Actual Cost of Owning A Pool – Part 2

It’s the season of home-buying, so we wanted to prepare a little PSA on the actual cost of owning a pool for you guys when you’re out looking at fancy-pants pool homes. 


View of our pool from the bedroom.

This is Part 2 of a three part series, so feel free to start at the beginning:


We Only Have A Pool Because It Was Free

If you’re joining in on this without reading Part 1, here’s a quick recap.

The previous owners of our house, Mr and Mrs PO purchased our home without a pool, promptly installed one, treated the house as a bit of a piggy bank, and when illness hit ten years later it was too much.  They were foreclosed on and Mr PoP and I think a lot of it (at least at this house) started with the pool.

Why The Hell Did We Buy A House With A Pool, Then?

Knowing all this (and really we pieced together most of the story from public records and a 5 minute conversation with the neighbors before we closed on the purchase), why did we go ahead and purchase a home with a pool?


Well, It Was A “Free” Pool For Us

We’ve written in the past about how real estate prices track along inflation rates over the long term.  So we applied this principle to our house from the most recent sales.

From 1997 – 2008, inflation averaged 2.54%.  So taking the previous sale value of the house ($110K), and increasing it by inflation for those twelve years, we get around $150K.  So using just inflation, our house without a pool was worth about $150K.  We paid about $130K for our house – which is $20K less than what inflation projected it at for the date of our sale.  So we figure we got a free pool and earned about $20K in “free” equity that we would easily earn back as prices normalized that we could mentally account as pool expenses.

So considering how much we loved everything about the house except the pool, and that it was a little like getting *paid* to take the pool, we went for it and put in an offer.  But we still wanted to keep costs down on the pool as much as possible.


Flashback to Chief TANSTAAFL

When I was in high school, my economics teacher was hilarious.  And occasionally very un-PC.  So to instill in us the economic principle that “free lunch” does not exist, he donned a Native American headdress and called himself Chief TANSTAAFL for the day.

TANSTAAFL = There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch

Grammatically incorrect and horribly un-PC, but an incredibly effective teaching tool regardless.  I will NEVER forget that there are hidden costs when something looks “free”.  But we didn’t know what the hidden costs of pool ownership were.


We Tried To Guess-timate

I had a lot of trouble trying to find good information on the true cost of owning a pool at the time online.  (That’s one of the main reasons we wanted to write this series.)  So we asked my older sister and a couple of friends who owned pools what they cost to run.  They all said it’s about $100/month to get a guy to come and take care of all the chemicals and maintenance.  But my sister who was in the process of buying her third pool home gave us an additional nugget of wisdom.

“Yeah, it’s about $100/month.  But inevitably something always happens once a year that’s $200 – $300 to fix.  So call it an even $1,500/year for a pool.” 

My sister and her husband weren’t big into DIY the way Mr PoP and I are (to give you an idea – they paid for a weekly pooper scooper service for the dogs), so Mr. PoP and I guessed that we’d be able to DIY the pool care and save some money.

“My dad took care of our (above ground) pool growing up.  I’m sure I’ll be able to maintain the pool, too!”  – Mr. PoP’s Famous Last Words On Pool Care

Our goal was to shave 50% off my sister’s $1,500 estimate, but we made sure we had room in the budget for the entire $1,500 just in case.


Stay tuned for the rest of the series:

  • Part 3 – The Hard Numbers of Pool Ownership (goes live Friday)


What do you think a pool costs to run and maintain?  Do you think we were able to shave 50% off of my sister’s estimate?

37 comments to Actual Cost of Owning A Pool – Part 2

  • I think your pool looks beautiful! I’m a bit jealous of it. My kids would love to have a pool. If I found a house that had a nice pool that I didn’t really have to pay for, I would have bought it as well! The upkeep costs would just come out of our entertainment budget!
    Holly@ClubThrifty recently posted..One Year Lived: A Review…and Special GiveawayMy Profile

  • The engineer in me wants to do some math regarding evaporation rate, outdoor relative humidity, and cost of water… Obviously the water costs aren’t included in the $100/mo. Pools are giant volumes that we typically underestimate. I bet it’s 90% of your water bill (even without the leak).
    CashRebel recently posted..I Told My Friend To Finance A Brand New CarMy Profile

    • I’ll give you a preview of Friday’s post – water (for us) is not the big expense. But that’s probably because we get over 55″ of rain per year on average. =) Might be different if we lived in a desert.

