The appeal of a concrete hole in the back garden filled with water has never really gone out of favour given our mostly sunny Australian weather, but since the 1960s the popularity of the home pool has waxed and waned.
When the children are young the pool is the epicentre of family life, but when they hit their teens the kids tend to prefer to hit the beach or the local public pool with their friends.
And guess who’s left to unkink the vacuum hose, de-gunk the filter and find themselves on a Saturday morning balancing chemical compositions with a plastic beaker in one hand and a scooping net in the other? Usually mum or dad, unless you outsource it to a professional for at least $80 a visit.
But pools have always added a splash of cool glamour to a home, especially at night and viewed from a distance – when you can’t notice the leaves, the pond scum or a desperate, geographically-challenged duck.
After the 1960s and ’70s when pools became more commonplace, their popularity took a dive particularly from the late 1980s to the mid-2000s.
The legal, but necessary, requirement to fence them undoubtedly detracted from their Hollywood style, but since then it seems the pool is back with a vengeance – at least in some parts of Australia.
The availability of sheer glass fencing and automated pool covers and self-cleaning systems has been turbo-charged by a new design consciousness. The choice to have a pool is now as much an aesthetic decision as a practical one.
Some real estate agents believe that pools are back in vogue and can return more than the $100,000 investment it often costs to build one – but it depends on the pool and where your home is located.
As a general rule the more unexpected the location – or the pool – the greater the buyer appeal.
If you own a typical suburban home with a 1980s pool surrounded by cracked pebble mix and a green railing fence from Bunnings, then don’t count on it adding value to your house – it might even detract from the value.
The pool, so to speak, of buyers for a house with such a pool is small.
Those not actively interested in a swimming pool might see it as burden requiring upkeep, demolishment or taking up space better used for a garden.
But if you live in the inner city or in a remote or spectacular spot overlooking a cliff, river or beach then it can return its value and more.
The pool, however, needs to be striking and contemporary acting as another “lifestyle” feature for outdoor living, close to the kitchen and entertaining areas and visible from the indoors.
“But it has to have an area for seating or for kids to play,” says agent Nicholas Corby from Collins Simms who specialises in Melbourne’s inner north. “Otherwise it will limit your market when it comes to sell.”
Corby believes the right kind of pool that complements the house’s architecture and style and is part of a garden design definitely adds value to a house.
“You can’t calculate how much value. But what you can tell is that it when people look at the pool, it is seen as a positive.”
Corby recently sold an Arts and Crafts-era house in Alphington for $3.205 million and he believes the pool contributed to the price paid.
He believes that as summers become hotter in Melbourne and public pools become more crowded as the population increases, then the appeal of the backyard pool to buyers will only grow.
But not all real estate professionals agree. In Sydney, Jude McClean from Whitelane Buyers’ Agent is not such an advocate of pools – unless her client is specifically looking for a house with a pool.
“Many buyers want a backyard garden and if that space is taken up by a pool, it can diminish the value,” she says.