"How Low Can You Go?" A Reader Responds

I love the fact that you call things as they are ("Pool Limbo: How Low Can You Go?" posted on Eric Herman's blog Aug. 8). I actually had a guy call me the other day and tell me that he saw a clip on CNN stating that pools are now selling for 50 percent less than last year. I was thinking that I will find whoever is selling pools this cheap and get him to build the pools for me and I will make the difference. Think about it, I could make a killing.

I could never understand the builders that have "standard" pricing — a 14-by-28 for 20K, a 15-by-30 for 22K. That is the most ridiculous way to price a pool ever. Every job is different, with different soil, access, finishes, the list goes on. I have been in construction my entire life and I was taught at an early age that you figure out what your hard cost is going to be and then add your overhead and profit. Yep, that's right for each and every job. There is no other way of making sure you are going to finish the project in the black. It sounds like this would take a ton of extra time but it doesn't if you know how to use a computer.

When I look at the prices on some of these pools, I wonder if the builder knows what he will actually make when the job is finished. I think not. If he did, he would never price it that low. I had a local builder tell me that he knows how to do things cheaper when I called him out on a pool that I priced at 35K. He was 27K and he said he could build it for a lot less and still make a profit.

There was a big article about him in the paper recently (big surprise), and he left 22 pools unfinished with a lot of subs and suppliers high and dry. We are all buying the same concrete, steel and equipment and paying the same for labor, give or take 10 percent. So how are you going to build something for 25 percent less? The numbers don't work.

The bottom line is you need to know how much it actually costs you to build a pool. Then you need to track your expenses for each project to make sure when you are done that you actually made money. This is very simple if you use software like Quick Books. If you don't do this, you are only kidding yourself and building a house of cards that will eventually crumble, and when it does you will have to give back the sports car and the boat. Sorry, that is just the way it is.

Kevin ShippGrand Vista Pools, Tampa, Fla.Via website

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