Pool your re­sources, save time and add money

Take the plunge – get­ting rid of your swim­ming-pool could in­crease the value of your home. By James Trol­lope

The Daily Telegraph - Property - - One-daywonder -

The symp­toms of swim­ming­pool fa­tigue crept up on Paul Myles this sum­mer, shortly af­ter he turned 50. There was the sweat from prepa­ra­tion and main­te­nance, the ir­ri­ta­tion of ris­ing bills and the guilt of con­tem­plat­ing 14,000 gal­lons of un­used wa­ter from the win­dow of his cramped study in the parched South East.

A ner­vous break­down would have been un­der­stand­able; in­stead, he found a cure.

“As I was paint­ing the empty pool, which is 32ft long, 15ft wide and 6ft deep, it sud­denly hit me that I could make bet­ter use of the space by con­vert­ing it into an of­fice,” he says.

Truly, a Da­m­a­scene mo­ment in the deep end — but was it a vi­sion that his wife, Kathy, and two chil­dren would share?

Son Louis, 23, wasn’t im­pressed but, as nei­ther he nor his older sis­ter, Jo, 28, still live at the parental home, their opin­ions caused no more than a rip­ple.

“Louis was up­set and I was a lit­tle bit sad. But I’m pleased from a eco­log­i­cal point of view, ” says Jo, cradling Fin­lay, her new baby.

It was de­cided that Louis would have to lump it, while Paul would ac­com­mo­date his grand­son’s aquatic needs by in­vest­ing in a splash pool. That just left Kathy.

“Per­suad­ing her was dif­fi­cult,” says Paul. “In fact, it was harder than get­ting her to marry me.”

The cou­ple built the pool 20 years ago, shortly af­ter mov­ing to Lewes in East Sus­sex. Since then, as well as tak­ing up about half the gar­den, it has be­come a sym­bol of fam­ily fun.

“I must ad­mit that I didn’t want to lose it at first,” says Kathy, who works from home as a dress de­signer. “Apart from all the happy mem­o­ries, it’s a beau­ti­ful thing. But I did fi­nally see that it didn’t make a lot of sense be­cause, de­spite all the sun we’ve had this sum­mer, it wasn’t used enough for the amount of work that went into main­tain­ing it.” So, the man who did most of that work even­tu­ally had his way but not with­out a tinge of re­gret.

“Get­ting it ready in the spring when the wa­ter is pea-soup green is a bore, and then you have to paint it ev­ery two or three years. But see­ing it shim­mer­ing in the sun when you get it right can be won­der­ful. Then again, you can use it only for about 12 weeks of the year and af­ter the chil­dren left our pri­or­i­ties changed.”

The clincher was the jaw-drop­ping en­ergy ex­pen­di­ture, which had pushed the pool’s run­ning costs up to about £1,500 a year.

Al­though he trained as a struc­tural en­gi­neer, Paul, 52, or­gan­ises art ex­hi­bi­tions (past ones in­clude works by Rodin and Henry Moore) and has just com­pleted a psy­chol­ogy de­gree at Sus­sex univer­sity. As he also works as a builder, a big­ger of­fice had long been on his wish list.

“Lewes Dis­trict Coun­cil, the plan­ning author­ity, had never been asked for per­mis­sion to con­vert a swim­ming pool into a stu­dio/of­fice but they were very good about it and we got the go ahead.”

Paul has built up from the bot­tom of the pool so that only the roof of the new build­ing rises above the old wa­ter level. The chalet-style de­sign re­flects that of the main house.

The new of­fice cost about £25,000 but Paul cal­cu­lates that it has added about £90,000 to the value of the prop­erty, based on the fact that liv­ing space in Lewes is worth £300 per sq ft.

“I think it’s a great in­vest­ment. If you’re sell­ing a house with a pool, you lose about half your prospec­tive buy­ers be­cause they just don’t fancy the has­sle of own­ing one. That can re­duce the over­all price of the prop­erty by about 5 per cent. Our new build­ing has gen­eral ap­peal. It could be used as an of­fice, a grannex or even be rented out.”

Sen­si­bly, he can­vassed sev­eral es­tate agents be­fore tak­ing the plunge. “The con­sen­sus was that if you’re sell­ing a large coun­try house with plenty of land, buy­ers might ex­pect a pool. How­ever, if the pool takes up a lot of the gar­den, from an eco­nomic point of view it might be bet­ter to get rid of it.”

But leav­ing aside the eco­nomics, what about the glam­our of those pool­side par­ties?

“The snag was that you never en­joyed them quite as much as your guests did. I was al­ways wor­ried about the po­ten­tially lethal com­bi­na­tion of al­co­hol, glass and deep wa­ter. It’s rather like boats; it’s bet­ter hav­ing a friend who owns one than own­ing one your­self.”

But de­spite this fight­ing talk, next sum­mer, when the sun peeps into his new of­fice, I sus­pect that Paul might just han­ker af­ter that rec­tan­gle of sparkling blue. Then again, he’ll have more money to spend on a fab­u­lous hol­i­day.

Fill her up: Paul Myles stand­ing in the drained pool that he has re­placed with an of­fice

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