Photo via Greg Kearns of Wildwood Pools
Written by Edward Smith
People stuck at home are looking differently at how their homes provide for their needs. For a pool industry in the heat of its season, that interest has kept them afloat.
When the shutdown first started, the silence from people looking to have pools built was scary, said Bryan Foote, owner of Emerald Pools in Fresno. For 30 days, he didn’t get a single lead during what is the busiest part of the year. By April, things turned around.
“All of a sudden, the phone just started ringing off the hook,” Foote said.
Year-to-date, across the Central Valley, 623 permits have been filed for swimming pools, totaling $27.1 million in value, according to the Construction Monitor. In 2019, 654 permits were filed up to this point — valued at $28.14 million. This week alone, 42 permits were filed, equaling $1.78 million. Thirty-four permits were filed for the same week in 2019, totaling $1.45 million.
Even missing out on 30 days of new contracts, Foote says he’s on track to end the year where he was for 2019.
Until recently, gyms have been closed and in many cases, people are still hesitant to go out. Spending more time at home means for some homeowners making the most out of their investment.
Sales at home improvement stores have surged. The link between people improving their homes and wanting to embark on a major capital improvement such as a pool, “can’t be a coincidence,” says Danyelle Conner Bennett, real estate agent with London Properties in Fresno.
Since Covid-19, for some homebuyers, having a pool is a must, especially for people moving into the Fresno area, Conner Bennett said.
“That’s the one thing that’s not negotiable is if it doesn’t have a pool,” Conner Bennett said.
And while close contact with people outside your household is still a concern, some health experts say that chlorine or bromine used in pools to disinfect should kill the virus, according to an article in UC Health.
First-time homebuyers are taking money out of their homes to build out the pool. Conner Bennett has two clients in their 20s who were refinancing to put a pool in a 1,500 square-foot home. But since many first-time homebuyers don’t stay in their homes long before selling and moving into a bigger home, most pools don’t recoup the cost of investment. A $60,000 pool might only increase the value of a home $20,000, said Conner. But for many, the investment is worth it.
Low interest rates have also made the prospect of what can easily be a minimum $40,000 investment much more realistic.
Greg Kearns, vice president of Wildwood Pools in Fresno, has also seen many first-time homebuyers begin the process to build pools. Kearns estimates he’s processed 25% more leads than last year.
While demand for pools has been up, Covid-19 has ushered in its own difficulties. Furloughs at city planning departments have made permitting processes longer. Where permits would normally take a week to receive, it could take two to three weeks.
What’s more is that subcontractors for specific trades have had trouble getting labor.
For those reasons, Foote and Kearns both ask for eight weeks to complete a project.
Despite those difficulties, Foote estimates he’ll do between 35-45 pools this year. This renewed mentality about how homeowners view their investment may continue into the future.
“I really think the whole dynamic is changing with what people are doing in their spare time,” Foote said.