Country houses for sale

To pool or not to pool?

Hurrah—it’s July and the summer holidays are in sight, but, given Britain’s unpredictable weather, what’s the appetite these days for swimming pools? Arabella Youens finds out.

The jury may well still be out on whether an indoor pool is more sensible than an outdoor pool, but one thing remains abundantly clear: buyers in 2015 are, more than ever, conscious of the expense of country houses and all their associated accoutrements, including pool maintenance.

‘In all my years of working in this market, I’ve never been asked so many times about running costs,’ says Philip Harvey of Property Vision, whose buying patch stretches across the Home Counties to East Anglia (01344 651702). ‘When clients are considering purchasing a house, they don’t want unexpected costs or any lumped on top, so, if they want a swimming pool, they’re more inclined to gravitate towards a house that has one already, to save themselves the expense of installing one.’

Edward Sugden of Savills (020– 7409 8885) agrees: ‘Country-house buyers at the top end expect the full package and that means staff accommodation, a tennis court, a swimming pool and—in extremis—a spa. But if the pool was installed in the 1980s or 1990s, and doesn’t have a sophisticated heating or security system, then it’ll probably act as a negative and put buyers off.’

Simply put, that means the heating system can no longer be oil-based. ‘The best solution is to use an air- source heat pump to heat the pool and, if you’re especially conscious of using Green energy—or your energy bill—you can use solar panels to generate the electricity required to operate the pump,’ explains Mr Harvey.

If you’re going to install an outdoor pool, make sure you think carefully about the setting, cautions Atty Beor-Roberts of Knight Frank in Cirencester (01285 659771), who is currently selling Dowdeswell House, which comes with an infinity-edge pool worthy of a house in Tuscany. ‘I’ve seen a number of pools that were built—particularly in the 1960s and 1970s—just outside the drawing-room window so that the adults can keep an eye on the children swimming, but that’s a major mistake when you consider that, for nine months of the year, it’ll be covered up and have leaves all over it.’

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He continues: ‘It’s far better to create a complex, ideally in a walled garden with a pool house and a small kitchen, that can become the centrepiece for summer entertaining.’

Having it set slightly away from the house will make it easier to market, when the time comes, during the winter months. ‘When you’re trying to sell a house with a very obvious pool covered in 5in of leaves in the middle of winter, it can leave a chilly feeling with prospective buyers,’ adds Brian Bishop of Jackson-Stops & Staff in Taunton (01823 325144).

The market for indoor pools tends to lean more towards those who want to swim every day for fitness purposes and, in this instance, says Mr Beor- Roberts, you need to ensure that the access to the pool is direct from the house. ‘Don’t put it on the other side of the courtyard. In order to make sure you’ll get the best use of it, you need to ensure you can walk to it with your dressing gown still on.’

Cirencester-based Yiangou Architects (01285 888150) has won two RIBA awards in the past four years for designing contemporary pool wings annexed to traditional or listed houses. ‘In one scenario, we set a minimal and elegant glass structure within a listed walled garden and, with the other, we converted a traditional barn-like building into a pool complex,’ says Neil Quinn. ‘Much like the way the kitchen has become the heart of the home, the indoor pool becomes an integral and fundamental part of the country house.’

Although an indoor pool is easy to secure, another benefit of setting an outdoor pool within a walled garden, with a lockable gate, is security. ‘It’s definitely worth installing a hard cover—preferably one that’s substantial enough you can drive your Land Rover across it,’ says Mr Sugden.

‘Remember that you’re not only going to be concerned about your own children’s safety, but that of your friends’ children, too, so it’s worthwhile having the peace of mind that nothing can happen.’

Whether indoor or outdoor, the golden rule, according to Mr Harvey is to make the most of it. ‘A pool costs upwards of £30,000 to install. A few times, I’ve been surprised and particularly good examples can add value, but my stock answer is to say don’t expect to get your money back, but just enjoy it.’

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