There’s a new solution in San Diego for those sweltering hot days when you’re frustrated you don’t have access to a private swimming pool: an AirBnB-style app called Swimply that allows people to rent their backyard pools to strangers for about $50 an hour.
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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 that 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?”
Torres is among more than 125 pool owners in San Diego County who have already 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.
The site lists pools for rent across the region, including in Spring Valley, Lakeside, La Mesa, Alpine, Oceanside, Poway and Bonita.
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.
Fueled by millions in venture capital funding, Swimply is expanding quickly since launching softly here last year. 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 this week that most participants don’t get that aggressive.
Torres said her family makes about $3,000 a month. Her and her husband’s decision to join Swimply wasn’t prompted by a financial crisis or concern they won’t be able to afford tuition when their kids are ready for college, she said.
It was more about wanting to let other people enjoy their elaborate pool, which is described as a “tropical Point Loma oasis with grotto and slide” on the Swimply site.
“It’s been a really good experience,” she 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 for the guests and the Torres family.
“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 specifically for neighbors of pool owners where they can complain about noise, parking and other problems.
Laskin said it’s inevitable that local governments will start regulating sites like Swimply, noting that he has already had conversations with leaders in some communities.
“I think it’s a super gray area, and anything gray people like to draw a color into,” he said.
Laskin contends Swimply doesn’t bring some of the negatives that critics of AirBnB focus on, such as competing with hotels or raising rents by taking housing off the market.
While Swimply does bring more noise and potential parking problems to some areas, Laskin estimated that 70 percent of his customers are families that 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, 25, 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.