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What Do Pools Really Cost?

Unfortunately our industry doesn't have the greatest reputations for providing the correct cost from the quote to completion. This could be due to a number of reasons that I'm going to explain in this article. When you are getting bids please be diligent on the details. There are a few things that all pool builders cannot account for and it is typically what they just cannot see. The 4 most common items that change cost on a pool are hitting rock, water tables, access repair, and electrical panel upgrades. Every builder I've encountered will have these conditions located in their contract as a condition.


Surprisingly, pools are a lot like cars. You can go to a Hyundai dealership and find a car starting at under $20,000 but then if you go to a Mercedes dealership you are easily doubling the price for a car the same size and features. This is due to the way the cars are built and quality materials used. For a swimming pool, there are minimum guidelines that a pool builder must follow. In today's world those minimum guidelines don't always meet the site conditions of the property. Up and down hill slopes could increase engineering, require soils reports, and change the way we will need to build the pool.


So to make this easier we are going to split the pool builders into 3 separate categories. Let's call them the low, mid, and high range categories. These builders use different strategies on selling you a pool to make a profit. Sales is all about the perception of value. If you think about it, every pool builder uses the same contractors/ Sub-contractors that use the same raw materials for your project. These costs tend to be relatively similar from one to the other. We are all digging the pools and sending the dirt to the same place. There are 2 rebar companies in San Diego that are the same cost we purchase from, and there is 3 concrete companies we purchase the Gunite/Shotcrete from.



So let's start with the low range AKA "low-ballers". The idea of this sales approach is to be the cheapest builder of the mix. They will sometimes be $10,000 + cheaper than the mid range builders. These low end pool builders will take up about 20% of San Diego's market and will compare themselves to the mid range but they tend to do 2 common things to remain profitable. The first thing they do is get you to commit to a to-good-to-be-true price. Once you are locked in on price, any parameters they exceed they will create a change order on. Any change orders typically come with high profit margins and can sometimes result in cost that exceed the $10,000. This includes extra charges such as Permits, engineering, soils reports, extra pluming runs, extra walls, and material upgrades. The other common thing these builders do is to follow the bare minimum standards. In certain conditions of the property, which I will explain in a different article, can potentially compromise the pool structure 5-20 years down the road. Some examples of this includes removing rebound, accounting for expansive soils, using long lasting waterproofing, using efficient pool equipment, and proper tile and coping installation practices. A good pool builder will use the best building practices that gives you a long-lasting product for your pool.



The mid-range pool builder tends to be within plus or minus $5,000 of builder to builder. This is where about 70% of the pool builders lie. Again these builders most of the time will exceed all of the conditions mentioned in the last paragraph and most of the time include the permits, engineering, and don't have many changes to the cost. Many mid-range builders do not do landscaping either but they do offer services of subbing it out. Instead of looking at price you should focus on the details of what's included as one builder might be slightly different from the other making it very hard to have a apples-to-apples comparison. One big way to save cost is to have a separate pool builder and landscaper. This prevents the pool builder from managing the part of the project and will give the customer a better price by going direct. Many pool builders have close landscapers they work with and typically is the best route to go. Another thing you will see is these builders provide free quotes and designs. Please keep in mind the builder will show you the design but not give it to you. They do this so it prevents you from shopping around their design that they've spent hours on.



The high-end builder takes up 10% of the market and is most of the time a high-end builder that doesn't do work under $200,000. Typically they will come out +$10,000 more than the mid-range pool builder. These builders typically sub-out most of the work but is more of a one-stop-shop management type company. They will do a great job with quality and offer great services as-well. You will save time by having one contractor to go to and take all the responsibility if a challenger were to arise. Most of these companies connect with landscape architects and sub-contractors. This results in higher quotes due to the amount of marked-up profit on these sub-contractors. This will be the trade off of getting the one-stop-shop but normally includes a higher price tag.



So now for the big question. What do pools cost? Assuming we are in the mid-range pool and lets say 28ft long by 14ft wide, starting cost of pools in our San Diego market start between $60,000 to $70,000. Adding a spa to the package adds another $10,000 to $15,000. This includes all the basic materials needed to give you a full functioning pool. These prices do not include additional factors such as extra permitting requirements, demo, walls, BBQ's, fire pits, fencing, landscape lighting, concrete, and/or drainage. There are also add-ons such as material upgrades and product upgrades. These include salt systems, solar, covers, pebble interior, coping and tile upgrades, water features, If we were to take the last 50 projects and picked an average on just the pool. Most customers tend to fall between the $110,000 to $130,000 just on the pool. Minimum concrete packages typically start around $20,000 to $25,000 for about 4-5ft of concrete around a pool and can go up from there as lot size and features play a huge roll in the bottom line. A landscapers scope of work tend to fall on an average of $50,000 - $80,000 on existing yards and can be $70,000 to $110,000 non new properties. So for a simple project a 28ft x 14ft pool, a 7x7 spa , 4ft of concrete and 100ft of drains, you are looking at roughly $100,000. Industry average falls closer to the $200,000 with a completed backyard.



To conclude this article I would like to say this is intended for the San Diego market. On a national level it's not uncommon for pools in other areas to be slightly cheaper. San Diego has some of the most expensive permit fees and getting rid of dirt tends to be big cost factors in our market. Other markets such as Houston, TX can sometimes result cost being an average of $10,000 cheaper than San Diego. This blog will be updated periodically to provide the most accurate information in today's world of pool construction,



Author: Brendan Wolpert

Republished on 11-23-22



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