May 01, 2008

Jump Right In: Does a Pool Add Value?

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I must admit--I have absolutely no intention of moving anytime soon, but every now and then, I look at what's available. Just the other day I found a house that looked promising. For its size and location, it's underpriced by at least 10%. My interest piqued, I scrolled through the pictures. A pool. Ugh. I don't want a pool. (I promise, I'm not buying anytime soon. Even if I am picturing myself in each house I look at.)

It got me thinking about the buzz I hear now and again--does a pool add value? And the resounding answer? It depends. I grew up in the desert community of Lancaster, California--almost every house had one. But the house I was looking at is in a cooler, more eco-conscious northern California city. Does a pool add value in Lancaster? Yes. Does it add value where I live now? Probably not.

That's not the end of the story, of course. Even if you don't want a pool, a pool need not be forever. I have an aunt whose pool provided me with years of childhood enjoyment (it had the old-fashioned rough bottom, and my siblings and I stayed in until our toes bled, but it was worth it). Now in her 70s, she thought about moving out of the house so she didn't have to care for the pool anymore. Instead, she had it removed. Sure, it cost several thousand dollars, but it was a lot cheaper than the transaction costs of selling the house and moving to a place without one.

If you're house hunting and come across a house with a pool (or other undesirable feature) you don't want, don't automatically strike it from the list. Treat it like you would any other potential fixer-upper: weigh the cost of the fix-up (both in actual cost, and in the hassle and stress a project may bring) against the value you'll gain as a result.

Alayna Schroeder