Buying a Home With a Pool

You like the house, but is the pool cool? Make sure you're not getting in over your head.

When you make an offer on a house with a pool, you imagine a future of long, lazy summer afternoons lounging by the water. But for the unwary buyer, a pool can mean only headaches.

First off, don't assume that a $50,000 pool increases the value of the home by this much. Unlike kitchen and bathroom renovations, a pool rarely leads to an increase in property value. In fact, it will scare off more buyers than it attracts.

Once you've decided to take the plunge, give your prospective pool a thorough inspection. If the pool is open, some home inspection services will check both structural and mechanical aspects as part of their pre-purchase service. If your home inspector doesn't have the expertise, ask a pool inspector to come and have a look.

In fall and winter this is more difficult, of course -- especially if there's a cover or the pool is empty. But start with these steps:

  • ask who installed the pool and who has been looking after it. Your REALTOR® should know whether the pool company is reputable
  • imagine what the backyard will look like in summer, or ask to see photos. Does the pool get lots of light or is the afternoon sun blocked by trees or the house? Overhanging trees can also mean leaves in the pool.
  • ask for a written assurance from the owners that the pool equipment all works.

If you're confident you know what you're looking for, do the inspection yourself:

  • if it's a vinyl-lined pool, look for tears. Stains may be merely an aesthetic concern, but they could also mean a problem lurking. For a concrete or gunite pool, look for cracks and loose tiles around the perimeter. If there are signs of repair, ask what happened.
  • if there are no obvious tears or cracks, look for water-saturated soil in the area around the pool, pump or plumbing
  • check that the lights work
  • get an explanation if the water is not crystal clear
  • make sure the heater is working
  • while the pump is running, look for bubbles in the return water. This could indicate a leak in the suction side of the filtration system. If the pool is losing water when the pump is running, it means there's a leak on the return side.

Finally, review the operating costs with the vendor. For an average 12-by-24-foot pool, the pump shouldn't cost much more than $40 a month to run. The heating costs shouldn't exceed $100 a month and the chemicals should be approximately $400 a season. If costs are higher, it could be an indication that the equipment will soon need to be replaced, or that the whole pool needs a professional inspection.

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