Nothing is as inviting on a hot summer day as the rippling surface of a tranquil blue swimming pool, but don’t be too mesmerized by that backyard fantasy of pool ownership. Putting in a pool not only means going through the initial outlay for building your pool, but also keeping up with regular maintenance, repair, securing, and insuring costs, plus the liability risk you naturally invite with the addition of a pool to your property.
Of course, safety precautions and devices, along with additional insurance coverage can help reduce the financial risk associated with having a pool in your backyard. But the question remains: Will the pleasure a pool brings a few months out of the year equal or surpass the overall costs and liability you’ll incur?
Putting in a Pool: Define Your Why
The first step in deciding whether or not to put a pool in your backyard is to first define “why” for yourself. What do you think a pool will bring or add to your life that you can’t get in some other way (i.e. community pools, visiting lakes or rivers, the use of a friend or neighbor’s pool)? Since a pool is a long-term homeowner decision and requires an ongoing financial commitment, it’s best to ask yourself and any other decision makers in your family what your expectations for the pool are, and then compare them with the overall investment of pool ownership.
Return on Investment
Strictly from an investment standpoint, a pool may be more of a minus rather than a plus when it comes to getting a return, especially if you don’t plan on living in your current house for more than a few years. Many home buyers see a built-in pool as more of a hindrance than a benefit when buying a home. In-ground pools range in cost between $20,000 and $70,000, and you have to consider the additional costs of necessary or supplementary features such as a heater, expanded decking space, and an automatic cover or fence.
How will you choose to maintain your pool? Will you DIY to save money and maintain your pool on your own? If so, you’ll trade your time for that cost and you’ll need to have a pool calendar to help you plot its maintenance, which includes monitoring water levels, balancing chemicals, vacuuming the pool floor, and maintenance of your pool pump. Depending upon the level of activity your pool receives, it can need your care up to as much as a couple times a week. If you choose to pay someone to maintain your pool, costs can be as much as a few hundred dollars a month for repairs and maintenance. Don’t forget about seasonality, such as when it’s important to take extra measures to prepare your pool for the change in the weather, especially harsh Minnesota winters.
Homeowners can be held liable for any injuries or deaths occurring as a result of their backyard pool. This is true even if the person in question does so when accessing your pool without your permission. This means whether a child wanders into your backyard and falls into the pool or an adult or teen hops your fence to steal time in your pool, you could be held equally liable for anything that may happen to them in your pool area. The fact that you did not provide permission or were unaware your pool was in use does not absolve you of liability.
That’s because, under premises liability, it’s the responsibility of the homeowner to keep their property safe and repair any hazards that could cause harm or injury to another person immediately. While premises liability covers people who are injured as a result of dangerous conditions on a homeowner’s property (including front and backyards where children play), there are times when an insurance company may choose not pay the injury claim. These include situations like if the homeowner did not make the company aware of high-risk dangers – like swimming pools or trampolines. In the event that the insurance company won’t pay the claim, the homeowner could still be financially responsible.
Pool accidents are real, especially if the pool owner is not vigilant. A drowning can occur swiftly and has been pointed out in a recently popular internet article called What Drowning Really Looks Like. it happens oftentimes without other people even noticing.
Even a near-drowning, a slip and fall and other pool area related accidents could require medical attention. In situations such as these, pool owners may find themselves subject to costly lawsuits, which is why it is so important to make sure that you have adequate insurance coverage in place.
Homeowners who decide to move forward with a pool should incorporate every safety precaution available. While these precautions will not absolve you of liability, they can significantly reduce risks associated with owning a backyard pool and help to keep you from being viewed as completely negligent should an accident or injury occur.
Try to create a “No Access Zone,” making your pool as inaccessible as possible, when you are not present. This should include a high fence around your yard or pool area, an alarmed gate with a high lock placement, and a safety pool cover.
Never leave your pool unattended. A sober, vigilant adult who has been well versed in the real signs of drowning should always be present.
Do not store items in or near your pool that could attract young children to your yard, such as inflatable toys, balls or tubes.
Place a legible, noticeable sign in your pool area that warns swimmers that they are swimming at their own risk, along with a posting of the pool rules for safety. This may help decrease risk, though not necessarily liability.
For more tips, read our post on Summer Pool Safety Tips.
You can expect to pay extra for your homeowner’s policy when you put in a pool because of the additional risk. Still, it is important to reveal to your homeowners insurance company that you will be putting a pool in your backyard to obtain appropriate coverage.
Your insurance company may require that certain safety measures be in place before issuing your policy and deny any insurance claims if they find that the appropriate pool safety features were not in place at the time of an accident.
Be sure to check your existing limits and discuss your coverage, especially in case of a lawsuit, with your insurance provider. You may even want to consider obtaining additional liability insurance or increasing the liability portion of your policy.
Though there are many things to consider when you think about putting a pool in your backyard, the most important is that you go in with your eyes wide open to the costs and dangers of owning a pool, in tandem with the driving reasons behind why you desire a pool. Balance these against one another to be sure your returns, whether financial or emotional, are a win for you.