When one of Sydney’s spectacular northern beaches is a short walk away, is it worth putting in a pool?
Fran and Stuart Boag, parents to three, wrestled with that question when building their Hamptons-style dream home.
Their conclusion? Future buyers would probably expect a pool to be part of the lifestyle package.
In the meantime, the family is thoroughly enjoying the life aquatic.
Their youngest child Lachlan,12, begins campaigning for his first swim of the season in September.
“We had Christmas here last year and we had all the cousins and everyone was in the pool,” Fran says.
“There are afternoons where we walk down the beach and then we just feel like having a refreshing swim at home.”
Their 35,000-litre oasis cost about $80,728. Excavation was $8600; the pool, its installation, and equipment including a pump and filter $42,000; fencing $7920; Geotech reports and private certifier’s fees $2348; tiles and tiling, coping, water feature, electrical work $9360; and deck $10,500.
Heating is on the back-burner, so maintenance, including aqua-therapy minerals, costs about $1000 annually, plus electricity.
The Boag family are not the only ones keen to make a splash in their backyard.
Australia has about 1.2 million constructed backyard pools, according to the Swimming Pool and Spa Association (SPASA). Figures from Roy Morgan show Sydney was home to about 15 per cent and Melbourne 9 per cent in September 2018. In regional NSW including the ACT, it hit 10 per cent and regional Victoria 9 per cent, both rising from 7 per cent in 2014.
In Sydney the proportion of dwellings with a swimming pool has fallen slightly because of apartment construction, but there’s steady growth in the rest of the state.
While there’s always the option of an above-ground portable pool for an outlay of a few hundred dollars, prices for a permanent constructed pool are much more, starting from $23,000 for a small plunge pool, according to an online search.
Natalie Bugden of Freedom Pools, which installed the Boags’ pool and this year won the SPASA’s national pool of the year award, says a fully functioning pool starts at about $45,000.
But costs can rise a lot higher. “We’re doing a pool and two spas in a house in Mosman that’s got all the bells and whistles and that’s upwards of $300,000.”
Heating, tiling, lighting and add-ons such as a cabana; an outdoor kitchen, toilet and shower; and water features all push up the price.
“A lot of people are using the space to be more of an outdoor entertaining area,” Bugden says.
Automation is also becoming a thing. “So from inside the house you can change your lights; put the water features on; turn on the jets in the spa.”
Or control systems can be operated by apps. “So if you’re overseas and you want the spa to be nice and hot [when you get home], you can set that on your phone from anywhere in the world.”
While backyard pools have traditionally been the domain of the suburbs, there is growing demand in inner-city locations.
Spiros Dassakis, chief operating officer, SPASA, reports increasing demand for plunge pools, swim spas, and other smaller offerings as properties are either subdivided or smaller lots are offered.
The energy-conscious are also turning to solar heating.
Not every swimming pool owner wants one. Tom Burns, director, Reverse Pools in Victoria, points to a variety of reasons why people get rid of a pool.
They might be empty-nesters or young families who prefer their kids to have a backyard where they can play year-round.
Investors might have different ideas to owner-occupiers about the worth of a pool.
The decision may be driven by fashion or legislation. “Thirty to 40 years ago they would build a pool smack bang in the middle of the yard and it would be a monster pool,” Burns says.
Now they are fenced on one side.
Burns says removing a pool can cost $7000 to $13,000, plus landscaping costs.
So how do you keep a lid on the price of a pool?
Think small. Pools can require 22,000-60,000 litres of water, according to SPASA. Fran says storms or lots of splashing can increase pool maintenance costs.
Be energy conscious. A typical in-ground pool can represent about 30 per cent of a household energy bill, according to energy.gov.au.
A minimum five-star energy-efficient pool pump and LED lighting helps keep energy bills lower.
Dassakis points to new technology such as variable speed pumps and filters designed to promote water sustainability too.
Bugden says it programs equipment for off-peak times. She suggests using a pool cover to keep heat in and opting for solar or gas heating.
Written By: Christine Long
Published Date: 2 December 2018