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LIers plan backyard pools: 6 things to know before you dive in

Randi and Michael Jaffe in the backyard of

Randi and Michael Jaffe in the backyard of their Syosset home, where they plan to have a swimming pool installed. Credit: Debbie Egan-Chin

For years, Randi and Michael Jaffe of Syosset resisted the idea of getting an in-ground pool, though friends told them they had the perfect yard for it. Their daughters usually attend summer camp, so the couple decided a pool was an expense they didn’t want to take on. The pandemic and their realization that their 14- and 17-year-old daughters would be home this summer changed that.

"We thought if we’re going to have to hunker down this summer, and we don’t know if COVID-19 is going to come back, this seems like a good time to do it,” Randi Jaffe said.

She started calling pool companies in April to get estimates for an in-ground pool. Initially she envisioned it would be under construction right now.

But the Jaffes weren’t the only ones diving into the plan. Local pool installation companies have been inundated with calls from homeowners worried about social distancing, as well as fears the virus will return. They all want their backyards ready for a staycation, says Dieter Specht, owner of Specht-Tacular Pools in Center Moriches.

Meanwhile, companies are still catching up with previous contracts put on hold when pool construction was deemed nonessential during the stay-at-home orders. Further, Michael Trueheart, owner of True Blue Swimming Pools in Dix Hills, says many towns are backlogged on permit applications, and there’s a concern about material shortages like pumps, filter systems and heaters because manufacturers were also impacted.

All of which reduces the likelihood of floating in a new pool this summer, regardless of what type you want. Even above- and semi-above-ground pools are booked at least until August, according to David Leonard, sales manager of Dunrite Pools in Bohemia. Some homeowners are already putting down deposits for spring 2021.  

The Jaffes have made their peace with waiting.

Randi Jaffe says the plan is to have their 20 x 40 foot in-ground pool installed by Specht-Tacular Pools at the end of August.

“I’ve come to terms with the fact that it’s probably not going to happen this summer. Maybe we can use it if the weather’s nice in September,” she says. “But we’ve decided this is a nice thing to do for our family and the girls are excited, and who knows what next summer will bring?”

The upside, Jaffe adds, is that they can slow down the project and do it in phases, with some things like landscaping waiting until next spring.

That mindset worked out well for Ellen Minzer Keller who last summer added a 10 x 15 saltwater pool to her Deer Park backyard. It wasn’t completed until swimming season was over.

“I could use the pool, but it sat in the middle of a construction site until September,” Keller says. “I had to walk through mud to get to the pool until summer was over.”

But that inconvenience seems minor to her now. She’s been enjoying her pool since May. “I am grateful that I have the pool now that I can’t really go anywhere,” she says.

If you’re not likely to plunge into pool ownership now, Leonard says it’s still wise to start the process. According to Specht, construction can be done this fall, which means you’ll have a pool next spring — and you won’t be living on a construction site this summer.

“At the same time, don't panic and rush into something that you're not really sure about,” cautions Trueheart. “It's a big decision. If you jump in too fast, you might make some mistakes.”

Before you get in too deep, take these six factors into account.  

1.    Know what type of pool you want.

Your choices are above-ground, semi-above-ground and in-ground pools. An above-ground pool can usually be installed within one day and costs under $15,000.

Semis, which Leonard says is a conceptual idea in which part of the above-ground pool is lowered into the ground, can take a few days and costs up to $25,000 depending on the landscaping around it.

Inground pool construction takes about four weeks and costs can run from $30,000 to $100,000 or more depending on features like lighting, steps, heating and masonry.

2.    Be aware of the extra expenses.

With an in-ground pool, your annual property taxes will increase depending on your town, between $500 and $700 a year.  

Then there are the average costs to maintain all pool types. Leonard says that if you hire a pool company for opening and closing, the service is about $600. Chemicals are about $400 a season, whether or not you do it yourself. You could hire a maintenance company for between $40 and $60 a week, but automated vacuums make self-maintaince practical.

3.    Consider your property size.

The style and size of pool may come down to how much space you have. Even if you have a large yard, you have to consider your town’s setback restrictions. For instance, if you’re in the Town of Huntington, Leonard says all pool types have to be five feet off your property line.

