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The Okanagan’s Pool Patrol & Reflection Pools Address Dynamism Faced in the Pool Industry.

December 22, 2023

Pool Patrol’s owner, Allan Horwood, mixes up this episode with a guest: Reflection Pool’s owner, Owen W. They carry on the informal conversation on best practices and market changes that the Pool and Pool Cover industry in B.C. has witnessed over the past few years. Dive into Allan and Owen’s views on what the future holds in the finale of this insightful series.

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Allan of Pool Patrol and Owen of Reflection Pools discuss the pool-building and pool cover industry's performance in 2023 compared to 2022. Owen notes a slowdown in late Fall, attributing it to potential uncertainties in the market and interest rates. Allan shares insights from the upcoming Vegas show and ponders whether a shift in mindset is necessary.

Building on the pool cover specialists' thoughts, they touch on the significance of pools in real estate and the changing trend where pools enhance a property's value. Despite the slowdown, both remain optimistic about the industry's stability, suggesting that a more measured pace might benefit overall quality and professionalism in service provision.

ALLAN

So, I’m sitting with Owen, with Reflection Pools, who’s been a partner of ours for a number of years. How do you feel from a pool builder’s standpoint? How did 2023 vs. 2022 go?

OWEN

2022 was crazy busy; 2023—for the fun end of it— carried through just like 2022 for us. But, on the back end of it, heading into October and November this year, we’ve definitely felt a slowdown. There are lots of quotes going out, but not a lot of people are jumping on to actually making a commitment. Whether that is just uncertainty right now because of the way interest rates are and the way the markets are right now, I don’t know; maybe all of that might explode over in the spring. But there was definitely a slowdown going into late Fall as far as how many pools we have—on the books—to build.

ALLAN

I’m going to Vegas next week to the show, and there is going to be a lot of buzz about that. Are we seeing a downturn? And I almost feel like we can’t manifest our destiny; we have to just decide, this is what’s going to happen; let’s not decide that the sky is falling, and I think, as you said—there’s a pause— and luckily we’ve been finding out that the interest rates are not going to keep going up. So we can all just pause and go, listen, the interest is now 6%, and this is the way it is. Are a lot of people financing pools? Do you have any idea?

OWEN

I don’t really ask customers that question, so I don’t know.

ALLAN

Yeah, I can’t get a handle on that one.

OWEN

I can't either. Going back to 2021-22, when the interest rates were really low, I think lots of people were just adding on to their mortgage and away they go. The nice thing about pools is that customers have boats, pools, etc., but to me, if you buy a boat, it’s a depreciating asset. If you buy a pool, it’s going to appreciate over time with your house. The house is going to appreciate over time, and the pool is going to make your house more marketable. That’s what we’re seeing. Twenty years ago, we didn't see pools adding much value to the house, but today, it's a different story.

ALLAN

Yeah no. What’s funny is that I talked to a real estate agent in Kelowna years ago, and he said, ‘If your house doesn’t have a pool or a spot for a pool, it’s hard for me to sell.’ I thought, wow, that’s a different way of looking at it than—like you said— twenty years ago.

OWEN

We’ve seen a trend with real estate agents that we have relationships with over the last, probably three to four years, especially getting calls going: ‘I have a client they’re interested in buying this house, but the stipulation is that we need to build a pool, can you go drop by, have a look and see if it is possible.’ That happens monthly, but a couple of years ago it was probably every couple of weeks that I was getting those calls.

ALLAN

Wow! That’s interesting. So, that’s promising, it’s what I was talking to the guys about, it’s that pools are here to stay. The Okanagan almost directly translates into pools and pool covers, so I don’t think they’re going anywhere. People aren’t filling them in; they're not getting rid of them. People say, ‘I had one at my other house; I want one at my new house.’ What’s so nice about levelling off—that you say this Fall’s been like—I almost think it’s a positive for us. We can stop scrambling and freaking out and just level off and predict the business.

OWEN

I won't miss the craziness of the last couple of years. With a little bit of a slowdown, we can take a breath and make sure our best practices are getting better. We’re developing relationships with our suppliers, keeping those going, and also going back and following up with customers. You get more time to do that kind of stuff, which is important.

ALLAN

I think we’ve got to remain positive that 2024 is going to be a strong market for pool builders and pool cover specialists. We just may not see the same leaps and bounds as in 2020 and onwards.

OWEN

The downside is for almost three years there, we were saying to people, ‘I can get you a pool next year.’ So maybe over the next couple of years, it’s going to change to ‘I can get you a pool in the next couple of months.’ So, is there a downside to that? I’m not sure...

ALLAN

A 100 percent, some of the pool builders were leaving messages; their outgoing message was ‘we are now accepting pool bookings for 2026’, that was their outgoing message! If I was the homeowner, I’d be thinking, I can get my Amazon package the next day, and you’re telling me you won’t even return my call for two years?’

OWEN
Well, are you going to leave that message then? As a homeowner?

ALLAN

Definitely not. I’d just say it’s not going to work out.

OWEN

So, you would just call someone else.

ALLAN

Yeah, so maybe it is a good thing. The other thing is with any levelling off, if there was ever somebody in the industry that wasn’t exercising those best practices like we talked about, maybe wasn’t as professional as some of the other companies, I think those people would naturally go by the wayside. There will not be any low-hanging fruit for them, and maybe that's not a bad thing.

OWEN

No, it’s probably not. Cause, you see, we’ve experienced how there’s been a few bad builders, ‘bad apples’ in the mix of any construction industry, and then that may weed those people out. Then, other people aren’t getting stuck with inferior products, workmanship, or jobs being left undone because we’ve seen all that. So all that stuff goes away, and you’re left with good builders, and that’s positive for the community.

ALLAN

I think it might make all of us better because, as you say, we do have the time to follow up with quotes properly. There was a time— about two years ago. Maybe even a year ago— where if you were shopping for a pool, most pool builders wouldn’t call you back. They literally wouldn’t call you back.

OWEN

Those slow-down months are fine; you need to take a break too, because if you're going flat out, then—as we all know— if you’re over busy and you're taking on too much, then mistakes can happen. Then you’ve got to go back and fix those mistakes, and people aren't happy. You're not happy, and I'm not happy.

ALLAN

Yeah, it’s been a push; I was saying to Eric that our Vancouver office gets some really weird stuff where we’re installing automatic pool covers before the decks are poured, and everybody’s pushing it. My staff in Vancouver have said to me, ‘It doesn’t work that way; you think you’re getting ahead by pushing, but you're actually just making mistakes and screwing it up and having to go backwards.’ So, I think that is a lesson learned up here where we’re like, ‘let’s just take it easy.’ I love the way it's being presented, as we talked to Eric and Caleb—our pool cover specialists—and talked to you about it. This may actually be a better year.



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With a legacy since 1995, Pool Patrol has been installing automatic pool covers in British Columbia, and our pool cover specialists are looking forward to the industry boom that 2024 promises. Contact Pool Patrol to get started.


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