Sydney Morning Herald Domain, July 5 2008
By Susan Wellings

Home owners may think nothing beats a pool on a hot day but not every buyer wants one.

Overground, inground, infinity-edged, infinitely costly- pools in backyards come in all shapes,sizes, temperatures and degrees of pleasure and pain. Sometimes, they’re guaranteed to make a huge splash with potential purchasers; at others, they can prove a complete drain on their enthusiasm.

“I think it all depends on the demographic,” says buyer’s agent Peter Kelaher, of PK Property Seach & Negotiators. “If you’ve got a young family looking for a house in Mosman, they nearly always want a pool because they’re not near a beach and to get a pool approved the local council is a nightmare.

“But on the other hand, if you have someone who’s older in the same area, they might not be interested in a pool at all because they don’t want the maintenance.”

Pooled Interest

Whether or not there’s a strong flood of demand can also depend hugely on personal taste, the affordability- or otherwise- of the property for sale and the location.

Many buyers would expect a big house in the Hills District to come complete with pool, for instance, but they really wouldn’t expect an inner-city terrace to have a 12-metre lap pool stretching from the backyard into the house.

Equally, they might be surprised – and pleasantly so- to find a slick new home a stone’s throw from the beach at North Bondi to come complete with a stunning dark blue infinity plunge pool perched on the edge of the cliffs.

“But at this sort of level, people expect a pool,” says McGrath agent Steven Chen of 3 Bay Street, North Bondi.
“They might say that the best pool in the world lies across the road, Bondi Beach, but people still want the element of privacy and luxury a pool like this affords.”

Certainly, at that prestige end of the market- offers are invited for more than $5 million for the three-bedroom state-of-the-art house with an electronically operated retractable roof- it can be almost a necessity.

Chen says even the recent buyer of the $8 million penthouse at the new block The Bondi, at 152 Campbell Parade, is attempting to have a pool installed on the top floor. “Pools can be great for purchasers at the upper end of the market. It’s always very nice.”

In Forestville, Di Finch of agents W.E.Jamieson says at least 60 per cent of people looking for a house definitely want a pool. “When you have a family, it’s a real touch of luxury in your backyard,” she says.

Finch is now marketing a $1.4 million five-bedroom house on Edinburgh Road, with a self-contained flat, that she says would fetch $100,000 less without the wet-edge pool. “And people are going to be keener on pools in the future, too, with petrol prices and traffic jams on the way to the beach.”

In parts of the inner west there isn’t much emphasis on pools.

Elli Augermoss of L.J.Hooker, who is selling 14 Macquarie Road in Earlwood with a pool for about $1.7 million, says the area mostly attracts young couples just starting out and they’re more concerned with the condition of the house and which street it’s on.

“Pools are more for the posher end,” she says. “A lot of people now who’d like a pool look at apartment blocks with pools as they don’t have to pay for all the maintenance.”

In Mosman, however, a pool is still close to the top of many property shoppers’ lists. “Ten years ago, people were about 50-50 about pools but they’re now really coming into their own,” says Stephen Patrick of Richardson & Wrench. “People like to swim because it’s healthy and it’s a way to have kids at home rather than on the streets. Three to four hours in a pool can burn a lot of energy, it’s very good for them, they can have their friends over and it’s cheap entertainment.”

Yet the cost and effort of maintaining a pool can prove a deterrent for some. A nearly new, automated pool may require little attention. But, as Kelaher says, older pools can be a nightmare.

“They can prove quite a lot of work.”

Fellow buyer’s agent Jacque Parker, of House Search, says it’s exactly for this reason that she always advises clients to order a separate report on a pool- in addition to a building report on the house.

“Pools can be fraught with problems particularly if they’re old and it’s better to know beforehand what you’re getting into,” she says.

She believes a pool could add $40,000 to $50,000 of value to a $2 million house but there can be hidden costs. One person she came across had bought a house where the pool floor bore ugly stains left by gumnuts falling down from an overhanging tree. In the end, the pool had to be drained and an acid wash applied to get rid of the marks- a $2000 exercise.

Another buyer was horrified to discover that the ashes of a previous owner’s relative had been placed in a box concreted into the pool floor.

“Investors tend to steer away from properties with pools too, because of the maintenance,” Parker says. “They sometimes have to charge tenants $20 a week extra in rent to cover maintenance, or the tenant can do it themselves, but they might not know what they’re doing.”

It’s also easy for home owners to overcapitalise when adding a pool in the first place.

Kris Cviker of Egan National Valuers advises caution before diving in the deep end.

“Some people spend a great deal of money on a pool and they can be disappointed when it doesn’t automatically exponentially add to a property’s value.”

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