An “Airbnb for swimming pools” causes a sensation this summer

Jim Battan’s tree-lined swimming pool at his home outside of Portland, Ore., Had remained untouched since his youngest daughter moved out two years ago. Then in September, he listed it via an online private pool rental platform.

He booked the pool three times in the first two hours and says it hosted 2,700 guests in less than a year. Mr. Battan expects to make $ 111,000 by the end of the summer, which would only cover the $ 110,000 he and his wife spent on the custom pool eight years ago.

“I was like, ‘Wow, this is weird,’” Mr. Battan said. “It’s nice to feel that we didn’t have to spend all of the $ 110,000 for nothing.

Jim Battan, at home with his wife Lisa, said he expects to have made $ 111,000 renting their pool by the end of the summer.

He is one of 13,000 pool owners in 125 markets across the United States, including cities like Los Angeles and Austin, Texas, who are leveraging their underused swimming pool by registering with the Swimply company, which some media have dubbed “Airbnb for backyard pools.

Swimply said its pool owners have made around 122,000 reservations since the start of 2020. Business started to pick up before the Covid-19 pandemic, but it exploded during the health crisis as public pools closed and people were looking to make some extra money or get together safely after months. containment.

“We saw a lot of families [and friends] rekindle with Swimply, ”said Bunim Laskin, co-founder and CEO of Swimply.

Hosts earn an average of $ 5,000 to $ 10,000 per month, according to Asher Weinberger, co-founder and COO of Swimply. Most pool owners charge between $ 35 and $ 50 an hour, while Swimply collects 15% from hosts and 10% from guests.

Some of the income from hosts helps pay for pool maintenance costs, which have jumped during the pandemic as lockdowns and business slowdowns disrupted the pool chemicals supply chain. Mr Weinberger said he is now spending $ 85 a week on chemicals and pool maintenance, up from $ 45 before the pandemic.

“It’s a chlorine hunt for the best price,” said Shanon Zoeller, a Swimply host in Oklahoma City, who said he made $ 10,000 since he started renting his pool last June.

Most of the swimmers are local families, Weinberger said. Reservations concern an average of five to seven people. Hosts choose their rental rate, upload photos of their pool, and list amenities, like a barbecue or audio system.

This is not a party for pool owners. On the contrary, hosting is “an incredible amount of work,” Battan said. Most of the time, he wakes up at 5 a.m. to skim the water from the leaves. His wife cleans the pool house bathroom and disposes of rows of pool toys before each reservation.

Some of the income from the hosts helps pay for the costs of maintaining the pool, which have jumped during the pandemic.

Swimply is not the only swimming pool in the city. Peerspace, a marketplace for booking film shooting locations and event venues, offers thousands of spaces with swimming pools at hourly rates.

“With the heat rising, we’re seeing a strong demand for outdoor spaces, many of which have swimming pools,” said Matt Bendett, co-founder and vice president of operations for Peerspace.

Short-term rental companies like Airbnb Inc.

and vacation home rental companies, including Expedia Group‘s

Vrbo also rents houses with swimming pools for the day.

Like Airbnb and its peers in the industry, Swimply must manage safety and liability issues. A swimmer could drown or loud guests could cause property damage.

Swimply has up to $ 1 million in Host Liability Insurance and Property Damage Protection Policy.

To mitigate these risks, about 80% of the company’s hosts choose to stay home while guests use their pool, Weinberger said. The company also has up to $ 1 million in host liability insurance and a property damage protection policy.

Mr Battan said he hadn’t had a serious problem renting his pool, but still prefers to be at home during reservations. “There are too many risks with unattended guests,” he said, referring to “horror stories” of underage drinking and loud events.

Next month, Mr. Zoeller is hosting a pool party of nearly 40 people. He said enforcing the rules about street parking and loud music made his neighbors happy.

“The worst thing that happened was that I once found two cans of beer in the skimmer,” Zoeller said.

Airbnb was bleeding money earlier this year, making its plans to go public by the end of 2020 grim. But by adapting its business to the pandemic, Airbnb appears to have saved its IPO and possibly its future. Photo illustration: Jacob Reynolds / WSJ

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