If you have been thinking about whether now is a good time to get that new pool you have been dreaming of, here are a few thoughts to consider that might help you
make your decision.
First, I am not a financial advisor and I do not give financial advice to my landscape clients. What I can give you is a view from the contractor’s side.
Shortly following the pandemic nightmare and shutdowns that occurred in early 2020 people were traveling less to vacation destinations as well as many finding themselves working from home for the first time ever. This started a frenzy of people investing in home improvement projects like swimming pools and outdoor living areas so that they had a place to kick back, relax and enjoy a safe space at home away from all the insanity that was going on in the world around them. This surge in home projects was like nothing we have ever seen before and the combination of high demand, limited number of contractors, and supply chain break downs caused massive backlogs and delays in the construction process. Many contractors, within a few short months were booked out for several years on projects and some even stopped calling people back and gave up on trying to quote new work that would be several years out. This made it very hard for potential customers to get ahold of contractors let alone get a realistic quote for a project that sadly would probably be years in the making. Another issue for customers who were lucky enough to have put a deposit down early on and were in the schedule to get their projects completed was that there was a huge back log on materials and supplies as well as a shortage of labor and subcontractors like electricians, truck drivers, and concrete contractors. This meant that even though the pool contractor was ready to start the project many times the parts that were ordered months in advance were still on back order and holding up the job and to keep their team working they were starting several jobs at a time and then waiting for parts to become available and subcontractors to arrive. This left many excited homeowners with an unfinished project in their back yard and a huge unsightly mess for weeks or even months at a time. We identified this as a problem early on and made the decision not to start a new project unless all of the parts were delivered and accounted for. This helped with our projects running more smoothly and prevented having unnecessary delays that would drag the project out longer than it needed to. However, we were then in the situation of trying to schedule other projects to fill the gaps and going out of order from our customers who had put deposits down first. It also made it very difficult, almost impossible, to give realistic start dates to our clients because we were not getting any firm timelines on availability from our distributers. This was a very difficult time for us and our industry.
Fast forward to spring of 2023. As the dust settles and the supply chain is finally catching up, things are starting to return to normal. Here are a few things that I am noticing that are occurring in our industry.
1. Timing: Pool and Landscape contractors are getting caught up from their backlog of projects. This means that instead of looking at a 2-3 year wait time it could be a year or less. As of right now, we still have some room left to install a few pools this fall. Pool parts are largely in stock and pool shells are becoming available in around 60 days as opposed to 8-10 months.
2. Materials: Material prices are leveling out as production is catching up to demand. Although there is no indication that prices will go down, they are stabilizing. Over the past few years material prices were changing without notice and so frequently that distributors were not honoring the price of materials until they were delivered. This lead to some difficult conversations with clients that the price they were getting today was not guaranteed 12 months or more out when it was finally time to start the project. This made it feel pretty risky for many people putting deposits down on their dream project that they had been saving and planning for years. Frankly, as a contractor this made me feel very uncomfortable as well because we were so used to delivering a proposal and price for a job and unless there were any change orders that was what the price was going to be. Even though we made it a point to go over this before the signing of the final proposal it is still not an easy conversation to have months later when the client is super excited about starting the project and we have to talk about price increases.
3. Travel: Many people are still working from home which cuts down on commuting time and shortening the work day as well as making it more flexible. As a result they have more time to spend at home enjoying their backyard. On top of that some parents are keeping their kids at home during the summer instead of sending them to daycare for the day. This can create a loud and crowded environment inside the house when parents are trying to work and a nice pool or outdoor living area with a fenced in yard can be a great way to get the kids out of the house and get some exercise in. Americans as a whole are still not traveling and vacationing as much due to inflationary costs of food and fuel as well as the cost and hassle of airline travel. Many are enjoying staycations in the safety and comfort of home.
4. Home value stability and resale value: Again, this is my disclaimer that I am not a financial advisor and I do not give financial advice. With the roller coaster ride that the stock markets and retirement accounts have been on over the last few years, real estate values in Central Pennsylvania have largely remained stable. There were certainly some spikes in home values over the past three years with low interest rates and low inventory of available homes which is starting to simmer down now, but even through the financial crisis of 2009 home values in our area stayed mostly stable. Some people are deciding to invest in their home improvement projects to add value to their home as a stable investment strategy.
5. Interest rates: The fed has slowly been raising interest rates over the last 18 months. Higher interest rates make it more expensive for consumers to borrow money. Now may be a good time to lock in a home equity loan for any home improvement project that you are thinking about doing in the near future in order to get a lower interest rate before they go higher.