App offers sweltering San Diegans a private swim — and pool owners a side hustle
Swimply, an Airbnb-style platform, lets owners rent out their backyard pools by the hour.
There’s an answer in San Diego to those sweltering days when you’re frustrated you don’t have access to a private swimming pool. It’s an Airbnb-style app called Swimply that lets people rent their backyard pools to strangers for an hourly fee.
Fans of the platform, which launched nationwide in April, say it’s a lucrative side hustle for pool owners and a reasonably priced way for families who don’t have a pool to enjoy a serene afternoon of swimming in someone else’s backyard.
“I think a lot of people are trying it out because it’s something new and it seems like a cool concept,” said Becca Torres, who rents out the pool at her Point Loma house eight to 10 times a month. “We have this great pool, we love to share it with people and we can make a little bit of money with it, so why not?”
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Torres is among more than 125 pool owners in San Diego County who have begun advertising their pools on Swimply, which takes 15 percent of every transaction. The company’s fee covers liability insurance to protect pool owners against injuries, drownings and property damage.
Hourly fees vary from $25 to $150 depending on amenities, with many pool owners charging extra if you have more than five people or want to use their hot tub and grill. For example, Torres charges $80 per hour, so a four-hour session with five people at her pool would cost $320 — plus $35 if you want to use the hot tub and $25 for the grill.
“We have this great pool, we love to share it with people and we can make a little bit of money with it, so why not?”
— Becca Torres, Point Loma resident
Swimply is expanding quickly since launching softly here last year, fueled by millions of dollars in venture capital funding. After a more formal launch in April, the company began marketing and advertising more aggressively, including some billboards in San Diego. It’s now in 125 markets, including Canada.
One family in Oregon says they’ve made $177,000 renting out their pool multiple times per day, but co-founder Bunim Laskin said most participants don’t get that aggressive.
Torres said her family makes about $3,000 a month. Torres said her and her husband’s decision to join Swimply wasn’t prompted by financial concerns but was more about wanting to let other people enjoy their elaborate pool, which is described on the Swimply site as a “tropical Point Loma oasis with grotto and slide.”
“It’s been a really good experience,” Torres said. “The first couple of families we had in, I thought it could go either way because it was a little awkward. But now it’s easy.”
Their pool is on a lower level of the property from the house, so it’s more private.
“It’s a little easier to manage for us because it’s almost separated,” she said. “We honestly have not had a bad experience. We’ve had guests who played the music a little loud, but at 4 in the afternoon it’s not the end of the world.”
Like Airbnb, the Swimply site tries to weed out people who might cause problems by allowing customers and hosts to review each other. The site also has a page where neighbors of pool owners can complain about noise, parking and other problems.
Laskin, 25, said it’s inevitable that local governments will start regulating sites like Swimply, noting that he already has had conversations with leaders in some communities.
Laskin contends Swimply doesn’t bring some of the negatives that critics of Airbnb focus on, such as competing with hotels or causing rising rents by taking housing off the market.
Though Swimply does bring more noise and potential parking problems to some areas, Laskin estimated that 70 percent of his customers are families who lack access to a private pool — either their own or a friend’s.
“We are just doing a lot of good without breaking anything,” he said.
Laskin said the idea came to him four years ago at his family home in New Jersey when a neighbor built a pool and wouldn’t let Laskin‘s family use it until they agreed to pay 25 percent of the maintenance expenses.
“When four other families agreed to also help out, I realized this thing she was worried would cost her money was actually making her money, and I figured this could be something,” he said.
For more information, visit swimply.com.