Mike Owens throws a pool party several times a week, but it's not for him.
Instead, Owens, 53, rents his pool in Waxahachie, Texas, out to strangers through a website and app called Swimply. This month, he's made nearly $4,200.
Swimply.com is like Airbnb, but for pools. Pool owners charge an hourly rate, ranging from $15 to $60 and then can add an additional fee per guest. Pools are also listed as being either "family-friendly" or "party-friendly." The average pool costs $45 an hour and pricing is based on pool size, amenities, timing, and demand.
Swimply takes a 15% fee from the host and charges those who are renting a 10% fee, said spokeswoman Daylyn Weppner. Anyone swimming must sign a liability waiver through Swimply to protect hosts. Hosts also don't need a permit to list their pool.
The New York-based company launched in late 2018 and raised more than $1 million from private investors. Swimply co-founder Bunim Laskin pitched his app last year on the TV show Shark Tank, asking for $300,000 for a 5% stake in his company. He walked away without a deal.
But that episode served its purpose. Owens said he discovered Swimply from the Shark Tank appearance and decided to sign up his pool in June.
He takes pride in his backyard. He said he's spent more than $250,000 on it and has a pool, a commercial-grade playground, a basketball court, a volleyball court, a zip line, a lounge area and a grilling area. He rents out his pool for $60 an hour and has a $10 per guest fee after 5 guests.
His pool stays booked through the weekend and even sometimes throughout the week with eager people looking for a way to cool off from the Texas heat, Owens said.
Asher Weinberger, a co-founder of Swimply, rents out his personal pool in New York. He said he's made $20,000 in the last month.
"You can make a few thousand dollars a day," Weinberger said. "Data shows a pool is used around 15% of its available time and the other 85% it's sitting there. You can turn it into not just a few hundred dollars a week, but a few thousand dollars a week, easily."
His co-founder, Laskin, came up with the idea to monetize pools after he noticed that his neighbor's pools were always empty, Weinberger said. He decided to ask a neighbor if he could help pay for the expenses in exchange for a few hours each week of pool time. Soon, the entire block wanted to go to that neighbor's pool.
"We thought it was a little crazy at first, but it made sense to us for our own personal lives," Weinberger said. "Could this be something that would scale nationally or even internationally? We had no idea."
Business at Swimply has boomed because of COVID-19, posting more than 2,000% year for year growth, Weinberger said.
Why? Homebound people are looking for things to do. While public pools were closed at the beginning of the pandemic, people didn't have to shut down their private pools.
"We have had possibly one of the only safe, truly contactless, healthy, viable options for people," Weinberger said.
Adriana Banda drove from Oak Cliff with her eight family members to rent Owens' pool for four hours on Sunday afternoon.
Banda said her family usually goes camping or on a beach vacation during the summer, but because of COVID, they've mostly stayed at home or gone to work. Her sister recommended Swimply and sent her the link to Owens' pool.
"We definitely wanted something that was really private because of COVID," Banda, 19, said. "But we wanted to have some summer fun so it was honestly pretty easy to use and I really liked it so I'd probably use it again."
She said she enjoyed all of Owens' amenities, such as the grilling area, zipline and volleyball area because it allowed her large family to do other things besides swim the entire time.
"We're getting almost like a small vacation experience there," Banda said. "So that topped it off for us and we just decided to go."
Once a party is over, Owens said he adds extra chemicals to his pool to kill any bacteria or algae and has a pool service that cleans his pool weekly. Clients have ranged from families with children to adults looking to have a party, Owens said. He hasn't had any major issues with people trashing his property or being destructive.
Sometimes, he even joins the party.
"I'm often invited to stay," Owens said. "Not only is this person paying the 400, 500, 600 bucks when they're there, they're also a bunch of single adults drinking and having a good time and I get to join right in. The party comes to me almost."
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