.”