Actual Cost Of Owning A Pool – Part 1

Summer is approaching and people across the US are heading out to buy homes.  You didn’t know that?  April – July is the heaviest season in the US when it comes to home buying.  And since pools tend to look the most tempting in those warm spring and summer months, we wanted to give a bit of a PSA for people out there considering buying a home with a pool or having one installed. 



Screened Pool Enclosure aka Pool Cage aka Lanai aka Kitty PoP Hunting Grounds – Lovely to keep the skeeters away

This is going to be a little three-part series on The Actual Cost of Owning A Pool and it’s going to go something like this:


Building A New Pool Cost The Entire House

When we started looking seriously for homes to buy in early 2009, we certainly weren’t looking for a home with a pool.  We didn’t really want one either because we knew it would be another expense to worry about.  But the pool is probably the biggest reason we have our home.

Let me say that again.  We weren’t looking for a pool, we didn’t really want a pool, but the existence of the pool in the home we ended up buying is the biggest reason we have our house today.


Confusing, Right?

Don’t worry, nobody was calling us Spending Our Pennies back then either.  We didn’t temporarily lose our minds, go gaga at the sight of a pool and form completely irrational emotional attachments to a pool home before we bought it.

Rather, I think the pool is probably the biggest reason we have our house today, because it was probably the main reason that the previous owners ended up in foreclosure.  That’s right.  Installing the pool was probably the first step that led the previous owners down a path that (for them) ended in foreclosure and (for us) began our married life very affordably in this awesome little house in a lovely neighborhood that’s within jogging distance from the beach.

We know our good fortune with this house came at the expense of the previous owners, which is why we want to share some of their story so it doesn’t happen to you.


Buying A Pool Cost The Whole House

This story is completely true.  The numbers all come from our somewhat obsessive digging around in public records and the personal details come from some of the neighbors on our block.

In 1997, the previous owners (Mr & Mrs PO) purchased our little house.  Mr and Mrs PO had recently retired and were in their mid-sixties.  When they picked out their nice little home, they saw the neighbor’s homes on either side.  They both had pools.  In fact, every backyard they could look into from around the lake had a pool, too.  So, they put in a pool.

The mortgage records from the home purchase show they did a little fancy footwork.  The house sold for about $110K, which they split up into two mortgages, one for about $90K, the other the remaining $20K.  So this was a $0 down home purchase.  The pool was built just a few months later, so that seems to be where the money that would have typically been used for the down payment went.

Fast forward a few years to 2003, and the house needs a new roof.  Mr and Mrs PO found that the house had increased in market value (yay!) and they took a refinance with a cash-out portion around the same time a new roof was installed on the house.  This time the refinance was for another $20K higher than the original balance.  So the refinance was for $130K, when the balance on their prior loans combined (assuming they got the best rate possible in 1997 – about 7.5%) would have been about $102K.  So this refinance probably pulled t least $28K out in cash.

The new roof cost maybe $7K?  So what about the other $21K?  We know it probably didn’t go into the house as by then Mr. and Mrs. PO were DIY-ing some new tile floors and not doing a very good job of it.

Fast forward another couple of years to 2006. Mr and Mrs PO have been in the house almost ten years, and Mrs PO got sick.  Sick enough that she needed to go into some sort of assisted living facility.  Mr PO didn’t move in with her, instead choosing to stay in the house.  So the need for assisted living sparked another draw on the home equity (that was peaking!) in the form of a home equity line of credit worth another $20K.


Let’s Review

In 1997, Mr and Mrs PO wanted a house that sold for $110K.  They probably had enough cash to have a solid 20% or more down payment, but instead financed 100% of the house and used cash (or other financing) to put in a pool that probably cost about $30K to install.  Then after 10 years of diligently paying their mortgage bills (which kept rising due to the cash out refi and HELOC), Mr and Mrs PO had a mortgage of about $130K and a HELOC on top of that for another $20K for a total of $150K in home-debt.  But instead of being in their mid-sixties, they were in their mid-70’s in ill health and facing down another 27 years of mortgage payments.

