Back in 2016, Realtor.com published a story titled “5 Reasons I Hate Swimming Pools.” As the name suggests, it was a scathing look at pools and how they allegedly only result in expense, hassle and frustration — and above all else, how they are a bad investment when it comes to the value of a home.

The story contained some particularly critical comments from Florida realtor Linda Turner. “Owning a pool is a lot of work and not just a financial commitment, but a time commitment as well,” she said. “As for recouping the cost of installing a pool, it’s a terrible investment, with the return mainly being from whatever enjoyment the homeowner got out of it. Appraisers typically only give 40% to 50% value, and in some cases, even less than that.”

The story was not supported by research and was presumably entirely a matter of opinion — an opinion that is not uncommon among realtors in some areas. However, a recent study using hard data from real estate giant Redfin paints a very different picture. The study calculated the value per square foot and average added value of pools in major real estate markets along with the percentage of homes sold that had pools. The research was limited to metro areas that saw at least 5,000 home sales in 2018, with 2% or more having pools. The study was also limited to locations with statistically significant results.

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The results showed that the value pools add, or subtract, varies wildly depending on where you live. According to Redfin data analyst Dana Olsen, “In Los Angeles, homes with pools sell for an estimated $95,393 more than comparable homes without them, making it the metro where pools are most valuable. Austin, Texas, and Orange County, Calif., are next on the list, with a pool adding more than $50,000 to the value of a typical-sized home in those metros.”

The fact that Los Angeles topped the list probably does not come as much of a surprise. “A pool definitely adds value for Los Angeles homebuyers, especially in the [San Fernando] Valley because it’s hot outside most of the time,” said Redfin agent Lindsay Katz. “People use their pools all year round; we have pool parties in the summer and go swimming on Christmas day. It’s ingrained in our culture. Nearly half of my listings have pools, and when they don’t, potential buyers are constantly asking whether they can add a pool to the property. It’s important to people.”

Although lifestyle, culture and weather are obviously driving factors in the Southern California market, that’s surprisingly not the case in nearby Phoenix. Pools there add less than $12,000 to the value of a home on average, but the survey also showed 31% of home sales in the area did include a pool.

Redfin agent Katie Shook said there are some parts of the Phoenix area where a pool is highly valuable but in other places, it can actually detract from the value of a home. “In affordable parts of the Phoenix area like South Glendale and Tolleson, homebuyers don’t want to pay to maintain a pool. I often find that in homes that sell for less than $200,000, a pool is a negative because it adds so many extra costs for the homeowner. But the reverse is true in the luxury market. In the $700,000 to $1 million price range, especially in remote areas with more yard space, homebuyers expect a pool and they’ll pay a premium for it.”

VARIED RESULTS

The study offered a number of examples that by comparison reveal no relationship between the value of a pool and the percentage of homes sold that have pools. In Tucson, for example, pools add over $27,000 of average value but are included in only 2.6% of sales. Similarly conflicting results were found in other markets as well. In Charlotte, N.C., pools add nearly $35,000 to the sale price — but only 2.2% of homes sold in that area have pools. In Tampa, Fla., pools add just under $30,000, and 29% of home sales include pools. Fort Lauderdale leads the way: There, pools add an average of $36,000 in value to a home, and a whopping 45.6% of homes have pools.

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Because of the study’s criteria, Boston was the only area that qualified for the ranking that also has cold winters. It was also the only place where the presence of a pool subtracted from home value with a deficit of over $15,000.

While the Redfin study falls far short of offering a verdict on the overarching question of whether or not pools are a good investment, it clearly supports the idea that it is a regional issue. At the very least, it debunks the notion that pools are always a bad investment. In several major markets, they come up on the plus side.

Eric Herman is Senior Editor of AQUA Magazine.