You’ll have to splash out if you want to dive into a pool this summer.
With a new focus on suburban living, thousands of Americans are rushing to build in-ground pools. But their dreams of fun in the sun are bumping up against skyrocketing demand for materials, manufacturing and shipping delays, even natural disasters.
In the tri-state area, it could take a year or more after purchase just to begin installing a splashy hangout.
Worse still, a basic vinyl in-ground pool — without the bells and whistles of heating, decking or any further customization — costs $85,000 on average, up from the $60,000 to $65,000 in 2019, said Glen Baisley, 50, the marketing director of Neave Group Outdoor Solutions, whose work includes building pools in the Hudson Valley and Fairfield County in Connecticut. The same with a more premium material, such as gunite, can now run $120,000 on average — up from $100,000 in 2019.
But while many feel like fish out of water, those selling a home with a pre-existing pool are locking in deals fast and over ask.
The estimated value-add of a pool in New York has jumped to $31,847 on average in the wake of the pandemic — up from the $14,968 tallied before COVID. That’s a 113% spike, according to an April report from real-estate referral company HomeLight.
“Whoever ends up buying my house in Chappaqua is getting such a gift. They have no idea,” said Julie Stein, 50, of her custom-built home in the affluent Westchester, NY, hamlet, now listed for $3.27 million.
Located at 12 Bradley Farms, Stein — who recently relocated to Connecticut with her family after 13 years in her home — outfitted the 7,820-square-foot, four-bedroom residence with a roomy chef’s kitchen and chic limestone floors.
But by far her home’s hottest feature is a just-filled, 900-square-foot backyard pool, her dream amenity, which took two years to complete.
Initially, Stein looked at a $140,000 total cost for the design and installation — but with the need for a temporary fence and work on the irrigation, among other costs, it rose to more than $200,000.
“It was hell,” she added of the process — which included a months-long construction backlog due to the COVID-19 shutdown.
Now, her new pool makes her home, listed since February, even more marketable — and she hopes her buzzier fixture makes for a faster sale.
“You’re in a pool that has never been swam in,” said Stein. “You don’t have to do anything.”
But for those who hope to build their own pool, materials remain in short supply.
“We haven’t seen chlorine now for months,” said Wayne Hemming, 54, a Totowa, NJ-based sales center manager at Superior Pool Products, which supplies “everything but the water” to local pool stores and contractors. “I’m not even sure when I’m going to see another 25-pound bucket of chlorine at this point.”
Supplies like lights, pumps and tiles, are also often out of stock.
Adding insult to injury, February’s unusual winter storm in Texas caused demand to spike due to damaged pool equipment that owners needed to replace.
Then, last August, a fire destroyed a Louisiana chemical plant that’s a hot spot for chlorine manufacturing.
Nevertheless, home owners continue to pony up.
In lower Fairfield County, the first five months of 2021 saw 449 sales of homes with pools, up from the 250 pool-privileged homes that sold in the same span in 2019 — a 79.6% increase, according to Brown Harris Stevens (BHS). They’re also selling for more. Houses with pools so far in 2021 close at $438 on average per square foot — 45.5% above the $301 recorded in 2019.
“This phenomenon erupted because of COVID,” said Douglas Elliman agent Stacey Oestreich, who’s marketing Stein’s home alongside colleague Nancy Strong, and who has her own pool-equipped home in Armonk, NY, in contract for “significantly over” its $1.69 million ask after a week on the market. “It’s almost like, ‘If you have a pool, I’ll take your house with it.’ ”
Oestreich points to another deal she handled for the pool-clad 340 Guard Hill Road in Bedford, NY, which sold for $5.45 million last month. In 2019, when pools were less in demand, a home nearby at 449 Guard Hill Road, with nearly 4 more acres and more square footage, sold for $4.2 million — down from its $5.49 million ask.
“You’re entertaining more in the home, you’re living, working, schooling, exercising — you’re doing everything in the home, and I think people have gained a real sense of appreciation for that,” added Alison Bernstein, founder and president of Suburban Jungle, a real estate advisory platform.
But BHS broker John Engel sees the trend in a bigger lens.
“The rental market and the for-sale market are seeing an increased demand for not only swimming pools, but nice outdoor spaces,” he said. “Flat land is now an asset, waterfront is now an asset, more acreage is an asset — a pool is just one more of those amenities that people are looking for.”
Last week, Engel listed a five-bedroom home with a pool at 1654 Ponus Ridge in New Canaan Conn., for $1.5 million, and it received a full-price offer on its first day.
And thanks to a gunite pool, Douglas Elliman agent James Keogh’s East Hampton home went into contract after three weeks for over the $1.59 million ask.
“Vinyl had always been good enough,” he said, but “those upgrades were major [in the sale].”
After her headache-filled build in Westchester, Stein knew what was on the top of her list when she bought a new home in Connecticut: a pool.
“I didn’t want to go through what I went through in Chappaqua,” she said.