The details of the story get a little vague around this point.  Public records show there was a renter and legal action was filed against the renter, though it was dismissed.  There might be more… but it was definitely drama according to the neighbors and we’ve never pressed for too many details.  It feels a little weird.  But by 2008 the bank was completing the foreclosure proceedings and by 2009 I was walking through with our realtor.


Is It Fair To Blame the Pool?

But Mrs PO got sick!  It isn’t fair to blame it on the pool purchase when they couldn’t know that Mrs PO would get sick!  Right? 

Welllll… I vote no, it is fair to blame the pool – at least in part.  After all, blaming inanimate objects is fun!

Kidding aside, using a down payment for a pool instead of a building immediate equity was a bad idea.  They bought an “asset” (Part 3 will show it’s actually kindof a liability) that immediately started depreciating.  And the pool was a huge element of lifestyle inflation when it came to the house.  Without the pool their monthly costs would have been lower (we’ll talk more about how much lower in Part 3), so they probably could have set money aside and completed the roof without needing another refinance.  There’s also the element of lifestyle inflation that the pool established and the cash-out made possible.

When Mrs PO got sick, they were probably right near the precipice of financial stability, which I’ll bet isn’t where they planned on being in their mid-70’s.  Without the pool and the lifestyle fluff that followed it, they would have owed about $78K on their house in 2006 rather than the almost $130K they owed.  Pulling $20K out to help with medical expenses is very different when you owe $78K instead of $130K.

So yeah, even though pools don’t make decisions, people do… I still think that the pool (or rather the decision to install the pool and how to pay for it) was a big part of the road that led them to foreclosure.


Stay tuned for the rest of the series:


What do you think?  Am I right to attribute the foreclosure on the previous owners largely to the pool? 


63 comments to Actual Cost Of Owning A Pool – Part 1

  • Yep pools are expensive!! And they cost more than just installation. Chemicals and electricity have a hefty price tag. Another hidden cost in our area is a pool doesn’t add value to your home. And it often deters buyers for liability and maintenance reasons. But I love my pool every which way. Lots of thought and number crunching was involved in the decision beforehand. And we paid cash. And we aren’t 70. :-) Can’t wait for the next installment.
    Dianne @ Skinny Seahorse recently posted..Saturday Morning CoffeeMy Profile

    • Definitely expensive – I tallied up all of the numbers for part three and my jaw dropped. Seriously. I would love to see how your costs stack up against what we’re paying to maintain a pool – definitely let us know in a comment on Friday’s post!

  • I would love to have a pool! However, my yard is not nearly flat enough and I would have to have a bunch of trees removed. It’s probably a good thing because I would hate buying all the chemicals =)

    Your pool looks beautiful though!
    Holly@ClubThrifty recently posted..Harness the Power of Everyday Spending to Pay Down Your Student LoansMy Profile

    • Thanks, Holly! That’s actually a shot of our neighbor’s pool, since they have the pretty bushes on the outside of their pool cage that give the picture some nice color. But other than that our pools are almost identical. =)

  • Its creepy how much you were able to figure out just from public records. You should be a PI! It sounds like the whole pool philosophy was the downfall of this couple. All this refinancing and helocing seems ridiculous to me, but I guess that’s what spenders did in the early 2000s
    CashRebel recently posted..Positive Feedback Loops: Health and WealthMy Profile

    • Ross, that public records search took about 5 minutes and when I went back to recheck the numbers so I reported them accurately here, I looked it all up from my bed. Takes no time and very little skill. The dates on the various mortgages are pretty easy to compare against home sales, and construction permit dates. The only loan that it wasn’t obvious what it was for was the HELOC that they took out around the time the wife got sick. But the neighbors told us that.

  • We are pretty sure that we want a pool in our next house, but we want the yard to be big enough to where the pool only consists of a small part of the yard. Looking forward to the rest of this series!
    Michelle recently posted..A Tornado and $888 in Extra IncomeMy Profile

    • We wrote Part 3 for people just like you – to help people go into buying a home with a pool (or installing one) with eyes wide open about the costs.

