Pool sales heat up in Bucks County as more workers stay home

Jay Messina remembers summer days as a kid playing with his friends in his family’s pool.

He wanted his own three children to have the same fun.

“It’s nice to have the kids being able to go out and enjoy the backyard,” he said. The in-ground Anthony & Sylvan pool he had installed last year is perfect for playing splash basketball and volleyball.

In Levittown, Paul Watson has been serving swimming pools for almost 40 years. The past two years have been among the best for his Classic Pool Installation business.

“Last year people didn’t go on vacation,” he said. This summer has been “as good as last year … The market has been crazy the past two years.”

It’s not only that people who are working from home want to take a refreshing dip during their lunch or coffee breaks. Many families still cautious about COVID prefer to stay in their own yard for swim parties with close family and friends, rather than go to a community pool.

This has been good news for pool installation — a $50 billion industry.

“Last year the industry as a whole had 24% growth over 2019,” said Janay Rickwalder, a spokeswoman for the Pool and Hot Tub Alliance, based in Alexandria, Virginia. That has eclipsed the nearest other best year, 1986, when the installation of inground pools grew by 13%.

The number of above-ground pools installed also took off in 2020, when 226,822 were installed nationally, compared to 186,084 in 2018, she said.

“It’s significant. They do not see this slowing down anytime soon,” Rickwalder said. “Last year, a majority of community pools didn’t open. A lot of consumers thought, let’s create our own oasis in our backyard.”

That’s exactly what Jay and Colleen Messina did. They purchased an older rancher on a 1.6-acre property and remodeled it into a cape cod. It’s in the same neighborhood where her parents and sister live.

“It kept my wife close to her parents and my kids to be able to see their grandparents,” Messina said.

Anthony & Sylvan Pools installed this pool and hot tub at the home of Jay and Colleen Messina in Upper Moreland this spring.

Two years ago they installed a patio and barbecue pavilion, then last year added the pool.

Jay Messina said he went with Anthony & Sylvan based on their reputation. The Sylvan pool company, which was started in Doylestown by landscaper Herman Silverman in 1946, merged with Anthony Pools in 1996. It is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year and has built more than 380,000 inground pools.

Messina said the company was able to match the stonework on the patio as the surround for the 32,000 gallon pool.

“I wanted it to look like it was built at the same time. They did a great job listening to what I wanted to accomplish and working in what they thought was best based on their knowledge and background.”

Inground pools can come in a variety of shapes and styles, from classical to geometrical to free forms, and can incorporate separate hot tubs.

Messina and his wife decided to go with a pool that is 5 feet at its deepest so the children can play water sports in it. He said he remembered that people got tired of diving in the pool he had as a child, and found it more fun to be able to use the whole pool for other water activities as well as swimming.

Kevin Messina relaxes in his backyard pool with his dog, Brook.

“Anthony & Sylvan was founded upon five pillars – quality, teamwork, community, customer service and integrity – and these core values ​​continue to drive everything we do,” said CEO Mark Koide. “In addition to expanding into new markets, we’ve also expanded our offerings to include more than just swimming pools, to help create an entire backyard experience for our customers.”

Messina said heating and lighting for pools today can be remotely controlled.

“Everything is controlled off on an aqua link app,” he said. For example, his daughter called him “to turn on the hot tub” so she and her friends could use it even when he was at work. A robot cleans the pool so that is a convenience as well.

Inground pools can range in price to $100,000 or more, depending on shape, size and features. Inground pools can be made of concrete or fiberglass. Concrete pools can come in more shapes since they are customized at the site, but they take longer to install than a semi-custom fiberglass pool. The pools can be sanitized with either a chlorine-based or salt product.

Pools can add value to a home, if they are well kept, and especially in regions where they can be used year-round, but there are annual costs for insurance, maintenance products, increases in water usage and electrical power use if a pool is heated, as well as the need to pay for possible repairs and raised property taxes, according to bankrate.com.

For someone who wants to see if they want a backyard pool, installing an above-ground pool may be the way to go. The pool can last for several years before needing a new liner and can run under $10,000 installed.

Watson said that for the cost of going to the shore and renting a house for a couple of weeks, a person could have use of a backyard pool for multiple summers.

“An above-ground pool is not as permanent,” Watson said. When a house is sold, it’s much easier to remove if a homebuyer doesn’t want the safety concern or ongoing expense of operating and sanitizing a pool. “They may love the house but don’t want the pool,” he said.

Dennis Lawrence, broker of Narrow Gate Real Estate in Dublin, and an appraiser, said the real estate value of a pool depends on its utility and location. “In an affluent area with party barns, the pool is kind of expected,” he said. In most neighborhoods “if I can’t find comparables, I can’t give it value,” he said when doing a home appraisal for a mortgage lender. Lenders want to see a similar home in the same area with a similar inground pool to determine if the pool adds value to a property. Above ground pools do not add real estate value because they are considered personal property, he said.

But for those who do want a pool, whether inground or above ground, now is the time to get in line for installation by next summer. Because of shortages in labor and materials that have developed during the pandemic, Watson said he’s noticed that it’s taking longer to get the supplies needed.

“Book it now for next year,” he said.

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Mike Hunter

Mike is the owner of the local pool shop. He's been in the business for over 20 years and knows everything there is to know about pools. He's always happy to help his customers with whatever they need, whether it's advice on pool maintenance or choosing the right chemicals. He's also a bit of a pool expert, and is always happy to share his knowledge with anyone who's interested.

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