Are you ready to make a splash in your home? Consider adding a pool, like this spectacular example from the Cressida plan by Toll Brothers in Porter Ranch, California.
Photo: Toll Brothers
Say you’re buying a brand-new house. Wouldn’t it be great to have a brand-new swimming pool in your backyard, too?
Some homebuilders offer buyers a pool as an option. Others will work with a pool contractor so you can have a pool built — or at least started — along with your new home. Here’s what to know about building a pool before you take the dive:
Typically, you’ll sign a contract with the swimming pool contractor, who will coordinate with the builder, an arrangement that makes the contractor responsible for any liability, warranty or service associated with your pool during and after construction, says Jim Pinson, sales manager at Shasta Pools & Spas, a pool-building contractor in Phoenix, Ariz.
Pinson says his firm works with both “the big box guys,” who build production homes in new housing developments, and “boutique builders,” who build custom homes. “It’s the builder’s lot — his home, his land — until close of escrow. The builder can and does give authority to us to be involved on the site prior to then,” he says.
The builder won’t allow “some random guy the homeowner knows” to enter the job site and dig a pool in the backyard, Pinson adds. Instead, the builder will need to vet and agree to work with the contractor you want. Some builders have lists of pre-approved pool contractors.
Pool design can affect the placement of bedrooms inside the home, location of pool filtration equipment, accessibility from the yard to the home, sightlines from inside the home and more.
Regional and custom builders are more likely to allow the pool contractor to get involved in those issues, says Dustin Watters, vice president of Watters Aquatech Pools & Spas in Las Vegas.
“Sometimes what I do can greatly influence the architecture and structural aspects of the home,” Watters says. “When you’re talking about a pure tract home, we don’t have any say. The homeowner bought that home and the architecture is what it is.”
A new pool can cost less than $30,000 or more than $80,000, depending on the size, design, tile, equipment, local labor costs and other factors.
If your home’s market value rises after you sign your purchase contract, but before escrow closes, you might be able to finance all or part of your pool’s cost as part of your first mortgage — if the appraisal is high enough.
“It’s pretty rare for an appraiser to give you full value for a pool, so what we’re counting on is the home’s value appreciation during that time period,” Pinson says.
If that doesn’t play out, you can pay part of the cost in cash, refinance with a larger loan or get a second home loan, home equity line of credit or financing through the pool contractor before the pool is completed.
A pool down payment might be required as well.
“To do a pool on the first mortgage, most of our builders require some sort of down payment,” Pinson says. “Usually it’s non-refundable to help secure the fact that if we start putting in a pool and the buyer walks, there’s enough money to tear out the pool and fill it in so the builder can sell that as a regular lot again. Or maybe we’ll finish the pool and discount that pool to the next buyer.”
Whether your pool is started or completed before escrow closes depends on the agreement between your builder and contractor and your financing arrangements.
Pinson says the contractor might get access to arrange permits and engineering plans or dig the pool and put up safety fencing or design, dig and blow in the concrete or — “the happiest of methods” — make your pool swim-ready before you close your home purchase.
“When that buyer is moving his boxes in, he’s jumping into the pool in between loads to cool off,” Pinson says.
Watters says some buyers pay a convenience fee to ensure they can have their pool dug before close of escrow because a delay might make the job much more costly.
“Once block walls go up and air-conditioning machines (are installed), you cut off access, sometimes, through some of the smaller side yards. So the homeowner pays us upfront, we excavate the pool and then upon close of escrow, we come in and finish the project,” he says. “Part of that fee is if the homeowner doesn’t close for whatever reason, we have to come back in and establish drainage and compaction.”
More than 5 million swimming pools are installed in the Unites States, according to the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals in Alexandria, Va. The top 10 states for pools are California, Florida, Texas, Arizona, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Massachusetts and Virginia.
A pool’s interior finish can last as long as 25 years, depending on the materials. Pool equipment has a lifespan of 15 years and a pool’s concrete shell can last 25 years or longer, according to the National Association of Home Builders in Washington, D.C.
That’s two or three decades of summer fun in the backyard of your new home.
Marcie Geffner is an award-winning freelance reporter, writer and
editor. A second-generation native of Los Angeles, she relocated in 2015 to
Ventura, a beach town in Southern California, where she owns a split-level