  • We definitely did *not* want a pool. Refused to look at any houses with pools. We figured we’d be starting a family at some point (hopefully) and just did not want to deal with pool + toddler.
    nicoleandmaggie recently posted..Why I like stocks over real estateMy Profile

  • Wow, I too am surprised/impressed by how much you were able to find out! I have never had or wanted a pool but your post to me illustrates the importance of living below your means & saving for a rainy day. It’s hard to imagine what the future will bring – I am sure the PO’s didn’t conceive of these troubles when they bought their cute little house & added a pool.

  • It’s very likely! Pools are very hard to build and maintain. I was always pissed though that as a kid we didn’t have one. If you had one as a kid you were pretty popular. :)
    Budget and the Beach recently posted..When Bankruptcy Makes CentsMy Profile

  • Wow – that story is sad but all too common. I hope that by the time I am 60, I have been all set with a paid off mortgage for many years.
    Cat Alford (@BudgetBlonde) recently posted..How To Stretch Your Dollar For Your WeddingMy Profile

    • Ditto! We’re not in a huge rush to pay it off since our interest rate is so low now, but even if we keep paying it as scheduled it’ll be knocked out by the time we’re 44 – which feels pretty great.

  • We are really not pool people. It’s fun for parties, but honestly, we rarely host parties.
    We have pools in our apartment buildings, and we rarely use them. I think last summer I got in the pool a handful of times. Definitely not enough times to justify owning and maintaining a pool. We will not be looking at houses with pools.
    SavvyFinancialLatina recently posted..Corporate PoliticsMy Profile

    • Completely agree. We’re not really pool folks either. (Part 2 is going to explain more about why we have a pool even though we didn’t really want one.) Our idea of a good party is hanging out around the dinner table or sitting around the pool talking – not jumping in!

  • What a great looking pool for you two – I just want to be able to have a backyard for our next place and not have to live out the boondocks, let alone have a pool! Their situation sounded really unfortunate – something similar is happening to someone I know now and it’s just really sad to think they’ll probably renting for the duration of their retirement rather than owning their house that had to be foreclosed on.
    anna recently posted..Resistance is futile?My Profile

    • So true. It’s definitely unfortunate. But it’s also a weird situation since they weren’t really liked by many of the neighbors. Ours is a very non-Joneses neighborhood, and there were apparently some confrontations and a lot of “I’m so rich” type statements that were made while they lived here. The neighbors LOVE how drama free we are after dealing with that.

  • Ouch, that hurts. I have no desire to own a pool, but it would be nice to have one. My wife will not have a home with a pool, so I don’t think I will have to worry about it. I bet the ROI on a pool build is not that great.
    Grayson @ Debt Roundup recently posted..Helping Tenants Understand The Benefits of Having Renter’s InsuranceMy Profile

  • What kind of logic goes into a decision to take on a 0-down mortgage in your 60s in the first place? I don’t even understand…..
    Jenny @ Frugal Guru Guide recently posted..The Tax Outlook for 2013My Profile

    • I can see them telling themselves that buying the pool was their down payment, but it still seems like a risky proposition from the start. But this is only part of their financial picture. Public records don’t say anything about their income sources or other savings…

  • Brian

    It’s good to be friends with someone who has a pool and a boat. That way you can get to enjoy both without having to pay for either one.

  • I number of the people that I work with have pools and they all seem like massive money sinks. I guess if you love coming home after work and hitting the pool it’s a great purchase, but if you’re more of a casual poolgoer, I think I’d rather invest in one of those kiddie pools to lounge in or maybe get a membership at a gym with a pool to do real swimming.
    My Financial Independence Journey recently posted..Air Products and Chemicals (APD) Dividend Stock AnalysisMy Profile

    • You can get a lot of those kiddie pools for the cost of a big one =)
      Heck, you could do what my aunt and uncle did when we were kids which was buy a hot tub instead. They spent maybe $3K, but they’ve had the above ground hot tub for close to 20 years and last I knew still used it sometimes.

