Woman relaxing in a pool The “dog days of summer ” they call them. Here in Charleston SC our hot summer climate instills us all with the need to seek shade, the beach, or a pool, and when you’re here on vacation – your desire for fun and a dip in the pool is doubly so. Having an in-ground pool at your home means you have a backyard oasis just on the other side of that patio door, and a refreshing dip on a hot day is just steps away. Installing a pool is nothing new, but a surprising number of us have little understanding of the implications, and certainly not the costs. It is safe to say that if you haven’t priced a backyard pool installation lately, you may be in for a bit of sticker shock. Here is our story of installing pools in a number of our vacation rental units located on Folly Beach and how the costs stack up. 


Firstly what are the options that you have to install a pool in your yard? Here are 4 well known options with their own costs and flexibility:

  • Gunite:  Reinforced concrete pools constructed on-site and with infinite design and flexibility options. Your higher end pools are typically constructed this way.
  • Fiberglass: Reinforced glass fiber pools with a moderate number of design options, manufactured off-site and generally installed in-ground.
  • Swim/Lap pools: Generally 4 sided fiberglass pools manufactured off-site and delivered complete with all water handling equipment fitted and ready for connection.
  • Specialist: These would be container pools (a clever reuse of metal shipping containers), stainless steel pools, etc. of various options and configurations. I’ve put them at the bottom of the list, but prices can vary substantially depending on what you need. Great for pools in elevated decks, but otherwise a rare choice.


We have just installed 4 small, gunite (concrete) pools at our new vacation rental development on Folly Beach, near the center of town. These are small in-ground pools being about 10′ x 10′ feet and 5 feet deep at the maximum. Each was installed with recirculating jets to add interest and fun, as well as to generate background noise in a location that is quite close to the neighbors. These pools include complete sand filter and a salt treatment chemical unit. They have proved very popular in their first 4 months of operation allowing parents to talk and relax whilst children play happily and keep cool. The pools are fitted with lights in the evening and a timer for the pump and light controls closing the pool down from 10 pm to 10 am. Our contractor also used travertine tiles to finish off the hardscaping in the patio courtyard.


As we are now bringing another vacation rental development out of the ground nearby on Folly Beach, we are currently installing 3  alternative types of pools. These are lap-style pools that have a pump at one end to generate a current across the pool. A swimmer can pace himself in the current to stay in one place rather than quickly reaching the side of the pool. These too are a moderate size at 8′ by 14′ feet, so similar in size to the water area of the gunite pools above. We fitted the pool on (above) ground, abutting a deck of the same height as the pool. As the sides were a smidgen over 4 feet high there was no need for additional protective fencing. The pool comes equipped with a heater, lights and a swim current generator. Treatment is by filter and chemical cartridge. We also bought a manual cover. At first, the idea of above ground pool did not resonate, but in truth having fitted it into the raised deck you would not know the difference. Swim pools can also be fitted in-ground for a small additional cost and are suitable for placing on elevated decks such as roof-tops provided it is structurally capable of supporting the additional weight. We are interested to see these up & running, and how they are regarded by our rental guests as we are installing this same type of pool at our custom build project in Palmetto Bluff early next year.  


That’s a big question and though costs will vary greatly, let’s simply look at the minimum cost of entry into each option.

  • $60,000 will build you a small gunite pool, the service equipment and hardscaping around the edges.
  • $40,000 will achieve similar results using a fiberglass pool, with less design flexibility on the pool but the installer will also finish with hardscaping.
  • $35,000 will get you a similar sized swim pool with lighting and all treatment equipment pre-installed. Hardscaping is out of scope for the supplier.

The costs of a backyard pool don’t just end with the installation. Pools must be maintained, usually weekly or bi-weekly.  You can do this yourself or hire one of the many firms in the area that provides such a service. Costs will vary and we expect to pay between $100 and $250 per month depending on the size of the pool, location, and type of chemical treatment used. 


So if you operate a short-term rental property is there any advantage in having a pool? Put simply, yes. If your location is not on the beachfront, then having a home with a pool is a key way differentiate your home and add interest in your listing photography. We have found over time that our rental clients love pools, especially if you can add shade nearby. If competing properties in the area also have pools it may not increase the rental rate by much, but it will greatly improve your occupation levels. If it’s heated then that effect will push well into the traditionally quieter winter months. 

Hopefully by sharing our own experience we’ve provided you some basic facts and insights about installing a pool at your property. As vacation rental owners ourselves we understand both the options you have available, the costs, and the effect it has on your annual income. Our Luxury Simplified Retreats management team can help you understand how you can achieve that increased performance, so why not come and speak with us to learn more?