You can picture it now: cocktail in hand as you sit by the pool, grill fired up for an al fresco dinner so you can easily dive back in before dessert.
But you're getting an inkling that the cost might be a bit more than you thought, and now you're wondering, Will this be a dream that ends up drowning in regrets? Maybe not — but maybe yes. It depends on your expectations. Landscape professionals estimated the cost of building an inground pool at $90,000, and REALTORS® estimated the return on investment at $50,000, a 56% payback, according to the National Association of REALTORS® 2023 "Remodeling Impact Report: Outdoor Features." Here's more to help you decide.
When a Pool Makes Financial Sense
- If you live in a higher-end neighborhood, and most of your neighbors have pools. In fact, not having a pool might make your home harder to sell.
- If you live in a warm climate, such as Florida or Hawaii.
- Your lot is big enough to accommodate a pool and still have some yard left over for play or gardening.
Still, that’s no guarantee you’ll get a return on your investment. At most, your home’s value might increase 7% if all circumstances are right when it comes time to sell. Those circumstances include the points made above, plus:
- The style of the pool. Does it fit the neighborhood?
- The condition of the pool. Is it well-maintained?
- Age of the pool. If you don’t plan on selling in the near future, your ROI will be less than a new pool would generate, according to Acorn Finance. Ongoing changes in the pool industry mean buyers will prefer the latest techniques and materials.
- You can attract the right buyer. Couples with very young children may shy away from pools because of safety issues, but an older childless couple may fall in love with a pool.
But only you, the homeowner, can determine the true return on investment. A pool can add value to your quality of life and enhance the enjoyment of your home. The "Remodeling Impact Report" showed a joy score, the level of homeowner satisfaction with an improvement, was 10 out of 10. It may be hard to put a price tag on that.
But we can put a price tag on how much a pool costs to build and maintain.
Pools Aren't Cheap to Build
The NAR remodeling report based the $90,000 price tag to install an in-ground pool on an 18-foot-by-36-foot in-ground pool with gunite (mix of sand, water, and cement) walls; three-foot to seven-foot depth; and a standard filtration system. The pool included a three-foot-wide-by-four-inch thick concrete perimeter surround.
Add in details like safety fences (most states require them), waterfalls, lighting, landscaping, and perhaps a spa, and the total increases. General fencing cost $15 to $30 per linear foot, for a total of $1,500 to $5,000, plus an extra $200 to $350 for each gate, HomeAdvisor says.
The initial price of installing a gunite, shotcrete, or concrete pool runs between $35,000 and $65,000, according to HomeAdvisor. Delivery and installation of a fiberglass pool costs $20,000 to $40,000, including a basic deck.
Fiberglass shells and those with vinyl liners fall on the lower end of the budget scale, but the liners typically need replacing periodically. Changing the liner requires draining the pool and replacing the edging (called coping), so over time, costs add up.
Related: Fences for Pool Safety
Plus the Costs of Filtration and Heating
The filtration pump is the biggest energy hog in a pool system, so you want to get the most efficient pump possible. The good news is that variable-speed pumps use less energy than old single-speed pumps.
These cost more up front, ranging from $725 to $1,525 without installation, according to Lawnstarter. But some local utilities offer rebates through participating pool dealers. You can further cut energy costs by setting the pump to run at nonpeak times, when rates for electricity are lower.
If you’re planning to heat your pool, gas heaters are the least expensive to purchase and install, but they typically have the highest operation and maintenance costs. Electric heat pumps, which extract heat from the surrounding air and transfer it to the water, take longer than gas to warm the pool. But they’re more energy-efficient. A heat pump unit costs $2,000 to $5,000.
Regardless of heating system, covering the pool with a solar blanket to trap heat and reduce evaporation will further lower operating costs.
Then There's the Cost of Upkeep
All pools require water to be balanced for proper pH, alkalinity, and calcium levels. They also need sanitizing to control bacteria and germs, which is where chlorine has traditionally entered the picture.
There are a variety of options, including systems that use bromine, salt, ozone, ionizers, or other chemical compounds that can be less irritating to skin. Chlorine remains the most popular because the upfront costs are reasonable, and you don’t have to be as rigid about checking the levels on a set schedule. But as far as your wallet is concerned, they all even out in the end.
Robotic pool cleaners are an option for pool owners who don't want to hire a service but want less labor. They keep your pool clean without clogging the skimmer or burning out the filtration system, according to the Spruce. Some of these devices let you schedule and monitor cleanings, and check water temperatures. The costs ranges from $230 to about $1,600.
The national average cost for pool maintenance service is $350 to $1,050, FixR reports. Most homeowners pay about $500 for monthly pool service during the summer months, FixR says. The cost includes routine cleaning and chemical treatments. The size of the pool, frequency of visits, and length of use during the year all affect the cost.
If you choose DIY pool maintenance, a pool vacuum and hose will cost about $50 and a fall maintenance kit about $60, according to HomeAdvisor. Monthly chemical maintenance kits cost $20 to $100 per month. Despite the potential savings, a service is likely worth the money, given the potential for quickly growing bacteria and contamination from substances like lotions, and the fact that services uses higher-end equipment.
Related: Natural Swimming Pools
A Pool Can Increase Insurance Costs
A basic homeowners insurance policy typically covers a pool structure without requiring a separate rider, but you should increase your liability from the standard amount. If you’re installing a pool on your property, the typical recommendation is to up your liability insurance to $500,000, according to AgileRates. A liability coverage increase could add between $50 and a couple of hundred dollars to your homeowners insurance premiums.
Home insurance companies typically require homeowners to place fences around pools to help prevent accidental drownings, according to Policygenius. If you don’t install a pool fence, insurers may exclude your pool from coverage and deny your liability claim if there's an accident in your pool.
In some areas, adding a pool may increase your annual property taxes, but it won’t necessarily add to your home’s selling price. For that reason, try to keep your total building cost between 10% and 15% of what you paid for your house. That way, you'll avoid investing too much in an amenity that won’t pay you back.