August 8, 2020 - 8:05 am
Tom Casey, vice president of sales at Anthony &Sylvan Pools, is experiencing one of the few positives associated with the COVID-19 pandemic — an uptick in business. The long-time pool-building veteran says sales are up about 40 percent this year, and it’s largely the result of people being stuck at home and looking to make their backyard more of an entertainment oasis.
“People aren’t going on that cruise or other vacations this year,” he said. “It’s forced homeowners to ask ‘How am I going to get that relief? What’s my getaway?’ They’re looking inward and making that escape their own backyard.”
Ron Bennett, president of Premier Pools and Spas Nevada, has seen an increase in business and inquiries, too.
“People are interested in how they can make their home their own respite and a place to enjoy time with the family,” he said.
Virtual planning, questions about the process
With the uptick in business and inquiries, today’s pool builders are also dealing with more people who have not really educated themselves on the building process in the past. So, they have a lot of questions about the timelines, precautions and how the whole construction process works, Casey said. What has become a new norm now, however, is what Casey refers to as “contact-free selling.”
“We do all our design and customer visits in a virtual environment,” Casey said, adding that the sales team leverages technology like Zoom for virtual planning meetings with customers. The sales team also uses satellite imagery and public information about properties to inform the design process. Then, once it’s finally time to build, only then is a face-to-face meeting set up.
“Something we learned early on was how we can shift the sales practices with how we design our customers’ dreams,” Bennett said. “You have the county assessor site and a lot of tools out there that allow us to get information and have good communication with the customer. … We can also create 3D versions and use virtual reality to show renderings and keep the customer safe at the same time.”
Bennett says, in most cases, you can expect a roughly 10- to 14-week building process, which is in line with past project timelines. Bennett and Casey say timelines and access to equipment and supplies haven’t been a problem for larger builders who are operating in traditionally strong pool markets like Las Vegas.
Smaller builders who may not buy in high volumes have found some difficulty with getting supplies, especially in four-season markets in the Midwest and East Coast, where pool building has also ramped up and builders simply don’t have the supplies and labor to handle the volume.
Trends in pool design have stayed consistent for the past decade, both experts note. With small yards, many homeowners are looking to maximize functional space around a pool, Casey noted. Shallow swimming pools, sun shelves, tanning ledges and places to relax partially submerged in the water are popular, he said.
“These amenities allow people to sort of decompress from the world their living in right now,” Casey said.
Textured looks with veneered stone and rock elevations are popular as backdrops, and raised areas such as hot tubs and other water features that create curtains of water that flow into the pool are also popular.
Creating a backyard living space as an extension of the home is what many homeowners are looking to do, which goes beyond the pool design, Bennett added. For some people, it’s also about grilling, sitting spaces and just being around the water, not necessarily having to be inside it all the time.
Bennett also gets requests for pools with a modern aesthetic and smooth, clean lines, following in the steps of the popular interior design in the past decade. He also says there’s no shortage of families asking about fun stuff, too, such as slides, volleyball nets and play zones for kids.
Before you hire a contractor
If you decide a pool is right for you this year, keep a few tips in mind.
Insurance and bonding: Check the state contractor’s board, Bennett says, for citations and to make sure a company is insured and bonded to levels you are comfortable with. Casey also emphasized a contractor “should have a full complement of insurances spelling out how they protect the homeowner in the event of an accident.”
Referrals/reviews: Ask for referrals, Bennett said. “Anyone can buy ad space on the internet. But a solid referral and talking to someone who has been involved in the process is another great way to get peace of mind,” he added.
Check review sites: See what people are saying about their experience with the pool builder. “You have companies that have been building pools for 75 years and companies who haven’t even built 75 pools in their entire history,” Casey said.
Scrutinize bids: Get several bids, Bennett said, and make sure they are detailed with the type of supplies used and the methods of construction. Find the bids that are truly articulate and compare those; throw out the vague ones that leave out information.
Financial stability: Use contractor board information, Better Business Bureau ratings and the internet to learn about a company’s history, and make sure the company is financially stable. Simply knowing how long they’ve been in business and the extent of experience a company has in the industry can reveal a lot. “Anyone can give you what sounds like a great warranty, but if the company’s not stable, the homeowner is not protected at all,” Casey added.