12 Backyard Pool No-Nos That Buyers Always Notice

published May 7, 2023
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A pool can be a delightful bonus for buyers who are searching for a new house — especially if they’re moving to a warmer climate. But it’s no secret that these watery backyard features can also require expensive upkeep and maintenance, as well as the added stress of trying to keep everyone who goes near them safe.

Beyond those and other potential downsides, certain pool features can also be a huge turnoff to prospective buyers. I chatted with real estate experts to get the scoop on pool faux pas homeowners should avoid or address ASAP.

1. Metal Railings

Hey, pool owners: The 1970s called and they want their metal handrailings back. 

“They can really date a pool’s look and remind people of staying at a hotel in the ‘70s, when going to a pool was a really big deal,” says Cara Ameer, a bi-coastal real estate agent in California and Florida. 

2. Fountains and Water Features

Today’s buyers want simple, easy-to-maintain pools. And, in their eyes, pool fountains just look like big dollar signs.

“The more fancy water features there are, the more risk that something could go wrong,” says Ameer. “Any kind of fountain, especially those spigots that stick out in the middle of a built-in spa that flows into the pool, are often seen as outdated and impede using the spa.”

The same goes for colorful lights, which often accompany water features.

“Some people want their pool to look like a dance floor and have different colored lights that can illuminate fountains or the water underneath the pool, but again, this is personal preference and not everyone wants a disco ball,” she adds.

3. Diving Boards and Slides

Modern buyers don’t appreciate diving boards and slides like they used to back in the ‘70s and ‘80s — and neither do their homeowners’ insurance providers, says Ameer. That’s largely because they can be pretty hazardous.

“They may want them removed in order to insure a home,” she adds.

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4. Waterfalls

Sure, tricking out your pool to look like a grotto used to be cool. But now, big rock waterfalls just look… pretty tacky.

“If they are stacked quite high, they can dominate the backyard and look too bulky, depending on the space,” says Ameer. “The rocks can look worn over time, with a constant stream of chemically treated water streaming down them.”

Buyers may make an exception if the pool is located near a busy road, says Ameer. Then, the waterfall may help drown out some of the undesirable road noise.

5. A Funky Pool Surface or Liner 

This one varies a bit, but the color of an in-ground pool’s interior surface — which is typically made of marcite — can be quite polarizing. Buyers in places like Florida may turn their noses up at a dark pool surface, because it can camouflage snakes, lizards, alligators, and large bugs, says Ameer. Other buyers may scoff at white or light beige because it shows dirt and flaws more easily, she adds.

No matter which color you go with, make sure you keep up with the maintenance.

“If a pool needs to be resurfaced and is starting to show pitting on the bottom where the surface is wearing away, it may look dirty and worn,” says Ameer. “Resurfacing a pool requires the pool to be drained, but it is definitely worth doing before putting a home on the market.”

6. Unsafe Location

Nobody wants to walk out the back door and have to side-step the pool. This is extra important for buyers with kids. 

“A pool situated too close to a house can be a safety hazard,” says Alex Platt, a Florida real estate agent. “This can be especially dangerous if the pool is not fenced off or if there aren’t safety features in place to prevent accidents.”

7. Rounded Coping

In the past, homeowners used to design their pools with rounded coping, or a distinct set of curved stones that created a smooth, rounded edge above the water. But these days, this design feature just looks antiquated.

“Now, pool owners run the pavers, travertine, or porcelain to the edge of the pool as coping,” says Platt.

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8. Small Tiles

Although you might be tempted to ask your contractor to install small, flashy tiles around the pool, these are now outdated, says Yost.

“Tile styles have gone from small and patterned to much larger, simpler, and darker,” she says. “These can be easier to clean and upkeep and also have a more streamlined appearance.”

9. Gross Build-Up

Calcium has a tendency to build up on pool tiles over time, which can result in an off-putting white residue. No matter what material you have in and around your pool, always give it a thorough scrubbing before listing your home for sale, says Los Angeles-based real estate agent Kate Newton. Otherwise, you’re sending them a big red flag that you haven’t been maintaining the pool properly.

10. Rounded Pools

Circular or kidney-shaped pools are out, and those with chic, straight lines are in, according to Blythe Yost, cofounder and chief landscape architect of Tilly, an online landscape design company. Rectangles in particular are an especially popular shape because they can accommodate an automatic, retractable pool cover.

“[Auto covers] are super useful for keeping the pool warm, clean, and, most of all, safe,” says Yost.

11. Visible Equipment

Filter, pumps, heaters, and other types of less-than-sexy equipment are a necessary component of pool ownership — but they don’t have to be loud, clunky, or obvious, says Yost.

“It’s a great idea to have a smart landscaping solution to hide your pool equipment,” she says. “This can be behind lattice panels, hedges, or a number of other smart solutions. Just make sure you have easy access to the equipment. And remember, sometimes less is more. Just add a simple lattice panel that will meld in with the landscape, versus something more intricate or loud that may draw your eye to it — exactly what you don’t want to do.”

12. Bad Landscaping

The backyard has a pool, what more could you want? Buyers, as it turns out, don’t exactly see it that way. They want a pool, yes, but also manicured landscaping to surround it. If buyers see overgrown weeds, cracked cement — or worse — barren concrete as far as the eye can see, they’re going to get right back in their cars and drive away.

“People always hear that pools are costly, and bad landscaping can tap into those feelings,” says Yost.