It’s another indication that summer vacation travel is likely to be down this year because of the coronavirus: Pool companies say they’ve been deluged with inquiries from people who want an in-ground pool for the backyard.
With businesses reporting backlogs of up to 10 weeks, however, it may be too late for some.
For sure, it’s a big-ticket expense, affordable only for the affluent ― or those with generous credit card limits ― but the surge in demand is an indication that more people may be planning to stay close to home in June, July, and August, instead of booking hotel rooms in resort areas.
“I’m constantly hearing that after being home now, the kids are driving [parents] crazy, and they can’t imagine going through the summer without some kind of distraction for them,” owner Dave Hobaica said. “They are worried about beaches not being open and not being able to take a vacation . . . and they are also concerned about being in a public pool with everything going on.”
While some people may be wary of using public pools when they do open, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that “there is no evidence that the virus that causes COVID-19 can be spread to people through the water in pools, hot tubs, spas, or water play areas.”
Some pool company owners say they weren’t expecting such a surge in demand, given the unprecedented number of layoffs and the economic uncertainty.
“My first suspicion was, ‘Oh boy, this is economically going to be bad,' ” said Clancy Kaye, owner of Pioneer Valley Fiberglass Pools and Spas in Holyoke . “Usually when money dries up, so do customers.”
But he said that hasn’t been the case. Pioneer Valley’s sales are up 20 percent, Kaye said, with some people are signing e-contracts without even having a representative visit their home. Considering that Pioneer’s pools cost $55,000, on average, that’s a big commitment.
“In the past, we would never have that, people would want to see you in their backyard first,” he said.
Hobaica said clients are “accelerating the process a bit because they are sort of at a breaking point.” He said his company’s gunite, or cement, pool installations range from $65,000 to more than $100,000, including fencing and patio costs. At Easton Pools, most customers are interested in 18- by 36-foot pools.
To adhere to social distancing guidelines, pool companies accustomed to making home visits have had to get creative.
“We usually do a sit-down around their kitchen table, and that is out,” said Tara Sullivan, who works in sales at Easton Pools. “Now we stand in their yard and show them pictures on an iPad from far away.”
And that’s enough for many customers to pull out their checkbooks, she said.
“People want to make sure they have a spot, because even if they can’t get a pool for this summer, they don’t know what is going to happen next summer," she said.
Those who bought a pool last year, or sealed the deal for a pool before the pandemic, are feeling fortunate.
Nader Hamed’s backyard pool was installed last fall. He opened for the first time it in April for his daughters, ages 4 and 9.
“The timing could not have been better," the Upton resident said. "We added a pool heater, too, so during the last couple of weeks my girls were in the pool all day long. They could not get enough of it.”
Hamed said two co-workers also want to purchase pools, but he suspects they may be out of luck this summer.
“One wants to do an above-ground pool, but no one is calling him back; they are so busy no one can come out and give him an estimate,” he said.
At Fran Steinkrauss’s home in Pembroke, construction workers are busy putting the final touches on his pool and patio.
“Now you can’t go to the beach, or go out to dinner, so the timing of the pool just happened to be great,” said Steinkrauss, who decided last spring to invest in a pool.
But he cautions those eager to take the plunge to consider the expense and complications.
“It’s not a small project . . . so I don’t think it should be a spur-of-the-moment thing,” he said. “Definitely put some thought into the budget and how much it is going to cost.”
Businesses say the demand for in-ground pools means sales of outdoor patio furniture, fire pits, and hot tubs are also on the rise.
Outdoor recreational equipment is in high demand, too, especially following Governor Charlie Baker’s announcement that playgrounds would be closed until phase two of the state’s reopening, along with athletic fields and campgrounds.
Some companies that sell and install playground equipment in Massachuetts say it is taking six to eight weeks for customers to get equipment, not the usual two or three.
Kaye said more families are deciding to invest money they would have spent on vacation or summer camps in their backyards.
“Instead of spending $10,000 on a week’s trip to Disney, why not use that as a down payment to create a backyard oasis of your own, knowing that life is probably forever changed?” he said.