Didn't have the time while cleaning my mess of pool to post as I went, but still wanted to share the results. Figured people having issues would like to see that it's not impossible.
Quick background on the pool to give everyone some perspective. Bought the home in November 2013. Got confirmation from one of the neighbors that no one has lived in the house for 4 summers and winter (pool not winterized). So all my lines had water in them through all these winters. Amazing there was only one broken pipe and that was above ground and an easy repair. Replaced the pump to be safe and fortunately the sand filter was fine. The pool had essentially been vandalized as well. Landscaping bricks, rocks, bottles, pool ladders, bike, camcorder, boxes of screws/nails and much more had been thrown into the pool. Top it off with 4 years of leaves and pine needles and I think you have an idea this was in bad shape.
Check out some before photos:
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Note the wonderful pool cover the bank had put on. I saw from some other threads that this seems to be common practice for how HUD thinks a pool should be closed. Long story short removing the cover was a PITA. Took almost 6 hours to get it off.
Fast forward to now:
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That's not dirt you see on the bottom. Unfortunately from all the metals thrown in the pool there's some pretty bad metal staining. Going to live with it for the summer and try an AA treatment in the fall sometime before I close. Other then the staining, the water is crystal clear. The whole process took about 30 days from that wonderful cover being removed to clear water. It took me longer as we went on two little long weekend trips and to be honest I got a little lazy. Always maintained the SLAM though, even if I wasn't scrubbing or actively working on it. I think I could have cleared it up in 10-15 days if I went at it 100%. I estimate about 60 bottles of 8.25% bleach was used. Can't imagine what chemicals a pool store would have had me put in though. Probably way more money than the $150 I spent on bleach.
The TFP method does work for cleaning and maintaining even the worst of pools. Thanks for those that answered the few questions I did have. But most of my questions were answered in Pool School or by questions others have asked in the past. This is an amazing resource for anyone that stumbles across it and I now try to convince anyone I can with a pool to maintain their pool this way. Any newbies that stumble across this thread, just listen to what you read here. Doesn't matter what you've done in the past, what your neighbor says works or how your parents used to do it. If you choose the pool store over TFP.... good luck.