A swimming pool holds a fascination for those who have never owned one. For those who have owned pools, however, maintenance costs moderate the luxury of having a crystal-clear lagoon for lounging in the warm summer sun. Before taking the in-ground pool plunge, consider not only the cost of the pool and its upkeep but also the potential for increases in market value and property tax assessment for your home.
In Ground vs. Above Ground
In-ground pools require excavation and soil retention. They are permanent structures. Unlike an above-ground pool, which can be packed up and moved to another place, removal of an in-ground pool would require digging it out and refilling and landscaping the area. So the in-ground pool qualifies as an improvement to your real property, and that -- in turn -- can translate into higher property taxes.
Real property value, determined by real estate professionals, depends on its “comps” -- similar properties sold in the same area around the same time. Where the outdoor pool season is short, the value of a pool -- above ground or in the ground -- would be less than it might be in a warmer area with a longer swimming season. Value is also in the eye of the buyer. Pools may detract from value for couples with young children for safety reasons, and maintenance issues may put off older couples. The tax value of your pool is determined by the municipal assessor, who bases the evaluation on the actual market value.
Property tax practices vary from state to state and among municipalities within each state. It’s a safe bet, however, that in most jurisdictions your property will be reassessed when you make improvements, and an in-ground pool by definition qualifies as an improvement. Assessors compute property value at a percentage of market value using -- you guessed it -- real estate comps. Depending on your market, an in-ground pool may add as little as 5 percent to as much as 30 percent of its purchase and installation cost to your property’s value. So if you have a $100,000 house and spend $30,000 on a pool, the value of your house may rise by $1,500 to $9,000.
Property Tax Levies
The assessor turns in a uniform fraction of the market value, say, 50 percent of market value as your assessed valuation. If your tax rate is $3.10 per $1,000 in assessed valuation, the bill for your house with a pool -- extending the example in the previous section -- would range between approximately $316.20 and $337.90, while your bill without a pool would be $310. Check for local and state exemptions and deferments for improvements, but whether your pool is worth some additional property tax -- now or down the road -- is up to you.
- Buffalo Better Business Bureau: Swimming Pools
- Washington Township (New jersey) Tax Assessor's Office: General Information
- Window on (Texas) State Government: March 2012 Tax Policy News
- New York Times: In-Ground Pools: Making the Right Choice
- Realtor.com: Does an In-Ground Pool Add Value to a House?
- Lincoln Institute of Land Policy: 50-State Property Tax Comparison Study
An avid perennial gardener and old house owner, Laura Reynolds has had careers in teaching and juvenile justice. A retired municipal judgem Reynolds holds a degree in communications from Northern Illinois University. Her six children and stepchildren served as subjects of editorials during her tenure as a local newspaper editor.