    • When I moved to this house with a pool from a house in the same development with the same floor plan but without a pool, my summer power bills went up about $40. I budget $225/month for summer electric bills, which occasionally exceed that. I are a english major, i are not a engineer…but even with english-major math, it doesn’t look like $40 = 90% of $225. Yet.
      Funny about Money recently posted..Hiking/Health UpdateMy Profile

      • Oh wait! I read your post too fast!!! Sorry…

        The water bill remained constant. Both houses have desert landscaping. For both places, I’ve spent about $125/month in the summer for water. I would guess it’s gone up a little, but it’s hard to tell because the city keeps slowly raising the rates. It certainly didn’t increase by 90%.

        Replacing the water (as I’ve suggested in other comments) costs about $200 for 18,000 gallons.
        Funny about Money recently posted..Hiking/Health UpdateMy Profile

      • $40 for electric sounds about right – post #3 is up, and you can see that our pump runs us about $50/month, but I’ll be willing to bet we have a slightly higher marginal energy cost than you do since we’re on the higher end of energy costs in the US.

  • I have no idea what a pool can cost to maintain, I would say $100 in water rates, filters and chemicals per month for heavy use 6 months per year, $30/month in winter, and maybe an extra $200 for a professional check once a year?
    Pauline recently posted..Why I care about financial literacy and why you should tooMy Profile

  • Brian

    They paid someone to scoop their dog’s poop? Insane! I can’t imagine a scenario where I would pay someone to do this, or a scenario where I would even scoop my dog’s poop. We have found that since switching to a more natural dog food the poop biodegrates much faster.

    • For them it was an affordable luxury. Some people pay $20/month for manicures, my sister preferred to pay someone to pick up the dog doo. Neither is spending that we do, but it’s one of those trade-offs that get made based on personal choice.

  • Ha WARNING too much info about to be shared, but my dog eats her own poop so I don’t have to pay for that.

    Love your pool, I really want our own!
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    • Brian

      HAHA that’s funny. My parents dog, before he passed, used to eat all the poop out of the liter boxes. My mom said she had no idea the cats pooped so much since the dog was eating it all and my mom cleans the liter boxes 1 – 2 times a day!

      • Don’t know about eating the dog’s own poop, but when they eat the cats’ poop that’s usually because they’re not getting enough protein in their diets.
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      • Ivy

        That’s why we keep the cat litter box in the mudroom, the only place where the dog has no access. He is like a living vacuum cleaner, will eat anything off the floor and cat poop is like candy for dogs.

        I can think of an extra pool related cost for us – a big fence. The first thing our toddler would do is head there and jump straight it. Only a really big fence would stop him.

        • yup – we don’t have one as it wouldn’t really stop Kitty PoP, but friends with toddlers definitely installed kid safe fences that will keep the little ones out for a few years. They plan on removing them when the kids are all old enough since they’re kindof ugly.

    • Oh god, both of those stories are so disgustingly hilarious! Animals really are foul beasts sometimes, huh?

    • My dogs do the same thing! I tried everything to stop it; meat tenderizer on their food, switching foods, special medications. Finally I gave up. It’s disgusting, but hey, they’re dogs! I’m not one for “dog kisses”, etc. So as long as it doesn’t effect me, or their health, I guess they can go to town “cleaning” the yard!
      Ms. W @ GrowingHerWorth recently posted..Nothing in Life is FreeMy Profile

  • We had a pool and perhaps I’m the only one in the history of the world to say this, but I didn’t think it was that big of a pain. We maintained it ourselves and got a lot of use out of it. The worst problem was dealing with the occasional algae bloom, but once we got that figured out, it was fine.

    The big drawback was trying to sell the home. I suspect it is less of an issue in Florida than it was for us in Illinois.
    Mr. 1500 recently posted..I don’t want Fries with my RetirementMy Profile

    • In most neighborhoods in FL, an in ground pool is a plus for the resale of the home as long as it’s in good condition. If the water is all green and disgusting it’s obviously going to turn off buyers.

      Maybe I’m just really bad at maintaining the pool, but I found it really difficult. There was one jug of stuff called “PhosFree” that seemed to make it a lot easier to manage, but even then I had a hard time keeping everything managed. It didn’t help that Mr. PoP’s colorblindness made him pretty much useless. He really couldn’t see algae until it got VERY bad.

