By Bruce Cathcart

With summer fast approaching… wait a minute, who am I kidding?  We have been enduring what the rest of the country would consider summertime temperatures here in the Coachella Valley since the end of March!  No doubt everyone who owns or is renting a home here with a pool has already spent plenty of time in and around it.  So how’s that pool looking?  Is the plaster stained and are the waterline tile caked with a white film that no longer just comes off with a little scrubbing?  Is your cool decking not looking so cool and is the pool light about half full of water?  How about that pool equipment?  After 30 years of hard use it was time for me to stop just maintaining my pool and time to completely renovate it.  If it has been quite a while since you have really looked at the condition of your pool or your pool equipment, or if you are considering selling your home in the near future, then you might benefit from my experience.

I’ll share with you what I learned about pool renovations and how you can save yourself some time, grief and money right after we check the month of April home sales data for the Coachella Valley.  We started off the first two months of 2018 continuing our trend of more pendings and solds each month, year over year, and on track to exceed last year’s totals which were the highest in the last 13 years!  But then last month’s (March) data delivered us a shock with fewer sales than the year before disrupting this positive trend of over 4 years.  It may have been caused by our inventory shrinking and interest rates rising.  Would this be the start of a new trend or could we possibly bounce back with even more pendings and sales in April?  Let’s take a look at the April data and see how we did.

According to the Desert Area MLS as of 5/1/18 there were 1,199 pending transactions of residential properties here in the Coachella Valley in the month of April.  That follows our seasonal pattern being down slightly from the 1,255 pendings in the previous month (March) but much higher when compared to the same time last year when we had only 1,1,073 pending sales.  In March there were 1,004 solds and we were up considerably in April with 1,109  solds.  That is considerably more sales than last year’s home sales in April (2017) when we sold only 910 homes.  Whew!  It looks like the really strong pending and sales in April have reversed this year’s poor showing in March and set us back on the trend of a higher volume of pendings and sales for 2018 when compared to 2017.   April’s sales figures were so good that our year to date solds for 2018 now stands at 3,675 compared to last year’s total of 3,538.  Last year was the best year in terms of total sales and dollar volume since 2005 and was a great year for the Coachella Valley Real Estate market.  It looks like we are back on track to have an even better year in 2018! 

Our inventory of homes for sale went down again this month with 3,574 homes available on May 1, 2018 compared to 3,726 homes available on April 1, 2018.  Last year at this time we had 4,206 homes available for sale.  Inventory has been off by over 20% but so far that has not significantly affected our sales numbers.  So far it has not become a factor this year but if the total number of homes available for sale in the Coachella Valley continues to shrink it may become a serious issue.  We’ll just have to keep a close watch the inventory of homes in the coming months.

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Let’s start with your pool equipment.  Are your pipes, pump and filter spurting enough water through leaks that it could be considered a water feature?  Are your copper pipes more green than copper colored or are your white PVC pipes brown?  I have always been a “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it… and if it needs fixing, repair it rather than replace it” sort of guy (which means cheap!).  It turns out this was not the best way to go.  For about $1,000 to $1,500 you can get a brand new, state of the art pump, motor and filter system installed.  And if you get a variable speed pump/motor it uses about 30% less energy and will actually save you money in the long run.  So check out your pool equipment and if it is looking old and tired do not hesitate to replace the whole system.

I have a standard white plaster over gunite pool that was “sand” stained, either from the sand or because it was the color of sand, with a few chips and pops in the plaster and with waterline tile that required a small jack hammer to remove the calcium build up on it.  The light hadn’t worked in 10 or so years and the pool skimmer was in only fair shape.  Since the pool was built before the days of the auto-filler I used a hose on a regular basis to keep the pool full.  I first looked at repair rather than completely replacing the plaster and tile.  There are companies that will come out and clean your tile; chemically treat and/or bead blast it so it will look “like” new for about $500.  In addition, an “acid bath” (sounds painful) can be done to the plaster that will also make it look “like” new for another $500, provided you have not already done an acid bath more than two times previously.  These are excellent options and should be considered for newer pools, but alas my poor pool was beyond the simple face lift these treatments provide.  After receiving bids from several pool contractors I decided to go with new standard white plaster and new tile.  Total cost was $4,700.  But wait, there’s more.  For another $850 I could get a new pool skimmer and another $850 on top of that I could get a new auto-fill and on top of that for $350 I could get a new pool light (and wiring since my light was half full of water).  If interested, for another $1,800 I could have updated to the “pebble tech” pool surface and another $1,500 I could have switched from standard chlorine to a “Salt System” chlorinator… both great options which I did not add-on.  So for about $8,200 I now have what appears and for the most part is a new pool with new pool equipment that looks absolutely fantastic.  Total time to complete the job was about two weeks.

As for the not so cool looking cool decking I only considered two options here; paint or replace.  To restore and paint it was about $700 and to replace it was $1,500.  On the advice (insistence) of my wife I chose to have it replaced and it too looks great!

Check out your pool equipment and take a closer look at your pool next time before you just jump in.  Maybe it could use a little maintenance or perhaps a complete renovation.  As always, if you are thinking about selling your home you may want to ask your trusted real estate advisor what they think you should do. 

Join me each month this year as we keep a close eye on our Coachella Valley real estate market.  If you have a real estate question or concerns please email me at the address below. 

Bruce Cathcart is the Broker/Co-Owner of La Quinta Palms Realty, “Your Friendly Professionals” and can be reached by email at bycathcart@laquintapalmsrealty.com or visit his website at www.laquintapalmsrealty.com.

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