Swimming Pools and Hot Tubs – Liability or Asset in Portland?

hot tub and pool in real estate

Ah, the water. In the summer months there’s no treat like taking a dip in your personal, private swimming pool. Hot tubs, on the other hand, will bring you more friends than you’ve ever dreamed of on cold winter days like these!

Having your very own oasis to cool off, exercise, warm up or relax in is a quite the luxury. However, from a real estate perspective, it’s not so easy to love pools and hot tubs. For some buyers, they’re a great asset. For others, they’re a liability. If you’re thinking about adding a water feature to your home’s recreational repertoire, read on! (Portland home buyers: Scroll down for a quick and easy guide to buying a home with a pool or hot tub.)

Pools of Cash?

There are two main types of swimming pools: Above-ground and in-ground. Most people prefer the look of an in-ground pool — flush with the surrounding environment. However, above-ground pools can be integrated nicely with wraparound decks and creative landscaping. Also, above-ground pools are easier to remove!

It can cost tens of thousands of dollars to properly remove and decommission an in-ground Portland pool. The buyer’s agent is going to warn their buyer and most buyers are not interested in taking on big projects. Home buyers are typically busy people with jobs, possibly kids, and don’t want to invest extra time and money into a house to make it the way they want. Unless a Portland buyer actually wants a pool – typically they are not going to be interested, at all, in your home with the in-ground pool. An in-ground pool will appeal to some home buyers, but only a select few. I have a saying in this business, “normal sells.” If your home appeals to a broader market, it will sell faster and for more money, and have a better chance of going into a multiple offer situation.

If you’re a Portland homeowner dying to having a pool, as a real estate agent, I advise you to proceed carefully! Most buyers do not look at a swimming pool as an asset to the home. In this part of the country, they can be expensive to heat in the winter and most people simply won’t use them except in the warm summer months. However, maintenance must still be performed and the ongoing costs are another reason that buyers tend to shy away — unless they are specifically looking for a pool in a home.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t put in the pool you’ve always dreamed of, especially if you plan on owning the home for a long time. As the saying goes, don’t postpone joy! Selling a home with a pool is often just a matter of finding the right buyer. It may take longer to sell, but there’s no reason it should detract from your home value if you keep it in working order — just don’t expect to recuperate what you spent to install it. Also, be sure to get the proper building permit from the City of Portland, as you will need it when you want to sell the home (if not before). In fact, check the building code before you even start designing your pool. There are specific requirements for fencing and other safety considerations.

Another option is to go the above-ground pool route. You’ll save money on the installation (no permit required in Portland), and they’re much easier to remove or replace if you happen to sell the home to buyers who don’t have fins for feet!

What about Hot Tubs?

Hot tubs come in the same two basic forms – above-ground and in-ground. However, the above-ground versions seem far more common and acceptable to the average Portland homeowner. Again, the price difference is significant, and unless you plan on living in the home forever and you don’t mind high repair costs, above-ground is probably the way to go. You can put an above-ground hot tub pretty much anywhere (with some restrictions), and depending on the contract you work out with your home buyer, you can take your hot tub with you when you move out.

Do hot tubs add to your home value? No real estate agent is going to suggest you get one to improve your home’s buyer appeal. There are much better ways to spend your money if your goal is to add home value! However, if you’re thinking of adding a hot tub, and you’re worried about it taking away from your home value, worry no more. I haven’t found any evidence that hot tubs decrease the home’s value. Hot tubs are (somewhat) easy to remove if a buyer really doesn’t like it, and most buyers will pay more attention to the home’s more permanent features. An equal amount will say “Oh, nice! A hot tub!”

Because after all, who doesn’t enjoy relaxing in the water?

Staging Your Pool or Hot Tub

When buyers come by to look at your home, you should definitely make sure it’s clean and that basic maintenance has been taken care of. Same for your pool or hot tub!

  • Hire a professional cleaner to scrub the pool and drains. Add proper chemicals to ensure clear, clean water.
  • Make sure the required fencing around your pool is up to date and nice-looking (no holes, peeling paint, hanging wires, etc.)
  • If your pool or hot tub cover is old, torn or bleached out, replace it. On a first tour of your home, buyers might not bother to peek inside the pool or tub, but they will definitely see the cover!
  • Put away pool toys and anything that clutters up the deck or space around the pool or tub. Let your backyard feature shine without the distractions!
  • Stage outdoor spaces, even in the winter. Make sure the back deck is clean and take the cover off the barbecue and outdoor furniture (weather permitting) so that buyers can see the potential for great parties! It’s okay to leave covers on pools and hot tubs, however.

Pools and Hot Tubs – A Buyer’s Guide

Among pool afficionados, the inside joke is that it’s cheaper to buy a new home with a pool than to install one yourself! Although most Portland home buyers aren’t looking for a pool or hot tub specifically, when you do come across these features in a home, it’s best to be prepared. Here are my real estate agent tips.

  • Don’t let a pool sink the deal, if the home meets all your other criteria. If you find the perfect home and it just so happens to have an unwanted pool in the backyard, for a lot of money, you can have the pool removed. I recommend getting a few bids and be sure the bid includes the cost of properly decommissioning it with the city of Portland.
  • Like the pool? Be sure to get maintenance records from the seller, and get a second separate pool inspector to supplement your regular home inspection.
  • Research costs and labor involved in owning a pool before you dive in to the deal! Here I recommend you visit a local pool supply and maintenance shop and get an idea of their cost of service.
  • For built-in hot tubs, the same guidelines apply. However, in Portland, above-ground hot tubs are much more common (and easier to remove, repair or relocate).
  • Be sure your Portland real estate agent makes clear in the offer whether you would like the above-ground hot tub or pool to stay or go when you purchase the home. It is always better to make things clear in your offer.

Ready to take a dip in the Portland real estate market waters? Winter is a great time to buy a home in Portland. Call the Portland Buyers Team!

January 4, 2017

Stephen FitzMaurice

Stephen FitzMaurice, Realtor is a top 5% real estate agent in the U.S. A Principal Broker in Oregon, Managing Broker in Washington, he has been licensed since 2003 for residential real estate sales. Call his team in Oregon at 503-714-1111 or in Washington at 360-345-3833.

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