Remember when renting a stranger’s home seemed sketchy? Today, though, we’re all about that Airbnb lifestyle, and way more aspects of the peer-to-peer sharing economy. (Rover, and Uber, and TaskRabbit, oh my!)
Maybe you’re skeptical that folks will want to jump into strangers’ pools. But the fledgling company got a big boost from the pandemic, a time when staycations have become the norm. In fact, business is booming: According to Swimply, pool rentals have gone up a whopping 3,500% during the COVID-19 crisis.
Breerly Khan of Austin, TX, is one of those pool seekers who didn’t have any hesitation about diving in.
“We use Airbnb all the time, so I was pretty comfortable,” says Khan, who adds that looking for a pool to rent is similar to how she feels when planning a vacation. “There is a fun anticipatory feeling about having this to look forward to, especially during the pandemic when it’s hard to find something to do that is relatively affordable.”
What is Swimply?
The concept is fairly straightforward: Pool owners charge an hourly rate (usually starting at $45) for the use of their pool, which often includes other amenities such as a barbecue grill, dining table, lounge chairs, and more. Guests search for a pool that fits their criteria and request a time slot.
Once approved, guests communicate with the hosts on the app and can ask questions or make special requests. Payment is made through the app, and, upon confirmation, guests learn the address and other important info, such as entry access into the pool area. (Pools are available in every state but Wyoming.)
Is it safe to host or swim in a stranger’s pool in a pandemic?
“We must always go back to the basics of how the virus spreads,” says Dr. Joe Khabbaza, pulmonary and critical care physician with the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. “When it comes to a pool, we know the virus is not transmitted by water, so no concerns would be needed there.”
So what about all of those touchable surfaces like tables, poolside chairs, and the bathroom? If you’re a host and renting out your pool, then you’ll need to sanitize those. Both hosts and guests should follow the CDC’s COVID-19 safety recommendations we all know so well.
“Maintain distance from others, wear masks—especially indoors—and keep ample hand sanitizer or soap and water available throughout the event,” Khabbaza advises.
What to know before you dive in as a guest
Swimply listings include information such as pool size, water depth, the maximum number of people allowed, amenities, host rules, and other pertinent information. Be sure to read thoroughly before booking to avoid disappointment. Families with young kids should carefully read the listing for rules regarding the age of swimmers. If you have an infant or toddler still in diapers, the hosts often require swim diapers to be worn while in the pool—though, in some cases, infants and children aren’t allowed at all.
And don’t assume a bathroom or changing room is part of the deal. Hosts should include it if the pool is visible to neighbors, or if the hosts draw the drapes and blinds while you swim. If the listing doesn’t include rules around playing music or bringing your own food, be sure to inquire before booking.
Do guests have access to the host’s house?
If the thought of people traipsing in and out of your house with wet swimsuits sounds horrible, don’t worry. The Swimply service is, for the most part, contactless.
“People aren’t usually going into your home unless you offer a bathroom or changing room inside,” says Swimply co-founder Asher Weinberger.
When Alexandria, VA, resident Missy Jenkins hosts, she provides hand sanitizer and wipes, and cleans in between guests. (Note that that might not be the norm with every host.)
Can pool hosts make real money?
Whether your goal is to offset pool maintenance costs or earn money as a side gig, being a host yields some tidy dividends.
“From a financial perspective, our hosts are crushing it,” says Weinberger. “It’s not just helping pay for pool costs, but in many cases their mortgage payment.”
Weinberger says Swimply has hosts making over $10,000 a month.
Jenkins declined to disclose what she’s earned from her listing, but she says her earnings covered her home payment in her first month of hosting.
“I’m still learning and experimenting with the booking process, but I love being a host,” Jenkins says.
Will my homeowners insurance cover me?
As a pool owner, you’re probably aware of what your insurance policy covers regarding the friend, family, and neighbors who use your pool—but what about for the commercial use of hosting?
It’s not possible to get more insurance for this just yet, Weinberger says, but that’s not uncommon with newly launched platforms. Swimply hopes to offer an insurance product soon. But for now, the company has a built-in liability waiver.
Coming soon for rent: Backyard retreats, private gyms, and more
Swimply will soon offer more spaces to rent through a collaboration with Joyspace, an app that offers up tennis courts, private gyms, hot tubs, backyard retreats, and more.