Buying or Selling a House with a Pool

Question: We have made a backyard pool a higher priority on our housing criteria, but finding very few homes for sale that have one. How difficult is it going to be to find a house with a pool already built?

Answer: A few years ago I wrote a column about whether or not having a pool helps or hurts when selling your home. The short version is that, historically, homes with pools take longer to sell and sell at a deeper discount from the original asking price than homes without pools.

It makes sense because most local buyers don’t value having an in-ground pool – they’re costly to maintain, parents of young children see them as a safety hazard, they often take up most/all of the backyard lawn space, and it’s useful less than half of the year.

However, things have changed this year with buyer and homeowner demand for backyard pools increasing. Let’s take a look at some of the numbers behind finding and selling homes with pools in Arlington and Fairfax County. The data below is based on sales of single-family detached (SFD) homes sold since 2015.

Data Highlights
  • It is REALLY hard to find a home in Arlington with a pool. Only 1.4% of SFD sales in 5+ years have included a pool.
  • The average price of a home with a pool in Arlington is artificially inflated by a $45M sale earlier this year. Without that sale, the average price of a home with a pool in Arlington drops to $1,352,000 and $1,423,000 in the 22207 zip code.
  • 70% of homes sold with a pool are in 22207 and 22205
  • The highest percentage of homes sold with a pool in the area is in Great Falls, with just over ¼ of the sales including a pool
  • In Arlington, you’re most likely to find that pools take up most/all of the usable backyard space, but lot sizes in Fairfax County are big enough to accommodate a pool and a lawn
LocationTotal Sales (since 2015)Avg Sold PriceAvg Lot SizeAvg House SqftAvg Sold $ to Original Ask $Avg Days on Market
Arlington County83 (1.4%)$1,825,9630.354,27197.2%58
2220746$2,376,2100.454,65597.1%64
2220512$1,423,8450.313,98998.8%34
Fairfax County2,571 (5.9%)$1,139,9981.364,58795.7%58
Alexandria (not city)309$730,0480.442,99396.8%44
Annandale75$719,3200.553,19697.2%33
Centreville73$778,0601.404,33597.5%45
Chantilly40$685,7210.323,49898.1%34
Clifton113$1,061,8814.315,76293.5%96
Fairfax Station153$971,8774.075,07095.7%54
Great Falls345 (25.3%)$1,480,8292.356,04993.9%81
Herndon152$715,3520.533,37998.1%30
Mclean373$2,258,2931.146,31492.9%94
Oakton123$1,191,3011.305,31394.1%64
Reston55$848,9440.634,27696.3%39
Vienna240$1,043,7590.994,46895.8%48
Building Your Own Pool

Most people are shocked when they find out what it costs to build a gunite (concrete) in-ground pool around here, which usually runs $150k-$200k+ before additional patio and landscaping work.

I linked up with local Arlington landscape designer/expert Rob Groff, of Groff Landscape Design, to find out why it’s so much more expensive to build a pool here than elsewhere in the region/country and ask about a common strategy I’ve heard from homeowners to hire an out-of-town company to build a pool for less and pay for their travel/lodging during the project to save some money.

Q: Why is it so expensive to build a pool here?

A: It’s so much more expensive to build a pool here because permitting is more time consuming and expensive, materials and labor are more expensive, average lot size is smaller which oftentimes causes for problems, engineering, municipal related site preparation such as construction entrances, super silt fence, site restoration, drainage, etc are all a factor.

Q: Is it more cost effective for homeowners to hire an out-of-town pool company who builds pools for less money and pay for their travel/lodging?

A: A lot of pool companies don’t include all expenses up front and therefore there are a ton of surprise costs on the back-end of the pool project.  I’ve seen this a lot especially from out of area pool companies.  We actually setup a spreadsheet and accompany some of our clients in the vetting process.  We had a local company at 205k for a pool that a Fredericksburg based company had at 145k.  By the time the meeting was over and we corrected the Fredericksburg company to make sure they didn’t leave anything off, they were up at 215k. 

Q: Are there more affordable options for in-ground pools that you recommend?

A: In Northern Virginia, a gunite (concrete) pool has been the standard for a long time.  On average, we see these coming in at $150k-$200k in Northern Virginia (not including the pool patio and other surrounding elements like landscaping, lighting, etc).  Fiberglass pools are growing in popularity and their base price is closer to $55k-$65k (River Pools and Spa). These fiberglass pools don’t feel the same to many homeowners as a true gunite pool, but they save enough money to make people consider them. There are a ton of good videos on their website that explains the differences between gunite and fiberglass, etc.