  • When we were buying our current house one of the requirements was that it didn’t have a pool. Our neighborhood has a community pool and my parents have a pool and those two things are good enough for us!
    Lance @ Money Life and More recently posted..Debt Pay Off Update – April 2013My Profile

  • Worked as a lifeguard for many years in hs/college. Know firsthand the extensive maintenance and expensive associated with having a pool. That being said I probably wouldn’t buy a house with a pool unless I also had the money to pay someone to maintain it.
    KK @ Student Debt Survivor recently posted..3 Tips to Handle Marrying into Student Loan DebtMy Profile

    • So much for the glamorous life of a lifeguard – cleaning the pool! Ours had to chase out ducks and frogs that would find their way into the nearby public pool when I was a kid. If you got their early for swim practice after a storm the previous night, you would get recruited to help =)

  • My sister has a pool, but she lives in KY, so it has to be drained for the winter and it is expensive. She also has to get frogs and critters out pretty often, but it is fun to use when we’re there. We have no use for one here, but it would be neat if we lived somewhere warm.

    The PO’s story sounds so much like my inlaws. They lived in their house for for over 20 years, but kept refinancing and adding debts into the mortgage and then they lost the house when they were in their 60’s. You feel horrible watching it happen. I often wonder if it would have made any difference if we’d been more vocal, but we were almost as bad with debt back then too, so it would have seemed like the pot calling the kettle black.
    Kim@Eyesonthedollar recently posted..Changing Careers: Is it a Smart or Dumb Move?My Profile

    • Luckily we don’t have to drain the pool or really worry about freezes. Actually if we drained the pool, there’s a good chance it would float out of the ground because our water table is so high.
      How are your in-laws doing after the foreclosure? No one in the neighborhood remained on friendly terms with the POs, so we don’t know what happened to them after the illness and foreclosure. I hope they’re okay, but fear they’re not really.

  • Wow, sad to hear Mr. and Mrs. PO’s series of unwise decisions, but good for you guys. Looking forward to the hard numbers post!
    Mr. Bonner recently posted..How are we going to buy a house – Part 3My Profile

  • I don’t think the pool helped, that’s for sure. We had friends years ago that put in pool and it cost them upwards of 50k. The difference was that they could well afford to pay for it in cash. It’s SO important to be careful when considering big purchases like this.
    Laurie @thefrugalfarmer recently posted..Should You Be Investing Money if You’re Deeply in Debt?My Profile

    • Definitely agree and it sounds like your friends went about it the right way. Hopefully they use it often and get their money’s worth out of it =)

  • Probably lots of bad decisions and the pool certainly didn’t help. I’m not sure if I would want a pool or not. Right now, I think that when we are ready for our next home, which will likely be our forever home, I wouldn’t mind if it had a pool, but I will definitely negotiate like I don’t want one.

    This post reminds me of a house that I looked at for my first home. It was on a very busy highway and the owners decided to make their whole backyard a pool. I don’t know who in that price point would have wanted that.
    Greg @ThriftGenuity recently posted..Why I Hate Paying Taxes – Because We’re Not All the SameMy Profile

    • I think homes that are too nice for their location are tough. Was the builder thinking that the area would improve? There’s one McMansion in our neighborhood (5K sqft type deal – bilevel pool cage, etc) and it’s gorgeous. But it’s way nicer than the other homes in the neighborhood and right on the street that everyone comes in and out through, so there’s more traffic than other parts of the neighborhood. We sometimes wonder what they were thinking putting it there.

  • I’ve had first hand experience with making questionable financial decisions that become disasters when one person involved becomes sick. You never know what might happen!

    Pools are nice, but I definitely wouldn’t want to deal with the maintenance or the cost. I’ve always thought hot tubs were a good compromise, if you can afford it. Even a hot tub would probably be more than I would want to take care of though!
    Ms. W @ GrowingHerWorth recently posted..My Current Net Worth – April 2013My Profile

  • I don’t think the pool cost them the house, it looks like they were bound for financial disaster with or without it, surely it didn’t help but repeatedly taking out equity loans until the bubble burst isn’t the smartest move!
    I am glad to have a natural pool that I don’t have to take care of, it looks expensive and a lot of maintenance for many people to barely swim enough to really enjoy it.
    Pauline recently posted..7 ways to make money on the sideMy Profile

    • Yup – your lake is definitely a beautiful natural pool as long as you’re comfortable swimming in it. I’m not big on swimming in lakes and ponds.

