In our oh-no-not-another-heat-wave summer of 2021, the wave of national stories about how the famously temperate Pacific Northwest was suddenly finding that it might be open to air conditioning after all was to be expected.
Now, local realtors say, home buyers with the means to do so are looking beyond just central air to another perk that was once scarce in these parts: the backyard swimming pool.
Maybe just five years ago, a backyard pool was a liability for a new listing, expensive to maintain and repair, of minimal use in a rainy climate, and even a potential safety hazard, says Windermere Real Estate agent Aimee Virnig.
“Right away, I would get an estimate for how much it would cost to fill it in,” she says, all the better to be prepared for the anticipated potential buyers who loved the house but didn’t care for the pool, and wanted to know how to adjust their offer accordingly. “Now it is an absolute selling point.”
Several factors have contributed to the growth in interest in a backyard pool. There’s a lot of in-migration to Oregon from Southern California, Arizona, and even Texas, places where backyard pools are much more common.
The pandemic spurred interest, too, given social distancing and health and safety concerns, coupled with the closures of many public pools through the uncertain summer of 2020. (Gym closures and capacity limits also play a part, especially for older buyers looking for low-impact fitness alternatives, like swimming laps.)
There was also a run on installing home pools, but given increased demand and labor/parts shortages, getting one built means getting in line.
And then there’s the heat: “We are becoming a seven-month season,” says Virnig (that’s roughly April to October, for those keeping track at home). “If there isn’t a pool there, people are looking for a place to put one.”
Another factor: with the pandemic putting a crimp in some vacation and entertainment plans, Virnig says people have more disposable income to spend on a home with such amenities. Also enjoying a bump in popularity are “sport courts,” which can be used for at-home pickleball, basketball, and more, and outdoor hot tubs and sauna spaces, Virnig says.
“It didn't make a lot of sense to have a pool with one week of 100-degree weather, if the rest of the time it is gloomy,” says Lauren Quantrille, an agent with Weichert Realtors in Vancouver, who currently has a five-bedroom, five-bathroom home with trapezoidal windows overlooking a backyard pool at 1307 NE 43rd Street. The home is listed for $839,900.
But with Pacific Northwest summers getting hotter, she says she's seen an influx of buyers who are much more open to leveling up to backyard pools. The region has also grown a great deal in the past 10 years, and popular water recreation spots, from the Washougal to the Clackamas Rivers are getting more and more crowded, leaving people seeking more private alternatives, she says.
“Houses with pools have sold so well this year, it’s hard to deny they are getting used,” Virnig says. “If you have a well-done home with a backyard play pavillion, people will pay more than makes sense, because they want that vacation at home.”