What Will We Do When the "New Pool Frenzy" of 2020 to 2022 Fizzles Out?

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Let me be blunt. I think there’s trouble brewing for new pool builders in 2023.

For the last three years, most pool builders have experienced record demand and record growth. The biggest challenge has been (1) handling all the incoming leads, and (2) trying to fulfill the demand.

But let’s look at the facts:

  • Leads in 2020 were about 5X what they were in 2019.
  • Leads in 2021 were still crazy, but only about half what they were in 2020.
  • In 2022, leads are barely half what they were in 2021, which is bringing us back down into the range of 2019. (And as I remember it, 2019 wasn’t particularly strong.)

Now let’s look at what’s ahead of us for the next 18 to 36 months:

  • Inflation
  • Rising interest rates
  • A declining economy
  • A reduction in home starts
  • Significantly higher pool prices and significantly longer build times, compared to 2019
  • And a marketplace that has already “pulled in” and spent most of its future demand

When you combine all these factors, I see overwhelming evidence that there just won’t be as many homeowners lining for new pools next year. That’s why I’m suggesting pool contractors may want to consider RENOVATIONS in 2023.

Fortunately, there is still an overwhelming demand for swimming pool renovations. The latest data from PHTA indicates we have at least 10 million inground pools in the United States that are more than five years old. If we presume a pool is due for some level of renovation on average every 10 years, then that means in 2023, there should be at least one million swimming pools in need of a renovation. Contrast that figure to new pool sales, which typically average less than 100,000 new pools per year.

That means you have 10X more opportunities to get a renovation job than a new pool job.

So first of all, let’s agree that if you choose to pivot to renovations, there’s plenty of demand out there.

And let’s consider the average revenue per job. A basic plaster, tile and coping job might be about 10% of the cost of a new pool, right? But who wants to sell a basic tile-plaster-coping job? That’s not what I’m suggesting at all.

People still want to spend more time at home than ever before. And they want to enjoy that home — including the backyard — more than ever before. So most pool owners who need a renovation are probably also looking for (or would consider) a lot more than just plaster, tile and coping.

This is a golden opportunity for an expert pool builder like you to bring your creative new pool design and construction talents to shine.

A pool that’s more than 10 years old probably doesn’t have a tanning ledge, or vanishing edge, or a cabana, or an outdoor fireplace, or a man-cave sports bar, or a putting green, or a sports court, or any of a number of other highly enjoyable features you could bring to the homeowner’s backyard.

And it’s probably surrounded by regular grass, which would be much more environmentally friendly if you replaced it with high-quality turf. (Very popular right now, but almost unheard of 10 years ago.)

Seriously, it’s not crazy to quote a $100,000 to $300,000 renovation on an existing pool that only cost $20,000 when it was new. Many existing pool owners would be thrilled to convert their tired old swimming pool area into the spectacular backyard they’ve always dreamed of.

And here’s another interesting irony that puts you at a unique advantage: Most pool companies who specialize in repair and renovation are quite comfortable quoting renovations in the $10,000 to $20,000 range. That’s their wheelhouse. They are really good in that area.

You, by contrast, have a lot more experience with cabanas and fireplaces and tanning ledges and built-in tables, barstools and umbrellas, and outdoor living areas, and all kinds of other fabulous features that are totally in YOUR wheelhouse.

Now picture this: A homeowner receives three or four bids from renovators, each in the neighborhood of $20,000. Then you walk in with a bid for $167,000, to completely transform their backyard into something magical.

Suddenly, you look VERY different from everyone else.

And while some pool owners will stick with the boring, bare-minimum plaster job, many pool owners will be DELIGHTED to purchase your life-changing transformation, and thank their lucky stars they met you.

Now, let me offer some suggestions of how you make this pivot smoothly, simply and successfully.

First thing you’ll need to do is let the world know that your amazing design and construction skills are available for renovations as well as new pools. That means you’ll need to update your website with spectacular “before” and “after” photos that instantly show the world how you take boring, ho-hum backyards and transform them into something amazing, that is now strikingly and dramatically better than the day it was new.

I would also encourage you to start talking about renovations as much as possible, especially on your social media pages. Keep showing the before and after photos of various projects, so people recognize and admire the way you transform old pools and backyards into something amazing.

If you are doing any kind of advertising, I suggest you pivot that also to speak directly to homeowners with older swimming pools. Digital marketing is still an excellent choice for this type of advertising, but there are some special tricks you’ll want to implement, to make sure you are getting your message to the right people.

Bottom Line

The volume of new pool business looks a little sketchy for the next couple of years, while the opportunities in the high-end pool renovations business look to be better than ever. I suggest you make immediate plans to pivot in that direction now, before the rest of the industry figures it out.

Brett Lloyd Abbott is the founder and CEO of Pool Builder Marketing LLC (www.PoolBuilderMarketing.com), a marketing consulting agency that works exclusively with swimming pool builders, pool service companies and high-end landscape professionals throughout the world. He is a frequent keynote speaker and leader of workshops and seminars.

This article first appeared in the November 2022 issue of AQUA Magazine — the top resource for retailers, builders and service pros in the pool and spa industry. Subscriptions to the print magazine are free to all industry professionals. Click here to subscribe.

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