Thank you very much Rob! For anybody interested in excellent landscaping design consultation and work, I highly recommend Rob and his team at Groff Landscape Design. Pool design, layout, and project management is part of their service package for those interested in building a pool. They even have a great financing program available to help spread the cost of what is often $100k+ landscaping projects.

If you’d like to discuss buying or selling strategies, don’t hesitate to reach out to me at Eli@EliResidential.com

Impact of New Homes on Housing Prices

Question: How much of Arlington’s high housing prices are attributed to new homes?

Answer: So far this year, the average sold price of a single-family detached (SFD) home in Arlington is $1,146,000, but if you remove the sales of new homes, which are averaging $1,810,000 in 2020, the average price for a SFD home in Arlington drops 7.4% to $1,060,000. Since 2015, the average price of a new SFD home in Arlington has increased by 21.6%, while the average price of resale homes has increase 25.3%.

Important note: I removed one sale from the 2015-2020 sales data; a January 2020 sale of 409/411 Chain Bridge Rd for $45M, because it is such an extreme anomaly in Arlington real estate data that it skews everything else too high. This is important to understand because most likely in other assessments of Arlington real estate data you see, this data point will be included and it will make it seem like the average sale price in Arlington, especially 22207, has increased much more than it actually has.

New Home Prices vs Resale Prices

The charts below compare the annual change in the average price of a new SFD home and a resale SFD home. The first chart shows all Arlington SFD sales and the second chart is just for the 22207 zip code which accounts for 54% of all new SFD home sales since 2015.

I was a little surprised by how uncorrelated average prices were between new and resale homes some years, I would have expected a strong linkage.

One data point that stands out is the huge jump in new home prices from 2017 to 2018, which seems to be tied to a significant drop in the number of transactions (lower supply) in 2018. It highlights just how sensitive the new home market is to supply swings and I wonder if that forecasts less growth in the future as more homes built in the last 5-8 years come up for resale, competing with similar new homes. I also wonder if a pause in buying by builders in the first half of this year may lead to a material shortage of new homes in 2021 and drive prices up for new homes selling next year.

If you’d like to discuss buying or selling strategies, don’t hesitate to reach out to me at Eli@EliResidential.com.

Home Warranty Recommendation

Question: Do you think it’s worth it to buy a home warranty and, if so, is there a provider you recommend?

Answer:

What Is A Home Warranty?

Home warranties protect many of the systems in your home including things like the HVAC (heating and cooling) and appliances. If one of those systems stops working while you’re covered, the warranty provider will repair or replace the system or cut you a check to replace it yourself. One year of protection generally ranges from a few hundred dollars to one thousand dollars, depending on the scope of coverage.

The most common time to purchase a home warranty is for/by a buyer when they’re buying a home. However, sellers can also purchase a warranty and transfer the coverage to a buyer and also benefit from coverage if something comes up on the home inspection. Home owners can also buy a warranty at any time if they want coverage. The provider usually requires a month or so between the time of purchase and coverage taking effect to prevent people from buying a warranty when something goes wrong (pre-existing condition).

Are They Worth The Cost?

I generally find home warranties to be worth the cost for at least the first year of ownership. If the home you’re buying has old systems, consider buying multi-year coverage. Think of the expense like you would home or auto insurance. If you’re somebody who prefers to pay higher premiums for more coverage/peace of mind, a home warranty probably makes sense for you.

A common scenario I see where home warranties pay-off is with HVACs when a new owner transitions from heating to air conditioning in the spring. During the winter, it’s often to cold outside to test the air conditioning during the home inspection so AC issues may present themselves after closing. With a home warranty, those issues should be covered.

Recommendation: Super Home Warranty

Warranty companies have a pretty bad reputation with complaints ranging from difficulty filing claims, low quality contractors, and lengthy delays. I actually stopped recommending warranties to clients because of these issues.

However, in the last couple of years I have had fantastic experiences with a newer home warranty provider called Super Home Warranty and I would highly recommend them. They’re responsive, have a good user platform/app, use high quality contractors for repairs, and I’ve yet to run into unfair claim denials.

They also have some really valuable inclusions that other warranty companies don’t offer. They have a contractor concierge that gives you access to their vetted contractors for any work you need like tree removal, roofing, plumbing, and remodeling. Super also offers a bunch of helpful services for $75 like re-keying locks, carpet cleaning, and HVAC cleaning.

It’s worth noting that I don’t get anything from Super for recommending them.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!