Perhaps you’ve paid to stay at someone’s house or fetched a ride by using one of the modern sharing economy apps. But have you rented someone’s pool?
That’s the idea behind Swimply, a fast-growing company that allows swimming pool owners to make money renting the use of their pools to other people.
Table of Contents
- What Is Swimply?
- How Does Swimply Work?
- How Much Money Can You Make Renting Your Pool With Simply?
- Swimply Review: My Experience as a Swimply Customer
- Swimply Insurance: Coverage and Risks
What Is Swimply?
Founded in 2018, Swimply sometimes markets itself as the Airbnb of pools. It allows pool owners to rent out their pools by the hour.
Available in 50 states, Canada and Australia, Swimply claimed to serve 500,000 users and offer 20,000 pools as of August 2021.
With a motto of “Escape Locally,” Swimply enjoyed 4,000% revenue growth in 2020, according to co-founders Asher Weinberger and Bunim Laskin.
Weinberger and Laskin have called their company an “experimental” part of the sharing economy, which they say has typically focused on needs such as transportation (Uber, Lyft) and lodging (Airbnb).
The Shark Tank panel rejected a deal-seeking Laskin on an episode that aired March 13, 2020. But with a lot of public pools closed due to COVID-19, many people, including families with children, wanted to find safe outdoor activities to escape their homes for a few hours. Swimply filled that need.
As a 20-year-old Duke University student, Laskin approached Weinberger at an event for entrepreneurs in New York and told him about an arrangement he had with a neighborhood pool owner.
Laskin, the oldest of 12 children, asked his neighbor if he could use her pool to entertain all his siblings. The neighbor agreed — if the Laskin family paid 25% of the monthly maintenance costs. Soon, the neighbor cut the same deal with five other families and turned a profit.
Years later, Weinberger and Laskin found pools using Google Maps. They went door-to-door convincing owners to rent their pools to strangers. With a bare-bones website, virtually no marketing and just four pools, they landed thousands of dollars of bookings almost instantly.
Swimply has secured $11.2 million in funding. It also has a waiting list for JoySpace. That’s a spinoff concept expanding to rentals of home gyms, theaters, private tennis and basketball courts, home music studios and barbecue and fire pits.
How Does Swimply Work?
If you make $100, $15 of that goes to the company. Swimply also adds a 10% charge on the renter’s end. So a pool that’s listed for $50 an hour costs renters $110 for two hours rather than $100.
Much like Airbnb, renters can sift through listings of pools and decide which one to rent. The average U.S. pool rental on the platform costs $45 per hour, according to Weinberger.
Swimply provides insurance to the pool owners (more on that later). Guests also sign liability waivers.
Guests pay by credit card. Hosts get paid through Stripe, a payment processing service that supports PayPal, direct deposit (ACH), debit card and prepaid card.
When I signed up for Swimply, I got a 20% discount code to rent a pool. The site also offered me a loyalty discount, starting at 10% after booking three swims and maxing out at 25% off after 20 swims.
Owners decide whether to allow alcohol, glass or smoking. They can set the maximum number of guests allowed before each additional guest must pay an add-on charge. Pool owners can deny individual booking requests. Providing a restroom is optional, but hosts can rent for only two hours at a time if they don’t.
Some cool amenities include pool slides, toys, floats, grilling areas, music speakers and more.
If you list your pool, you choose whether to be home and whether to meet your guests. To be a host, you must be at least 21 years old and pass background, health and safety checks.
Guests can cancel up to 24 hours in advance at no cost. Swimply offers a dedicated phone number for hosts.
What Information Do Listings Include?
Swimply pool listings provide the following information:
- Pictures of the pool and pool area
- Pool dimensions and depth
- Freshwater or saltwater?
- Use of restrooms allowed?
- Maximum number of guests at regular price rate
- Pet, child and sound level restrictions
- Level of privacy
Each listing I saw during my Swimply review included multiple photos. The listings also featured reviews from other customers.
How Much Money Can You Make Renting Your Pool With Swimply?
A Portland, Oregon, man told the Wall Street Journal near the end of his first year with Swimply that he expected to earn $111,000 at the 12-month mark. He’d already hosted 2,700 guests.
There are other reports of owners grossing six-figure annual earnings from pool owners.
When I researched Swimply, I found a vast range in the quality and attractiveness of the pools.
There were nearly 100 pools available in the greater Orlando area. Out of those, the photos of only one pool really impressed me. I’d imagine the owner of that pool may have a chance to reach six-figure annual earnings.
