A Break in the Clouds

By Jim McCloskey

When I was new to the watershaping world back in the 1980s, it always surprised and disappointed me when newspaper articles – most of them quoting real estate agents and officials as primary sources – told the world that a swimming pool added nothing to the value of a home. In fact, the articles contended, a pool probably lessened the home’s resale price by severely limiting the number of prospective buyers.

These stories, which appeared every year like clockwork, were so persuasive that they became the conventional wisdom, even within the pool industry.  I recall NSPI committee meetings in which these pieces were discussed with boundless exasperation, basically because we all knew instinctively that none of the assertions had the full truth behind them.

At the time, the rejoinders to the newspaper reports were largely anecdotal, regional and highly emotional.  Nobody of right mind, we’d tell each other, would say that a quality swimming pool didn’t add value to a house in Florida, Texas, Arizona or California.  Pools, we fumed, were ingrained in the lifestyle of the region, with whole subdivisions of homes boasting backyard installations. The newspaper reports, we concluded, must reflect a northern-tier resentment of the fact that pools can see nearly year-round use in the Sunbelt states.  

But now, from the wilds of Florida – Tallahassee, to be specific – comes a break in the wall of conventional wisdom so profound that I’ll never see things the same way again.

In his blog on Tallahassee.com, real estate agent and investor Joe Manausa – who specializes in analyzing the local market to gain an advantage in real estate investment – looked at sales data and came to two key conclusions.  First, homes with pools in Tallahassee have lost less of their value (-19%) during the ongoing housing recession than homes without pools (-27%).  Second, sales of homes with pools were down 51% in 2011 compared to pre-recession market peaks, while sales of homes without pools plunged by 61%.

Wrote Manausa: “Apparently, having a swimming pool makes a difference!”  (To see the full blog, click here.)

As someone who lives in Woodland Hills, Calif., a place regularly mentioned on the national news as the hottest spot in the nation for many summer days, I know the truth of Mr. Manausa’s analysis.  I wouldn’t think of living here or raising a young family in this community without having a pool to help beat the heat.  I suspect that in light of Joe Manausa’s blog entry, the conventional wisdom could use adjusting in hundreds of other communities across the country – even beyond the Sunbelt.

My hat is off to Mr. Manausa.  Here’s hoping the right people are paying attention.

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2 Responses to A Break in the Clouds

  1. Ray Schwartz says:

    It is clear from my conversations with prospects, more people today are looking to avoid “the hassle” of building a pool. They are shopping for homes, albeit the right home, in the right neighborhood, but already with a pool in place. I’ve recently unique fielded calls. One from a home seller who wants to build a pool just sell his home. Another who loves a certain home, but will not move forward with its purchase, unless the HOA approves a variance to permit a pool to be built. And I’ve held many conversations with home buyers shopping for homes with pools. To at least a small extent, the risk taken by pool buyers some years ago, is now paying off in this current real estate market.

  2. Bruce Bagin says:

    I think there has been a change of attitude with many realtors in certain areas. The Record, which appears in Northern New Jersey, has featured full color photos of homes with well planned back yards that would be the gathering place for family and friends in every Sunday issue for the past six weeks. The photos, which appear on the cover of the Real Estate section, all show a beautifully landscaped yard and the centerpiece of each featured home was the pool. I agree with Ray’s comment that for a certain segment of the home buyers, a pool is very important to them and their lifestyle. Now, if we can get more of the realtors to understand the features and benefits of pool or spa ownership, they win and so does our industry. Let’s hope the trend spreads into more markets.

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