Tri-City homeowners take the plunge into pool rentals
When Bunim Laskin was a kid in New Jersey, he was always looking for things to do.
“I am the oldest of 12 kids,” he said. “And growing up, I never attended summer camp.”
One day during a long, hot summer, Laskin eyed his neighbor’s swimming pool.
“I convinced the neighbor to let me use his pool for a fee,” Laskin said. “The lightbulb went off when the neighbor said ‘yes.’ ”
That lightbulb led Laskin to start Swimply, which connects owners of private swimming pools with people who are willing to pay a fee to use them for a few hours.
He realized how many other pools there were, many of which weren’t being used a lot.
The new company, Swimply, has become the “Airbnb of swimming pools.”
“Except,” interjected Laskin, “Swimply rents out by the hour, while Airbnb is at least an overnight stay. Plus, normally people come to the pool from your community, rather than come in from out of town.”
So far, seven Tri-City pool owners have taken the plunge and listed theirs with Swimply.
On the Swimply platform, people who own swimming pools rent the pools out to people by the hour.
Laskin, 25, and his business partner went on Shark Tank a few years ago to raise $600,000 to get the business up and running.
All the sharks turned Laskin down. But other people watched that show and were willing to dive in.
“Six months later, we had $10 million from other investors,” said Laskin, who quit school after that. “The CEO of Airbnb invested in us.”
Potential guests use Swimply to browse through the available pools in their area, their amenities, prices, reviews and so forth.
Once the host approves a request, the time is confirmed. The guest receives an email with the exact address, codes to authorize access to the property, Wi-Fi information, and any other information needed.
For pool owners, it’s just as easy: Once they’ve signed up with Swimply, they post pictures of the pool and backyard, pick an hourly price and set their pool rules. The pool owners then confirm the booking and get paid within 24 hours after the booking is complete.
Laskin’s team works with the pool hosts to figure out the best hourly rate, so that it might be attractive for repeat customers.
The advantage for pool hosts is that Swimply provides the hosts with a customer base with the app and institutional support, including insurance.
“It’s really user friendly,” said Jenny Vollmer, a Kennewick resident who listed her pool on Swimply.
Insurance is a key part of the business.
Swimply offers a $3 million property insurance package, and $1 million in liability insurance through its partnership with Airbnb.
Swimply takes a 15% booking fee.
Tri-City area pools
Swimply’s whole process has made a splash in the Tri-Cities.
“Yes. Surprisingly yes,” said Melanie Robertson, a Kennewick pool owner who said she is happy with the service. “You never know what you’re going to get when you rent your private property.”
Robertson said she and her family were going to have a busy summer.
“And we put in this amazing pool,” she said. “I thought why not try the app? It was delayed a little with the cool weather we’ve had. But when the weather got hot we started renting the pool.”
Vollmer was a bit hesitant about renting out her family’s pool to strangers when they first tried the app in July 2020, when Swimply first came into the Tri-Cities.
“I initially thought it would be weird. But everyone we’ve hosted has been great,” Vollmer said. “It’s been a really good experience. The benefits have far outweighed the costs.”
“It has more than paid for the excess chlorine and replacement filter. It’s more than covered the money for those things,” Robertson said.
Both Fullmer and Robertson have rules for their pools. Neither will allow more than 25 people at their pool for parties. There is no horseplay.
Depending on any of the area’s hosts, barbecues, backyard swings and fire pits may be available with a pool rental.
“When you have a pool, it makes it more affordable,” Vollmer said. “It pays for the chemicals, the heating, and the water you put in the pool.”
And while Robertson and Vollmer are not looking to get rich through this venture, some pool hosts around the country are making over six figures.
Who rents pools?
Laskin says that 70% of all bookings come from families.
“It’s definitely families,” agreed Robertson, who had eight bookings this summer (with one repeat customer) and three more scheduled.
“Birthday parties. Parents with kids definitely love the idea of coming to a pool for a large party. Only one group has been all adults, and they said they’d be coming back with their kids. So far, we’re averaging two pool bookings a week.”
Vollmer said she averages one booking a week.
“Our experience has mostly been kids’ birthday parties,” Vollmer said. “Although we recently had a 50th all-ladies birthday party.”
Usually, the parties last from a minimum of two hours up to about five hours. Rates for the seven Tri-City pools vary from $20 to $85 an hour.
Both Robertson and Vollmer have spouses and children, and they make sure they find time for the family to use the pool by blocking out dates just for themselves.
What’s next for Swimply?
Swimply employee Cassandra Sosa said there currently are 247 private swimming pools in Washington state rented out.
For the week of July 25, Swimply’s gross booking value was $95,000 in Washington state, with almost 1,000 hours booked.
Laskin said there are 25,000 swimming pool owners in the United States using Swimply.
“I’ve really trusted Swimply with what they are doing,” Vollmer said. “It’s a real win-win for everybody.”
Laskin hopes to replicate Swimply’s success with tennis court, hot tub, indoor pool or music studio rentals.
Go to swimply.com.