Victoria Cunningham, who has successfully let three popular Dartmoor holiday homes through Helpful Holidays for many years, gives insight into owning a holiday property with a pool:
What is your setup like, and when did you first think about putting in a pool?
Our property is Burnville Farm, which is a 250-acre working farm with great leisure facilities, including stabling for horses and activities such as tennis, clay pigeon shooting, archery and mountain biking.
We let out the original stone farmhouse, a converted coach house, and a converted barn. We also do B&B from our house.
We came here 28 years ago, and the development of the site has been an ongoing project. We already had an outdoor pool which was really popular with visitors.
About 12-14 years ago, we started converting a property called The Red Barn. We asked Helpful Holidays’ advice before we started, and they advised us to make it into a cottage that could sleep six, with three en-suite bedrooms. They also said that if we possibly could, we should put in a pool, so that’s what we did.
It’s quite an investment putting in a pool - what were you hoping to gain from it?
Dartmoor is beautiful, but the weather is not always brilliant. By having an indoor pool we’ve been able to attract people out of season, which is important not just for us, but for the businesses around here, who really depend on year-round trade.
Did you run into any obstacles?
The planners specified that we weren’t allowed to extend the footprint of the building, so we had to look at compact solutions.
What kind of pool did you buy?
We found an American brand called Endless Pools, which was well suited to what we needed. The model we chose is designed to go into a small space – they have a range of different sizes. They’re very flexible: you can either sink them into the ground or have them sitting on the floor. They have a river flow, which we liked better than the jet that some other models have. It comes out through a grille and you can swim against the current.
The kit comes with everything you need, then you just find someone to install it for you.
Has it been popular?
Oh, everyone loves it. Kids enjoy turning on the flow and just flopping around, and it’s also good for teaching young children how to swim. Elderly people find it’s something they can do as well. We’ve even had athletes using it to train for Iron Man competitions.
In fact the Red Barn pool was so successful that we put one in another holiday let, The Coach House. This was a bigger property with more space, so we were able to put in a larger Endless Pool.
The bookings were strong right from the beginning, and it has done what we hoped and drawn more people out of season.
What’s the maintenance on them like?
It’s very easy. You have to have a basic understanding of chlorination and how to test the water, but it’s not hard to learn. I would say it takes me a half an hour a week. We also have our pools checked and maintained by a professional as well.
The indoor pools are great because they don’t fill up with leaves and debris the way the outdoor pool does. I’ve hardly had to do anything to them – although we did just replace the lining and the surround after 11 years, which isn’t bad.
How long did it take you to recover your investment?
It’s difficult for me to say, because we didn’t separate out the pool costs from the other renovation costs. But it does boost your earning potential.
Gaby Wakley, Helpful Holidays' Head of Property Management, adds:
An indoor swimming pool should boost your annual income by 30-40%, depending on the size and location of the property, the size of the pool and how many properties share its use.
An 8ft by 15ft ‘endless pool’ is great in a single property like the ones at Lydford, and costs between £16,000 to £20,000 to install. A more conventional larger pool can cost anything from £60,000 to £120,000, and the price varies greatly depending on site, size and style.
Expect annual maintenance costs for chemicals and heating of between £500 - £1,000.
When employing a pool installer, make sure they are a SpataShield member of SPATA (the Swimming Pool and Allied Trade Association). This means you will be protected if they are unable to complete the contract, and will have warranty insurance cover.
We have produced our own Guidance Notes on swimming pool safety which we make available to all Helpful Holidays owners with pools.