4.    Think about the long-term investment.

If you’re considering an in-ground pool and wondering if it will add to your home’s resale value, Doris Kason, a sales associate for Douglas Elliman Real Estate in Central Nassau, says it depends.

“In Nassau, the lots don't always accommodate a large in-ground pool, so not everyone wants to buy a house that has one,” she says. “But in Suffolk, where the lots tend to be larger, a pool is more of a plus.”

That’s why Leonard tells clients that if they plan to stay in their homes for several years, and their families will be able to enjoy the pool each year, that’s what you’re investing in.

5.    Choose a pool company.

Specht recommends that homeowners get at least three estimates and check with the Better Business Bureau, as well as on social media for referrals. And don’t forget to ask your friends as well.

6.    Understand the full budget picture.

Make sure your pool company is clear about the entire cost of pool installation, which can include masonry, electric, and grounds and irrigation restoration.

“When you add all those components together, the general rule of thumb is to take the cost of the pool and double it,” Trueheart says. “If somebody is not thinking that through and they make a hasty decision to purchase the pool for let's say $30,000 not realizing it's really going to cost them $60,000 when it's done, they're going get themselves in financial trouble.”

If you take all these steps, you’ll be able to beat next year’s rush.

Meanwhile, you still might be able to buy a blow-up pool online.

Now on the market: 5 homes with pools

Homes with pools are in high demand on the real estate market right now.

“We're finding that people from Queens and Manhattan are interested in purchasing homes with pools because they want to escape the city,” says Doris Kason, a sales associate for Douglas Elliman Real Estate in central Nassau. “And people on the island with young families want to move into homes that have a little bit of a bigger property, even if it’s for an above-ground pool they hope to get in quickly.”

$1,199,000, Plainview

This raised ranch features a master bedroom suite with four more spacious bedrooms, three full baths with Italian ceramic tiles, a den, wet bar for entertaining, solid oak floors, central air conditioning, a new kitchen with sliders leading to a two-tier deck on half an acre, with landscaping and heated in-ground pool surrounded by pavers, and a two-car garage. Taxes are $24,180. Jesse Anselmo, Tri Novo Realty, 718-757-6169

$695,000, St. James

This center hall colonial with four bedrooms and 2½ baths has high ceilings, two gas fireplaces and a private, landscaped yard with a heated in-ground pool and new Trex decking. The master bedroom suite offers cathedral ceilings, his-and-her closets and a master bath with Jacuzzi and shower. There’s a laundry room off the first-floor hall, and oversized 2½-car side-entry garage and partially finished basement. Taxes are $18,770.90. Mary Kronwitt, Henrietta Homes & Properties, 631-862-6999

$628,888, Melville

The end unit of a seven-room, three-bedroom, 2½-bath condominium is on a landscaped property with an in-ground pool, pond, clubhouse, tennis, gym and playground. The layout is open, airy and spacious. The new kitchen has wood cabinets, Quartzite counters, stainless steel appliances and sliders to a Trex deck. Taxes are $13,630 and the common fee is $737 a month. Doris Kason, Douglas Elliman Real Estate, 516-681-2600

$459,000, Huntington Station

This charming five-bedroom, two-bath expanded Cape with a pool on a 0.54-acre lot has generous-sized rooms with wood floors. There is a large living room with a wood burning fireplace, formal dining room, a large first-floor master bedroom and a walk-in attic. Taxes are being grieved. Kim Schultze, Coldwell Banker Residential, 631-897-1001

$395,000, Holbrook

This ranch features a formal living room with a fireplace, eat-in kitchen and three bedrooms with 1½ baths. A backyard deck overlooks an in-ground pool on a 75 x 105 fenced-in, private lot. Other amenities include an electric stove, ceiling fans, finished, heated basement with bar, attic, private driveway, deck, patio, shed, in-ground sprinkler system, Ring doorbell, security system and 200-amp service. Taxes are $8,595.54; $7,687.82 with STAR. Jacqueline Rosen, Exit Realty All Pro, 631-721-6323

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