      • Try draining and refilling the pool. You need PhosFree because the water has accumulated a lot of organic material from swimmers, leaves falling in, birds flying over and…ahem, and stuff like that. I haven’t had an algae problem since I started refilling every second or third winter.
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        • Hmmm, I’ll have to look into that. I’ve never actually heard of that type of service around here. Another commenter mentioned on another post that their fire department brings trucks to fill pools, but I know we don’t have that.
          As for phosphates, I don’t know how to get around it with the amount of foliage that we have. The screen keeps most of the leaves out (except when my patio plants accidentally shed a leaf without me noticing), but the amount of pollen and tiny grass particles that still make their way through the screen and into the water is pretty astounding at different times of the year. We’re lucky that our oak tree is in the front yard as I’ve heard tales of oak pollen leaving a yellow film on the top of pools directly underneath them for a period of weeks during the high pollen season.

  • What kind of pool is it? Ours is salt water. I have heard chlorine pools are higher maintenance both cleaning and chemicals. Oh one more question. (I’m trying to put my guess together – can you tell?) Do you heat your pool? Okay that’s all. :-)
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  • I remember growing up with a pool and I must have spent 95% of my summers in it. I’d love for our next house to have a pool, but if not we’ll do with the ocean a few miles away :) Your findings in part 3 will likely be on my mind when looking at homes with/without pools in the coming years.
    Mr. Bonner recently posted..How are we going to buy a house – Part 4My Profile

    • How about a pool with the beach less than 2 miles away? That’s our house and I LOVE being this close to the beach! I definitely spend way more time running on the beach than I do in our swimming pool.

  • I’ve never been able to figure out why people pay for pool maintenance. It’s not what you’d call a difficult job. Mowing the grass is far harder and infinitely more annoying. Given a choice, I’d hire someone to mow the lawn and trim the shrubs, and then do the pool maintenance myself.

    Over the past year I’ve bought one, count it, one lifetime-supply-sized tub of chlorine tabs from Costco (about $80) and a few bottles of pool acid, very cheap at HD. I’ve had the pool company over once to disassemble the DE filter and clean it out, because the filter is too heavy for me to wrestle around. This job costs about $80. That’s it.

    At one point I figured the pump added about $40 to the electric bill. That was before I learned that even in an Arizona summer it’s not necessary to run the pump six or eight hours a day — now I run it four hours a day, max, and the pool is crystal clear.

    True: I do have to add water, especially in the spring and fall when the air is especially hot and dry. But because I’m having to pour water on the landscape, too, I’m afraid I couldn’t tell you how much extra that costs. Every two years, after the weather cools off, I drain the pool and refill it — this, because changing out the water HUGELY reduces maintenance headaches and expenses. The cost of renting a pump and refilling the pool with 18,000 gallons of water is about $200. For the same amount, you can have a company bring a gigantic truck and run the water through a filter, which would spare having to waste all that water. I may do that this fall.

    Considering that after I dislocated my shoulder the only thing that helped the pain (and obviated a particularly nasty surgery the Mayo proposed) was exercising in the pool, IMHO the costs have been worth it.
    Funny about Money recently posted..Hiking/Health UpdateMy Profile

    • I’m impressed that you’re able to do so much of the maintenance yourself. For us, the big challenge was getting staying on top of that, and sadly that all fell on my shoulders since Mr. PoP is colorblind and literally can’t see algae until it’s REALLY bad. At which point you need a shock treatment which is time and cost intensive.
      So, I had to stay on top of it, but if I got busy or went away for a weekend or two, it might be a couple of weeks between when someone would look at the pool. Plus, I hated that the only time I made to do the chemicals was on the weekend, but then once I dumped a bunch of chlorine or acid in the pool, I couldn’t use it for 4-8 hours. =( Kindof sucked the joy out of the upkeep. It was especially difficult to get the motivation to do all this when working tons, and then doing construction on our house or the duplex on the weekends. The pool would get pushed to the backburner and that just made the problem harder to deal with later.
      I think it just required more regular care than I could really provide to keep that delicate balance between swimming in bleach water and algae.

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  • I believe my sister spends about $300 a month on their pool, but only during the summer months. It’s heated and she has someone who takes care of it. The electricity cost is obviously dependent on how warm the air temperature is.
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