Local swimming pool owners have found a way to make extra cash this summer by renting out their facilities by the hour through an app called Swimply. It’s been called the Airbnb of pools.
Swimply was launched in June 2018. The idea came from a 20-year-old named Bunim Laskin. Laskin, the eldest of 12 siblings, noticed that many of his Long Island, N.Y., neighbors didn’t use their pools. He asked if he could rent them for a few hours for his family.
Laskin co-founded the company in 2018 with Asher Weinberger. The partners used Google Maps to find pools in their area and then went door-to-door convincing owners to rent them by the hour to strangers through their new company, Swimply. Then they launched the website and within a few weeks they had thousands of bookings.
The company has grown 4,000 percent over the past year, with 13,000 listings including pools from all over the United States, Canada, and Australia. Swimply provides hosts with $1 million of insurance. Hosts pay Swimply a 15 percent service fee for each booking.
Several Vancouver pools popped up on a recent search, as well as swimming spots in Hazel Dell, Battle Ground, Woodland and Portland. One Vancouver listing offered a large, heated pool, hot tub, and sports court. A mid-century modern heated indoor pool in Portland advertises itself as a “Mad Men” pool.
Michelle Melton has a house with a pool in Battle Ground that she’s rented through Airbnb. A couple months ago, her boyfriend saw a story about Swimply on the news. He told her she should think about renting just the pool.
Melton was skeptical but built a profile. Her post blew up over night.
“It’s a cash cow,” she said. “In the last 30 days, I’ve made $4,500 and there are bookings I couldn’t accept because I already rented the house through Airbnb.” Moving forward she plans on favoring Swimply bookings over her Airbnb rentals. She can make $750 a day through Swimply and only a fraction of that by renting her home through Airbnb.
Her pool in Battle Ground rents for $75 an hour, plus $5 extra per guest for parties with more than five people. The pool rental includes a full outdoor kitchen with a large grill, a pool house, outdoor seating, towels, pool toys, a shower, and Bluetooth speakers for guests to play their music. “Out here you can play music loud,” she said, because there aren’t any close neighbors.
Since she started renting her pool in the beginning of July, she’s seen a variety of guest groupings: Parents with their children, a surprise party for 30-somethings from Portland, and 10 ladies who requested a clothing-optional party for their friend’s 40th birthday. This last group needed a bit of coaxing after their four-hour time slot ended.
“I had a hard time getting them out of the pool,” said Melton.
She does have a few rules. No glassware in the pool area and children under 2 years old aren’t allowed in the pool.
In the past, Melton closed her pool on Oct. 15. “Maybe I should heat this thing and see how winter goes,” she said. She believes that she can continue to make an average of $1,200 per week throughout most of the year.
Since the pool is now a business, maintenance expenses like heating the pool can be deducted from her tax return.
Swimming pools aren’t common in the Pacific Northwest, but a combination of extremely hot summers and a new way to rent pool time suddenly makes installing a pool a potentially smart investment.
“When I put in the pool, I got a lot of (ribbing) about it, but now I’m laughing my way to the bank,” said Melton.