Barbara Messer, ninemsn Money
Australia has the highest number of swimming pools per capita, with approximately 800,000 nationwide. But are they really worth the expense of installing?
And in a country that suffers from drought, are backyard pools becoming an environmental faux pas?
"I have searched long and hard to find factual statements that say, 'If you spend $X on a swimming pool, it will add $Y to your property's value. I haven't found any," admits Andrew Dodd, sales manager at Crystal Pools in Thornleigh.
Nonetheless, he says there's no doubt swimming pools add capital to homes. "If you look in the real estate section of the newspaper, you'll see advertisements that show photographs of the pool, but not the house. Yes, you pigeonhole yourself because some home buyers don't want a pool, but many do," Dodd says.
Justine Pymble is confident the $30,000 pool she installed three years ago at her home on the Central Coast in NSW has added value to her home but this wasn't her main incentive for installing one.
"My husband and I have two young kids and even though the beach isn't far away, we wanted a pool where we could keep an eye on them swimming," Pymble says.
She and her husband designed an L-shaped pool and spa, but kept costs down by doing landscaping and paving themselves. "It's absolutely brilliant, the only thing we regret is not getting heating."
The average pool contains 30,000 litres of water, but on hot summer days this water evaporates quickly and needs to be topped up, exacerbating Australia's water shortage.
Fortunately, pools are a lot more eco-friendly today than 10 or 20 years ago.
"Magnesium and potassium is kinder to the human body and the environment than chlorine," Dodd says. "Low-speed pumps run on one-third as much energy, while water tanks and pool covers reduce evaporation significantly."
Bill Banovic, managing director of Domain Pools in North Ryde, agrees today's pools are more efficient thanks to smaller pumps and filters that don't wash chemicals into the sewerage system.
"It's true that the older a pool gets, the harder it is to maintain," Banovic says. "But new pools are much easier to take care of. Self-cleaning pools keep gunk off the walls, and automatic cleaning systems are standard."
Unfortunately, swimming pools aren't cheap. Concrete pools last longer than fibreglass pools, but cost between $30,000 and $60,000, including unexpected costs such as council approvals, electrical connections and warranties. Paving, fencing and landscaping cost extra a glass fence, for example, will set you back around $15,000.
The trick to choosing a good-value pool is making sure it matches the calibre of homes in your area.
"In the right area, you can't overcapitalise on your home," Banovic says. "People expect $100,000 swimming pools in upper-class areas with all the best finishes like heating, tiling, covers and pavings. But in cheaper suburbs, if you spent $100,000 on a swimming pool, you'd probably lose money when you sold the property. If you build a pool to the same level of the area you live in, you won't overspend."
In terms of design trends, curvy free-form shapes are out. Geometric shapes such as rectangles and lap pools are in.
"People in Sydney don't want off-the-shelf designs, they want a designer shape that perfectly fits the shape of their yard," Banovic says.
Dodd says light-blue tiling and smooth renderings are back in vogue, while glass windows, edges and fences add sophistication.
"Personally, I wouldn't live in a house again without a swimming pool," Dodd says. "I love coming home from work and jumping in the pool with my kids before dinner. If you invest in your home, you spend less money taking your kids to the beach. It's a lifestyle choice."
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