The average pool owner makes $5,000 to $10,000 per month, a Swimply spokesperson told Forbes. That doesn’t seem feasible to me. At $45 per hour, $10,000 per month equates to 222 hours booked — or 7.3 hours per day, seven days a week.
At least in Orlando, grossing between $30 and $60 an hour seemed normal. If you net $40 an hour, you’ll need to book 25 hours per month to make $1,000 renting your pool. Talk with your tax accountant if you plan to rent your pool. Since it’s a business, you can probably deduct certain maintenance expenses such as heating the pool.
Swimply Review: My Experience as a Swimply Customer
I don’t own a pool. So for my Swimply review, the first thing I did after creating my profile was to search for pools in Orlando.
The pool in my area that stood out was listed as “Luxury Home Infinity Edge Pool.”
Overlooking a lake with a view of downtown Orlando, lined with palm trees, this heated saltwater pool seemed like the perfect evening escape at $60 an hour. However, I tried for several days to figure out how to book the pool or contact the pool owner through Swimply — to no avail.
The user experience on the site is clunky. There aren’t many filters to help you sift through the options. The listings I saw during my Swimply review seemed to be displayed in somewhat random order. The pools weren’t sortable by distance or other helpful factors.
Users can filter by date and time, number of guests allowed, whether instant booking is available and six amenities including whether the pool is heated, whether there’s a restroom and whether there’s a hot tub.
Determined to sample a Swimply offering, I booked a different heated saltwater pool. This one came with a hot tub, fire pit and grill. The hosts allowed up to five guests for $60 per hour and offered private yoga or guided meditation for $50 an hour as optional items.
Not long after booking, I received a message that the pool host had friends visiting the day I’d requested. However, the pool host had still approved my booking, which I didn’t realize. My reservation eventually expired. Somehow I wasn’t charged for the booking.
I tried a final time with a pool called “The Blue Lagoon.” I got another message from the host after I booked the reservation: “Would love to have you but unfortunately, I will be in Miami on business and won’t return until Monday night. Hopefully next time friend.”
Tthis time I received a full refund within a few days. I gave up trying to book a pool after that, which was disappointing. I scoured the internet to read every Swimply review possible, but I didn’t run into anyone else having any type of trouble booking a pool, so perhaps I was just unlucky.
Swimply Insurance: Coverage and Risks
Swimply offers all hosts up to $1 million in liability insurance and up to $10,000 in property damage protection.
However, pools carry inherent liability risk. It’s not unheard of for pool owners to get sued for seven-figure damages even if they’re not using their pool for commercial purposes.
The insurance Swimply provides isn’t a guarantee against any sort of liability, ever. According to an article in the Charlotte Observer, potential holes include:
- Alcohol-related injuries
- Injuries involving non-pool items (examples: trampoline, pool toys)
- Injuries or property damage that occur outside of the agreed-upon booking time
- Stolen property
Clark Howard Assesses Swimply Liability Risk
So just how much risk are you taking if you rent your pool with Swimply? And is the risk worth it?
“This is one of those things that the chances somebody is going to get hurt or killed and sue you, or their survivor sue you, is really small. But the financial risk to you if something does go wrong could be really catastrophic,” money expert Clark Howard says.
“It’s a hard one because you could rent your pool out without risk for years and never have an incident, and all you do is pocket a tremendous return on something that normally just costs you money. But the risk is there.”
In addition, there may be considerations related to your homeowner’s insurance. According to the Charlotte Observer, it’s important to notify your policy provider if you intend to rent your pool through Swimply.
Your policy probably won’t cover you if there’s an injury or death. Your insurance company also may offer you a commercial policy. If you don’t notify it ahead of time and something bad happens, you could face consequences such as back charges for commercial insurance, getting your coverage dropped and even liability.
“This is a classic what’s called an ‘uncovered assets’ situation. If you have a lot of assets that you’re at risk of losing, this is not a good idea for you,” Clark says.
“On the other hand, if you have a big mortgage on your house, you don’t have huge amounts of money or investments, then the incremental income could be nice to have, and the downside risk is lower for you.”
If you have a pool and you want to make extra money, Swimply seems like it’s worth trying if you aren’t squeamish about strangers using your pool and you aren’t scared off by the super unlikely but possible liability concerns.
Many of the Swimply hosts have reported being surprised and happy with how many bookings they received almost immediately.
It seems like a good idea to consult with your homeowners insurance carrier before getting started. And to make a real effort to take the best possible photos of your pool and the pool area.
It may even be worth splurging on a few Instagram-worthy pool floats and toys.