Workers install a pool at Perrysburg home. Despite a tight economy, area pool builders say they are swimming in profits.
A desire to create a tranquil getaway in their backyards has many area families shelling out big bucks this summer.
People are feeling better about the economy, which will make this year one of his stronger ones in 33 years in business, said Bill Brettschneider, co-owner of Olympic Pools & Spas Inc., in Maumee.
"There are always people whose jobs are threatened, but the majority of workers in Toledo are not hurting," he said. "And the baby boomers especially spend top dollar and want it yesterday."
Area installers of in-ground swimming pools expect to be busier this season than in at least a few years.
"The last two years were a little down, but this will be a record year for us," said Becky Poupard, an owner of Perfect 10 Pools in Lambertville. She said she expects her company to install 60 in-ground pools this summer, up from the high 40s of the last two years.
"We think it's going to be a pretty good year in terms of sales of pools and hot tubs," said Suzanne Barrows, a spokesman for the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals in Virginia.
"It's anecdotal at this point, but the builders and retailers I've talked to are very, very busy."
Growth in sales this summer is expected to exceed the average of 4 to 5 percent of the last two years, she said.
Similarly, above-ground pool sales locally have been strong.
Frank Dunning, manager of Inside Out Home Recreation Outfitters on Conant Street in Maumee, said the price difference is one of the selling points. Such pools start at $499 and go to $8,000, depending on size and extras, he said.
Prices of in-ground pools vary on size and type, but typically are $25,000 to $35,000, local installers say. Basic pools cost $16,000. Some swimming areas can cost $80,000. Gunnite, or sprayed on concrete and plaster, plus extras such as a heater and lights add to the price.
Also adding to the project expenses can be moving electrical wires, possibly costing several hundred dollars, insurance coverage costing roughly $200, and adding or extending a fence to meet city code.
To pay for it, many homeowners opt for bank financing or take out a home equity loan, Mr. Brettschneider said.
But pool owners say the cost is worth it because they get what they desired: a place to entertain without having to pack up and drive.
Lisa Skriba, who lives on 10 acres outside of Stony Ridge, said she and her husband planned and saved before adding a 16 foot by 32 foot pool last summer.
"I have an aunt who has a nice in ground pool but we would have to drive over there and go swimming. This way, we can just walk outside," said the mother of a nine-year-old son.
She is still pleased.
"Everybody told us pools are so much work, but I've not had any big maintenance issues," she said.
Richard DeKaser, chief economist for National City Bank, said that, while many workers may still feel the economy is too fragile to spend money on a luxury item like a pool, others are secure in their high-paying jobs.
"The top 20 percent of Americans are doing reasonably well, so that could be part of the story," he said.
"And some of these people are rationalizing pools in lieu of vacations. While summer vacations are not quite as expensive as a pool, they could be over the lifetime of the pool.
Perrysburg resident Tamara Katko has had an in-ground pool for six years and estimates that she will pay $600 this summer to maintain it with the proper chemicals.
"I've wanted one my whole life and we absolutely love it," said the mother of a 10-year-old and 8-year-old. "We travel in the winter and the backyard is our vacation in the summer."
Perfect 10's Mrs. Poupard speculated that one of the reasons so many people proceed with an in-ground pool is the escalating cost of gas.
"This year, with the gas prices the way they are, people aren't leaving home to boat and camp and do things like that," she said. "They're making their backyard the place to run away to."
Montana Miller, an assistant professor in the department of popular culture at Bowling Green State University, said the backyard getaway has become more desired since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
"I think this is another example of all the ways in which people are retreating to private leisure activity, rather than public leisure," she said. "Another thing that I think might play into it is how spoiled we are and how impatient we are."
Still, she questions the cost of an in-ground pool versus higher gas costs.
"When you really add it up, I don't think 20 cents more a gallon adds up to $30,000," she said.
Cindy Wanamaker is surrounded by pools in her neighborhood but is having one installed at her Sylvania Township home. She has sons ages 13 and 10 and a daughter, 7.
"You can't use your neighbors' pool to entertain ... and a lot of times you don't want to drive somewhere," she said. "This will be really nice for us because my kids play sports in the summer and it will be nice to come home to our home pool."
George Loper, who is in sales and design for Hawaiian Pool Builders in Maumee, said the company is busier each year because of referrals from other customers.
"For awhile there, people were putting in above-ground pools to save money," he said. "But a lot of neighborhood associations are not even allowing those anymore and people seem to have a little more disposal income these days."
The company is building 15 pools right now and new callers are told they must wait until August.
"My best tip is to call us for an appointment in the fall and winter so you can have yours built in the spring. Everybody's happy that way," he said.
Contact Mary-Beth McLaughlin at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6199.
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