• Credit: PHOTO COURTESY A&G CONCRETE POOLS

Florida was one of the hardest-hit pool markets when the bottom dropped out of the U.S. economy.

Home prices fell as home inventory increased at never-before seen levels because of the vast number of foreclosures. And without anyone living in those homes, the pools sat empty and unserviced, hurting the businesses of retailers and technicians.

But Florida wasn’t destined to stay a buyer’s market forever.

Foreign investors snatched up many of the state’s foreclosed homes and, as the economy stabilized, so did Florida’s housing market. People resumed migration to the Sunshine State.

“Florida is on the rebound,” confirms Bill Kent, president of Team Horner, a pool supplies distributor and manufacturer based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Florida’s pool building business has two facets: new construction and renovations. Both are coming back strongly.

Pool permits have increased 64.8 percent compared to the first quarter of 2009.

“In 2006, there were 45,000 new pools built in the state of Florida. By 2008, the number had dropped down to 8,000,” Kent says. “Now this year, it’ll probably be around 16,000; it’s double the bottom.”

The increase in new projects even shows in the Pool & Spa News Top 50 Builders list.

In 2013, five Florida-based builders made the ranking. This year, six builders appeared. And the two builders that appeared on the list both years showed increased revenue and digs in the year-over-year data submissions.

Not surprisingly, most of the ranked builders serve Florida areas where the housing market is growing fastest, with median list prices that increased and held steady.

That housing recovery also has led to new home starts — a positive sign for Florida’s pool industry.

“A significant part of the new construction market is in what we call builder pools — pools that are built as part of a new home construction being done,” Kent says. “And the builder pools are naturally on the rebound because new home construction — which is much easier to track — also is on the rebound.”

Along with the general housing recovery, renovation work has steadily increased as well. Consumers who pulled back their spending now are loosening the purse strings and making improvements.

“If it can wait, it will, because psychologically people get into a conservative mode,” Kent adds. “It’s normal human behavior. And so, economic activity across the board suffers.”

Also part of those renovation projects are the extra backyard add-ons that people had trimmed from their plans in previous years.

One division of Team Horner sells outdoor kitchens, pergolas, fire pits and other backyard products, and Kent noted that these items are becoming increasingly popular. “That’s definitely on the rebound,” he adds.

For Florida pool supply retailers, the increases that stores have seen aren’t only because of a better economy in general, but also could be attributed to the retailers’ own ingenuity in more creative product offerings and marketing efforts.

“If you’re someone that just sits on your hands and doesn’t do anything, then probably things haven’t changed too much,” Kent says. “You have to be proactive in this world that we live in.”