Getting in the backyard swim: look before you leap
Before they know it, many people who buy swimming pools, spas, or hot tubs are in over their heads. They haven't shopped wisely and find they've spent more than intended for less than expected. The investment is too great to be casual in selecting the builder, retailer, or installer.Skip to next paragraph
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For many, a swimming pool is their second-biggest investment, trailing only the purchase of a home. The choice of pool builder is just as important as the selection of an architect, contractor, or home builder, the National Swimming Pool Institute cautions.
"The first thing any prospective pool buyer should do is check wit neighbors or friends who have pools, get their recommendations for builders, and then get several bids," advises Donald Burns, executive vicepresident of the Swimming Pool Industry Council in San Francisco.
"Make certain you talk with satisfied and happy customers who had their pool completed before you order yours," he suggests. "And be wary of the company that comes in with a very low bid, because that's when you can really get hurt. A lot of people will buy the cheapest bid and the result often is nothing but grief."
The same guidelines apply in buying a spa or hot tub. As Mr. Burns notes, most reputable companies will be fairly close in their pricing. "So buy quality , because you're going to have the pool a long tim," he cautions.
Most of the pool, spa, and tub horror stories stem from doing business with dealers, builders, installers, and contractors who undercut the market. The good deal you get today is worthless if the company you're doing business with folds tomorrow.
It pays to investigate before investing. There's too much money at risk and too many long-term snags in store if you leap before looking carefully.
The average price for building a swimming pool varies around the country. But, as an example, in the San Francisco Bay Area the figure runs between $9,000 and $12,000 for a basic pool. The Spa and Tub Association, a division of the National Swimming Pool Institute, pegs the average price for an installed spa at
As the price of gasoline goes up, so do sales of pools, spas, and hot tubs. Rather than face long gas lines and higher pump prices, many homeowners are plunging into pools, spas, and hot tubs as alternative recreation in the privacy of their yards.
Dealers report that sales remain brisk, despite the apparent arrival of recession. The logic may be economically questionable. Pools, spas, and hot tubs are not cheap backyard toys. Prices of construction and installation are climbing, and so are costs for maintenance, care, and heating. Thousands of dollars are being spent to save hundreds of dollars in travel expenses.
Many homeowners shrug, convinced that a pool, spa or tub is a home improvement "investment" that can be enjoyed while enhancing the value of their home. Whatever they shell out now, they believe, will be recovered when the home is sold. The pool, spa, or tub will be worth even more, following the same appreciation line as their house.
A pool, spa, or tub may be an asset -- but it also may be a liability. The mistake most investors in such units make is assuming they will receive 100 percent or better of the amount sunk into them. Many experts agree this is unlikely.