Estimating pool/spa costs

NorthlutFebruary 14, 2012

As I shop for a house, I'm considering some that have pools and spas. I've read extensively about the pros and cons of pools and spas, so that's not what I'm asking about here.

What I want to know is the best way to estimate how much I should expect to spend on keeping a pool and/or spa going:

Pool maintenance person


Power for the pump

Water consumption

What else?

I know this can have huge variation, but without having any idea, it makes it very hard to create a budget and figure out how much house I can comfortably afford. I've seen some people claim that their entire expense is under $100/mo, and others claiming over $1k/mo. That has a massive impact on affordability. In general I'm plugging in "worst case scenario" numbers into my budget, so any surprises are for the better rather than the worse. But with a range this wide, it starts to get ridiculous.

Someone told me to ask the seller for utility bills. That's fine, once we get to the offer stage, but when I'm considering 3 dozen possible places, half of which have a pool or a spa, it's not really practical.

Can anyone give me some help here? Resources I can look at? Guidelines to use? I'm in Southern California.

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Try posting this in the Pools & Spas forum. They'll likely have better advice for you than real estate folks.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2012 at 4:21PM
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I agree about posting in the Pools & Spas forum.

That said, it will to some extent depend upon the specific property and pool. We've had pools at two houses.

At house 1 the pool was very easy to maintain and my husband did the maintenance. We had a pool person out once or twice a year and he did everything else himself. We had costs for monthly chemicals but not a set fee for pool maintenance.

The next house had many trees. Leaves were constantly blowing into the pool. Maintaining the pool and keeping chemicals balanced was challenging in the extreme. We found it very necessary to have a pool maintenance person and even they said that our pool was challenging. That pool required a lot more chemicals and maintenance than the first pool. On the second house, FWIW, we spent $3556 on the pool in 2008, $2691 in 2009, and $3308 in 2010. (these are direct expenses, not things like increased utility costs).

We had a pool heater but never used it so that wasn't a factor. On the first pool we had a spa in the pool and we did use that so there was some heating for the spa heater.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2012 at 5:02PM
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Thanks. I posted over in the other forum.

I think I'll want a pool guy even if it's simple, because I'm frankly lazy about that kind of stuff (the yard also), and it historically has worked out much better for me to just pay someone to deal with it.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2012 at 6:58PM
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Where will you be living? That makes a big difference. We lived in NY and had a pool. We had a pool company open and close the pool (300.00+), weekly cleaning ($325 a month) and charges for chemicals. We closed the pool in September for the winter. I never pinned down the electrical charges because we would have our AC running and our electric bills were high during summer.

We are looking at houses now, in Florida where pools are kept running all year. I have been quoted $85.00 a month for pool service. Since pools run year-round, that would be factored into your electric bill. Most pools in Florida have cages covering them so they don't get leaves and dirt like up North.

We had a well in NY so there were no water charges. Florida has high water charges.

Its a personal/financial decision. We always enjoyed our pool and felt it was worth the expense. Now we are house shopping in Florida and would not consider a house without a pool.


    Bookmark   February 14, 2012 at 8:44PM
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Don't forget about the insurance, and liabilty in case someone gets hurt. Fencing and locked gates too. Permits for the pool.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2012 at 8:55PM
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My guess your best bet would be go talk to a professional pool cleaner. Ask them. They better than anyone should be able to give you averages that you can then apply to your problem.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2012 at 8:56PM
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You don't need extra insurance. Your house insurance covers your liability. We didn't pay extra. Fence is required, but it depends on the State laws. Apparently, Florida accepts a pool cage as a fence.


    Bookmark   February 14, 2012 at 10:23PM
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Do we really need permits for an existing pool? Obviously you need permits for construction...

I'm in Southern California. I know California is more permit-happy than most places, but I never thought we'd need a permit for something that's already there.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2012 at 1:38AM
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What I meant, was there permits issued when the pool was built. Also, check with your insurance agent about additional protection.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2012 at 11:37AM
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In Florida, the pool has to be completely surrounded by "stuff" with latches over 48" high or alarms at any openings. For example, a "cage" is fine, but the doors to the yard have high latches and the doors and windows opening into the cage from the house will have alarms. At least tthey will have had alarms when they passed inspection; they are often removed immediately afterwards and sold to someone else on Craigslist who is approaching their inspection. No cage means fencing with high-latched gates and doors/windows alarmed if they are inside the fence. Oddly, no fencing is required for a canal or seawall.
Many houses in Florida have cages but many don't. If there are a lot of oaks and/or mosquitoes in the area, you need a cage. On my side of town, few have them because of the prevailing breeze that keeps the skeeters away. On the other side of town, the skeeters will eat you alive (more mangrove and preserve over there). You can't walk your dog at dusk, for example, unless you're walking with me, in which case you would be safe because they'd be swarming over me and leaving you alone.
The cage means a shorter swim season because it doesn't get direct sun, so you want a darker pool plaster/pebble and extra heating, like solar. My light pool gets too hot for about a month, in July, facing west with no cage.

But back to the OP, you do want to take a survey about the electrical costs of just plain running the pool pump (and filters) during warm and cold weather. Ask your agent to ask the listing agents to ask the sellers. It is common to ask stuff like that here because we have so many people relocating that are just trying to get aided of what utilities will be like. Might as well find out what your electric bill is going to be like (I'm a native of San Diego and lived there during the brownouts, so this would be very scary to me). The folks over on the pools & spas forum (like me) can help, too. You need to know a few things, like how long to run the pump in warm weather and cold weather. I have to run about 6-8 hours in the summer but only about 4-6 hours in the winter.
Also, I have a salt pool (converts salt to chlorine in a generator - this is the simple explanation, go to the other forum for pros/cons) I haven't had to do a single thing for months except empty the filters and brush the sides and steps, and this has been a relatively warm winter. Most of the time, I have to add about 1/2 gallon of muratic acid each week ($5/gal, we have very hard water). I add a bag 'o salt about every 6 weeks or so ($5/bag). Meanwhile my neighbor has spent hundreds of dollars trying to get his chlorine pool back to blue and clear without much luck (they used our pool all summer). I think it would be well worth the approx $1500-2000 to convert to salt, it is soooooo much easier. I only know one person who can maintain a chlorine pool - everyone else I know pays for a service because it's so hard. It's as low as $50/mo just for chemicals, or up to $100/mo if you have them do everything, brushing, emptying baskets, cleaning filters, etc.
Lots and lots of people told me not to get a pool because we'd regret it. When my kids were little and we were looking for a home in SD, I considered a pool a liability. Here, we installed the pool for ME. I swim laps, and my hubby and I take a dip almost every night before bed in the summer. The teens use it when they have friends over. It takes less than 15 minutes a week to maintain, and then 30 min to backwash the filter and clean the salt cells every other month.
Think about how you'd use the pool before you commit, because properly removing or filling one is another expensive proposition.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2012 at 7:43PM
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Thanks for the great reply, c9pilot!

    Bookmark   February 17, 2012 at 8:40PM
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I pay around $120/month for a pool service which includes chemicals and a weekly cleaning. Additional repairs might average out to $100-$200 or so per year depending on the complexity of the pool and associated system.

My pool is large and complex, so a more "normal" pool would probably be around $70-$90/month for service.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2012 at 4:28PM
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