In our warm and sunny climes having a swimming pool has become de rigour.
Along with a gym within walking distance, a private pool is another perk of the UAE lifestyle. But rather than using the communal one, an increasing number of homeowners are choosing to install their own.
Dubai-based but British-run Absolute Pools has seen demand rise over the past few years to the point where they are now installing between six and 12 private pools a month, many of which Business Development Manager Dean Scott puts down to the recent fall in house prices.
"People who were thinking about moving house and trading up have realised they can't afford to go anywhere for the next few years so are spending money on a pool instead," he says.
The company offers many different options, ranging in price from Dh75,000 for a six metre by 3.5 metre structure to about Dh250,000 for a large pool complete with separate spa, water feature, heating, cooling and LED colour change lights. And while they may not sound cheap, Scott believes it is worth the investment.
"If there are two villas next to each other of the same size with the same number of bedrooms, the one with a pool adds Dh100,000 on average to the value of a house because it means new owners do not have to go through the rigmarole of doing it themselves," he says. "If, however, the area around the pool is also landscaped, that can add another Dh50,000 on top."
Mark Leale, Managing Partner of Dubai Luxury Homes, agrees and says a pool can add between 20 and 30 per cent on to the price of a villa.
"Pools are part of the aspirational lifestyle of living in Dubai and people like the complete package, so it's definitely worth doing," he says.
"When there are two identical villas, buyers look at the upgrades they have. But people have to be careful a pool doesn't take up the entire back garden as this can put potential buyers off."
But more than this, Scott says they add more than money as they also enhance everyday life. "A lot of families like them so they don't have to pack everything up to go to a communal pool and they are more convenient to use morning and night when you get home from work and want a quick dip to relax," he says.
Hot tubs can also be installed at a cost of about Dh60,000 for a 2.2m sq model including lights and spa jets. Like fashion, pool trends also change.
While the Roman (a rectangular pool with rounded ends) has always been popular, many customers now opting for the classic straight rectangle or L-shape.
The upkeep of a pool is vital and regular maintenance can prevent huge bills in the future. It is recommended that pools are cleaned twice a week and it helps if they have curved edges to force sand and other debris to the bottom rather than in the edges, which are difficult to clean.
Amirali Somji, Operations Manager at Silver Fox pools in Dubai, has this cleaning advice: "People should vacuum their pool, brush the walls and sanitise water twice a week to avoid germs spreading. Every quarter a sample of water should be sent for testing at a laboratory, which will ensure the water is safe for human use.
"People should also change the water every three to four years provided the filtration system is designed well, or if the total dissolved solids level of the water goes above 3,000ppm."
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Install a pool in five easy steps
Installing a pool can seem like hard work but those living in a freehold area will find the process easier. These five steps will ensure a legal pool in most freehold areas.
1. In communities such as The Springs, The Meadows and The Lakes, which are all controlled by Emaar, residents must first get a no objection certificate from the developer. Although a Dh6,000 deposit is required, Dh5,000 will be returned once Emaar is satisfied the pool complies with their rules – the remaining Dh1,000 is kept as a service charge. Rules include such things as the structure being at least 1.5 metres from the property and any boundary.
2. Once permission is granted, a site survey and planning and design meeting will help you decide what you want.
There are many shapes and sizes to choose from, including the standard rectangle to L- and kidney shapes, which range in price from about Dh70,000 to Dh250,000 for the full works. Custom designs can be accommodated by many companies but this will usually increase the final price.
3. The area in which the pool will sit has to be excavated. This is the longest part of the two to three month process, but time will depend on size and shape. The site will also need to be levelled and reinforcements put in to support the pool's weight.
4. Many pools are now made from moulds rather than the traditional concrete route, therefore once the hole is dug the structure can just be slotted in rather than having tiles over a concrete base.
5. Once it is fitted, the pool is wired to the villa's electricity supply, sealed, filled and ready for years of endless fun. But it is important not to forget about maintenance, which costs a few thousand dirhams a year depending on the company and level of service. Those with young children should also consider safety features, such as covers and fences to prevent accidents.
Worth the investment
When Briton Greg Selby had his pool installed four years ago, he had visions of endless days relaxing in the cool water, but the intense summer heat soon put paid to that.
"We spent about Dh60,000 installing it, which included a hot tub, jets and lights but we didn't put a refrigeration unit in as we didn't realise just how hot it gets here," says the 37-year-old security consultant, who lives in a three-bed villa in The Springs.
Although his family does not use it as much as they once did, he does not have any regrets about installing the pool because it has added value to his home.
"I'd do it again but not for five to eight years when my two-year-old son is older and more competent around the pool," he says.
Selby spends about Dh3,000 a year on maintenance, which he thinks is very reasonable. He has also spent extra money on putting in a fence to make the area more child-friendly.
"I'm glad we put the pool in. It's probably added at least five per cent to the value of our home," he adds.