  • What a sad story! I’d like to have a pool someday, but I’ve heard horror stories of how they’re like boats and just suck your money away. Plus, I’ve heard terrible stories of accidents with children and as someone who wants a family someday, I’m not sure the risk is worth it.
    The Happy Homeowner recently posted..We Will Run–You Can’t HideMy Profile

    • I think the risks with kids have improved as safety fencing has gotten better and more easily installed and removed when everyone is old enough. But they definitely do suck money away – thankfully not at the rate that boats seem to, though!

  • CF

    I’ve never lived in a home with a pool, but I’ve definitely heard that they can be expensive. Although a pool would be nice, I don’t think I’d buy a home with one myself. Too much work! 😉
    CF recently posted..Finding a way to say noMy Profile

  • […] The PoPs shared some interesting info about their home’s previous owners and how big spending may have gotten them in trouble in Actual Cost of Owning a Pool: Part 1 […]

  • What a tale!

    I’m with you: It’s sad that Mrs. PO got sick, but… It’s something that happens to most of us (unless we’re lucky enough to drop dead) and therefore it was predictable.

    Sucking every penny out of the house’s equity for this, that, and the other luxury before this happened was, shall we say, breathtakingly irresponsible. If you can’t afford to pay for a luxury like a pool with cash, then you can’t afford it, period. The roof? Well, you do need to keep the roof in good repair, and if it was shot, they surely needed to replace it. Seven grand is not an unreasonable amount to borrow on a HELOC — I paid off 30 grand in the year before I was laid off, having been forewarned by my boss. But…what’d they do with the rest of the money…take a cruise around the world???

    So far, my pool hasn’t cost all that much — thanks to Mr. B***, who managed to get my insurance company to rebuild the thing practically from scratch by throwing an open container with several gallons of used motor oil over the back wall. A replastering job, I believe, is about $10,000, and a new pump and filter…??? The insurance company paid around ten grand for the entire repair job.
    Funny about Money recently posted..Hiking/Health UpdateMy Profile

    • Someone dumped motor oil into your pool? Used motor oil? Oh my gosh!
      Glad the insurance company covered the repairs – I presume you still had the deductible of what $1000 or so?

      If we had to drain and redo something major on the pool, I’d be VERY tempted to have it changed to a black-bottom pool. A family friend had theirs made black bottom when we were in high school and it was always so nice and toasty as a result. They claimed they didn’t heat it and it was just warm because of the heat absorption.

  • […] Enjoy!  And if this is your first time at Planting Our Pennies, go ahead and check out our most recent 3 Part Series on The Actual Cost of Pool Ownership. […]

  • […] series on the Actual Cost of Pool has been pretty popular so far too, getting shared by Laurie at the Frugal Farmer in A Business […]

  • If you live in a warm place a pool is a great place to cool of in the hot summer days but think about the costs of cleaning and maintaining your pool in pristine condition.
    Jon A recently posted..Streamline Refinances: Comparing The FHA, VA, HARP, USDA Streamline ProgramsMy Profile

  • […] to the true costs of owning a pool on the internet.  It’s in three parts, and here they are. Part 1 – Part 2 – Part 3. […]

  • Interesting story!

    While I wouldn’t install a pool in a house that didn’t already have one (too much hassle, too many headaches, too freaking expensive), I must say I love the pool that came with the house I’m in now. It’s NOT difficult to care for at all — I do all the work by my little elderly self — and it really doesn’t cost much to maintain, as long as you don’t hire a (generally wuthless) pool service. And the pool has helped me get over a dislocated shoulder (pool as physical therapy), to lose weight (pool as diet aid), to ease back pain (pool as exercise trainer), and to stay cool through 118-degree summers (pool as HVAC substitute), and to generally feel happier and healthier.
    Funny about Money recently posted..What Do Surveys Survey?My Profile