Do pools enhance property value in Silicon Valley back yards? Do they make homes easier or more difficult to sell in Santa Clara County? What’s the impact on resale value? The common wisdom is that it depends on the amount of yard or lot size, the price point and the location of the residence. When a pool takes up the majority (or virtually all) of the back yard, most often it makes the property undesirable to buyers – at least to most home buyers – and that, in turn, causes the sales price to slip a bit. It used to be that pools were almost a given on more expensive residential real estate, particularly if there is a lot of land. Today I ran the numbers, though, and it appears that things have changed. Below please find the “months of inventory” for homes with and without pools and note that it is very consistent, in the fields I checked, that it’s now harder to sell a home with a pool than without.
Truthfully, this came as a bit of a surprise to me since many of the luxury properties in Almaden, Los Gatos, Saratoga, Monte Sereno and nearby areas do include pools, especially if they’re on a half acre lot or more. In the past, I remember high-end buyers not wanting to purchase a larger, estate home if there wasn’t already a pool in place since it’s such a mess (and noisy, and expensive) to go through the construction of one. Lately, though, my high-end buyers (properties upwards of a million dollars) are fairly adamant that they do not want a swimming pool. Many of them don’t want the upkeep costs or chores and have told me that they would not use it enough to make it worthwhile.
What about luxury home buyers and pools in Silicon Valley?
I wanted to see if it changed when the data was viewed in light of pricing and not just acreage or lot size, so to finish up this study, I looked at regular sales of houses listed at over $2,000,000 in Santa Clara County (the San Jose area) – these are considered luxury homes here. For houses without pools, the months of inventory was 5.4 (not terrible, still less than the 6 months which NAR calls a balanced market) but for homes with pools, it was up to 6.8 months of inventory. That’s a significant difference and is in line with what we saw when the question was put with the amount of land involved. Generally speaking, buyers would prefer to not have a pool, even in the higher priced subsets of the market. (My advice: run the numbers for your own home’s micro market and see. It’s possible that this may not apply in your case.)
This still didn’t sit quite right with me since I’ve known the most expensive homes to all have pools, so I spent some time looking at homes in Los Gatos, Monte Sereno and Saratoga. I was interested to know if homes with pools were still harder to sell and had a lower resale value, as appears to be the case in more normally price houses.
First I looked again at larger lots – half an acre to about an acre and a half – in all three areas combined. It was inconclusive but basically there were 102 of them for sale now and 12 which have closed in the last month (so 8.5 months of inventory). Of those on the market, 56 had pools and 46 didn’t. This was too broad given the variety of zip codes and school districts, so I narrowed it to just Saratoga with only Saratoga schools. For those in this area, just 3 have sold and closed in the last month with no pool (averaging about $1,850,000) but 9 have closed with a swimming pool (averageing about $2,735,000). The average square footage of a house without a pool was 3482, but the average house size of places with a pool was 4309. It does appear that homes with pools do sell for more, but also that in general, these are larger homes. Since 3/4 of those sold in this segment of the Saratoga market do have pools, it would be hard to say that buyers are rejecting homes with pools. Of course, a 4300 SF house in Saratoga with Saratoga Schools is much different than a house in Willow Glen with San Jose schools – just underlines the fact that the real estate market is comprised of many micro markets. What is true for the county as a whole may not be the case for luxury properties in Los Altos, Saratoga, or Almaden Valley.
Why do pools hurt the odds of selling for most houses in the San Jose area?
Bigger studies would need to be done to thoroughly address the question of why swimming pools appear to hurt saleability for most residential real estate (the very high end excluded). But I will venture a couple of guesses. First, there are weather issues. Last summer was cool and this winter doesn’t seem to want to end. Pools are probably a lot more appealing when there’s significant doses of hot weather. Second, we are still recovering from a very tough recession, so the new frugality which is currently fashionable and which has become a way of life for so many of us may be impacting the perceived value of in ground pools, too. This may change as we move more into the recovery and when our unemployment isn’t just over 10%.
Selling a home with a swimming pool
Home owners, it’s important to realize that although you may have enjoyed and treasured your pool, for buyers it may be viewed as a liability – an expense to have it removed or to maintained. To get the best deal for your home, you’ll want to try to mitigate the buyer’s concerns since worried buyers will pay less and confident buyers will pay more for your property. Solar panels make it less expensive to maintain, and therefore more acceptable to consumers worried about power bills. Families with small children may be concerned about safety issues, so having a great child-proof fencing system may provide them peace of mind. You could, as a negotiation strategy or selling bonus, throw in one year of pool service from your favorite provider too, since they may feel ill-equipped to take on the maintenance of a pool as soon as they move in. A home warranty with pool coverage will also provide peace of mind and a sense of a safety net should things go wrong.
Pools, like every other element of the house and yard, need to be in pristine, sparkling condition if you want to maximize the sales price of your property. When home buyers, especially first time home buyers, see missing tiles, obvious rust stains, rampant algae, leaking pool equipment or other problems, they see both work to be done and dollar signs. This is even more true if there are no pre-sale inspections. Don’t provide reasons for your home’s buyer to be worried – buying a home at all is worrisome enough!
Should you remove the pool before putting your house on the market?
Some home sellers may opt to get rid of the pool before selling. That can be a good idea, especially if the back yard is really small, but it needs to be done correctly. Recently I was house-hunting with some clients in the Almaden Valley area of San Jose and we saw a backyard where the pool was left completely in place, but filled with dirt and planted with grass. I assure you, that was a terrible idea because now buyers see it as twice as much trouble (and cost) to rectify. Home buyers, if you are neutral on buying with or without a pool, you may find it far easier to purchase property that has a pool as it seems that there will be less competition for it. If you want a pool, you are in luck right now! Market conditions change and three or four years from now, when we are in a more recovered economic status, pools may again be the hot ticket. This is a great opportunity to buy a house with a pool while there’s less competition! Want to talk about buying or selling a home with a pool? Call or email me today!