Cash For Splash: the service allows owners to rent their pools every hour
From initial installation to ongoing maintenance and seasonal openings and closings, the costs of owning a pool add up. But a new service is helping pool owners cover those expenses and even enjoy their backyard paradise.
Swimply, which expanded to the East End this summer, allows pool owners to list their pools for rent, much like Airbnb and Vrbo allow owners to list their homes for short-term rentals. However, Swimply rentals are on time, and owners don’t have to give up their beds for the night or worry about getting rental permits. And Swimply is now expanding its service to include tennis courts, home gyms, home recording studios, large backyards and other spaces.
From Westhampton to East Hampton, pools are offered with base prices ranging from $70 to $100 per hour for smaller groups, and prices increase from there for additional guests. Many pool owners offer instant reservations and a number of amenities, such as Wi-Fi access, pool toys and barbecue grills. Nationwide, Swimply hosts offer extras like towels, watermelon, and champagne or experiences like a sunset picnic, for an additional fee.
In an interview last week, Swimply founder and CEO Bunim Laskin explained how the company started, how it grew and plans for the future.
“We currently have 25,000 listings in over 100 cities,” Laskin said.
Swimply is now based in Los Angeles, but got its start in Laskin’s hometown of Lakewood, New Jersey. The company officially launched in 2019, but he conceived the idea a year earlier.
Laskin said he was 21 and his mother had just had her 12th child. He is the older brother.
“She demanded that I be home and help the family,” he said. “And so all 12 of us were pretty much locked in the house. We never really had the means to travel or go camping.
Their neighbor had built a swimming pool which she barely used, but was very protective of, he recalls. “We just offered her money in exchange for using her whenever she didn’t use it,” he said. “Within two weeks, five other families were doing the same thing to the point that she was making more money than she was spending.”
He went to Google Earth and found other pools in the area that summer. “I got four of them to agree to be on my phone, on my hotline,” he said. He advertised his number all over town, facilitated rentals between callers and pool owners, and delivered checks to owners every two weeks.
“It blew up really quickly, so I decided to drop out of school, fundraise, and then start Swimply,” Laskin said.
He had studied Talmudic law in Israel before changing his life path. He then raised $1.2 million in investments to launch Swimply in 2019. In 2020, amid pandemic travel and activity restrictions, the business grew 4,000%, with just two full-time employees full.
“We had a lot of landlords who signed up very quickly because they needed the income. It was a good way to easily generate income when you needed it most. And people needed a safe place to congregate,” Laskin said. “Swamply was one of the things that was still open during the pandemic and so people were able to gather and congregate there.
A $10 million funding round followed in January 2021, led by growth equity firm Norwest Venture Partners, which helped Spotify and Uber grow. Swimply then launched an app and expanded its team to 75 with an office in Hollywood Hills.
The team includes engineers, designers and developers, as well as concierges who work directly with pool owners.
“We have a team of white glove pool partners who will help run your business and help you with pricing and photography and give advice,” Laskin said. “It’s entirely up to pool owners what they want to charge, how many guests they want to allow, any amenities you want to offer. It’s totally up to them. So we have people who partner with you to make those decisions and help answer all your questions.
Pool owners can decide if they want to allow children, pets, alcohol or music. “You’re in full control,” Laskin said.
Owners can also decline bookings for activities they don’t want their pool used for, such as commercial photo and video shoots.
The average reservation size nationwide is four people, while the average reservation in the Hamptons is eight, he said. The average booking time is two hours.
New York was the first state in which Swimply expanded statewide as its range of services expanded.
“The Hamptons are actually really cool. It’s one of our coldest markets,” he said.
He explained that while most rentals are for family activities and health purposes, in the Hamptons, rentals are more often for luxury, high-end experiences.
“People are spending twice, three times as much in the Hamptons to rent the accommodations there, and then we see a lot of events in the Hamptons as well — a lot of cool parties and stuff like that,” he said.
In Miami and Los Angeles, many bookings are for youth parties, while in the Hamptons bookings are often for corporate events, private swims and expensive dates, he said.
Owners are protected in the event of a problem during the rental of their swimming pool. Swimply offers $1 million in liability insurance and up to $10,000 in property damage coverage, Laskin said.
“We haven’t really reinvented the wheel here,” he said. “We do what Airbnb does and what other companies do.” And users must sign waivers before their first booking, he added.
Swimply also offers an online portal where neighbors can report any disruption caused by pool rentals. If the owners are found to have violated Swimply’s “Good Neighbor Standards”, they will be deactivated until the neighbor confirms that a conversation has taken place with the owner.
Laskin pointed out that Swimply’s service is a whole new consumer behavior and one that needs to be regulated.
“With Airbnb, it was a gray area,” he said. “With us, it’s even grayer. We are currently in discussions with many different regulators on how to regulate Swimply and ensure its safety at all levels, but we are taking many proactive steps ourselves regardless of that.
Swimply plans to add boat rentals to its offerings soon, but not for sailing or speed around the harbor. The idea is to allow groups to rent moored boats to relax.