In another sign of the improving economy, applications to build pools in Florida were up in November nearly 300 percent from the same month in 2011.
There were 1,648 swimming pool construction permits taken out in November 2012, a 298 percent increase over the 553 listed for November 2011, according to numbers gathered by construction information company HBW, based in DeBary, Fla.
“We have noticed quite an improvement across the board,” said Joe Collins, an editor at HBW. Collins did caution that part of the increase could have come from incomplete data from some reporting agencies the previous year. In addition, the report covers only 49 of Florida’s 67 counties. The trend line is climbing, however.
The latest numbers follow a string of strong increases in pool permits in Florida over the past year.
Some experts attribute these gains to the state’s population growth, as well as a slight loosening up of financing.
“These are among many factors that could be contributing to the increase in pool permits. We hope the trend continues throughout 2013,” said Pete Coccaro, president of the Florida Swimming Pool Association.
The biggest gains came from the southern part of the state. Lee County, where Fort Myers is situated, led the pack with 188 permits in November, after only 75 were reported for the same month in 2011. Broward, Collier, Miami-Dade, Manatee, Orange, Palm Beach and Sarasota counties also reported a big uptick in permits.
“We’ve seen an increase in requests for proposals,” said Claude Kershner IV, vice president of Reef Tropical Pools in Key Largo. “Early in 2012 we were struggling, but now we’re finishing up a lot of projects and just got a big residential job.”
Builders aren’t the only people seeing more activity in the pool sector.
“New homeowners are looking more long term, and that’s what makes them pool buyers,” said Dick Lyon, owner of Lyon Financial, which finances pools. Florida is the firm’s second most active state, after Texas, and Lyon said he will be increasing his marketing effort there.
One reason for the increase might be that it’s easier to get a pool financed now than it was a year ago.
“We saw a spike in November — application volume doubled over a year ago. December was strong also; it was double,” Lyon said.
And more people are being approved for loans than before.
“The minimum score has dropped maybe 10 percent, and the average score of the pool buyer has gone up a bunch,” Lyon said.
Despite the improvement, there’s still room for growth in Florida’s pool market. In 2005, there were 49,171 permits issued for new pools, a number that dropped to 9,317 in 2009.