Sam Dunn: 'Are we wasting money by installing a large swimming pool?'

House Doctor

Question: We live in a large three-bed semi-detached town house with plenty of garden space, and are thinking about investing in an outdoor swimming pool in our large back garden. It will be for our own enjoyment but mainly because, when we sell in two years' time, it will boost the sale price. However, my partner is worried that it is foolish to spend money if it won't make much of a financial difference. Who's right: are we in danger of wasting money?
WA, Boston, Lincs

Answer: Installing a swimming pool usually makes a big splash with family, friends and neighbours; after all, what better way to cool off when the sun shines, hold a barbecue party and bag free exercise to boot?

You would be in good company too: roughly 205,000 swimming pools in private homes (including indoor installations) are dotted across Britain, a figure estimated to be rising by as many as 2,000 a year, at least until the recession started hitting sales last year.

"Prices can range from as little as £1,400 – excluding heating – for a 15ft diameter, circular above-ground pool, to £40,000 or more for a larger, heated and fully-tiled sunken pool," says a spokesman for the Swimming Pool and Allied Trades Association.

However, when it comes to selling a home, investing in a swimming pool won't always be the attraction it appears. In fact, estate agents warn that, in the wrong property, a pool can sink your chances of getting a good sale price.

"A swimming pool adds real value if you already have a five-bedroom, half-acre pile in the countryside – people expect it as a feature," says James Brooks at Kinleigh, Folkard & Hayward estate agent.

"But if you've a nice, normal four-bed semi or detached house, it won't add value and will end up putting people off."

This is thanks to a trio of well-established worries.

"First, a swimming pool probably won't leave you with much green garden space, depending of course on how much you have got to start with," says Brooks.

Second, he adds, there is the safety issue. Young families, who are often the typical buyers of three-bed semis, worry about their children near water, even if it is in their own backyard.

And finally, he warns, there are the ancillary costs of pools: "Most people are fearful of the cost of the inevitable maintenance and repairs." These can run anywhere from £100 to £140 per month in summertime.

While a pool can add as much as 5 per cent to a property's value if done carefully, it will add nothing if done badly – and prove too much to bear for many homebuyers in the future.

Homebuyers looking for a semi won't have any expectation of having a pool – and so they won't pay for it.

"If you are getting a pool for yourselves, then great," says Brooks. "But if you are doing it for a resale in the future, don't. People won't buy the house because of it."

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