Sonoma County’s recent record-breaking high temperatures sent throngs of local residents and visitors scrambling for their nearest pool or coastal beach. Intent on beating the heat, many water seekers put up with the crowds as long as they managed to keep cool.
Now a new Los Angeles-based app is not only offering pool seekers a chance to stay cool when temperatures start to rise, they can do so without the crowds.
Swimply, which has deemed itself the Airbnb for swimming pools, provides pool owners a way to hourly rent their backyard pool spaces to neighbors looking to “escape locally.”
Kathy Housman started renting out her space in May 2021. She has the only pool in Sebastopol on Swimply.
“I built this pool 20 years ago, but the kids are grown and it’s not getting used and I still have to pay for it,” Housman said. “Now, I’m booked all the time and I think people should just try it. People are usually more impressed and happy with what they did than what they thought going in.”
Swimply was created by co-founders Bunim Laskin and Asher Weinberger, who noticed that pools in their area were going mostly unused.
They started asking neighbors if they’d be willing to rent them out and created a website that has now expanded to an app where people can instantly book local, private swimming pools, hot tubs and backyard spaces by the hour.
“Most people have this idea that Swimply is an app for pool parties and disruptive events,” Laskin said. “But Swimply was born because my family didn’t have access to this recreational activity.”
Laskin said that people’s families and their health are the main reasons people book with Swimply, adding that 70% of Swimply bookings are from families with pool parties and events — which must be pre-approved by hosts, abide by the company’s neighbor-friendly policies and have permission from neighbors — making up less than 4% of all bookings.
Laskin also said the company actively works to keep swimmers safe by vetting every pool listing that comes across the site. He added that 99% of the pools on Swimply have five-star reviews.
“Safety is our No. 1 priority,” he said. “Trust and safety teams vet all the pools and the people listing them.”
The app works just like Airbnb, with an additional “instant book” feature that lets pool seekers book as quickly as the day-of with a two-step process.
The average cost of a pool booking is between $45 and $75 per hour. Rentals in Sonoma County tend to range between $50 to $80 per hour. Some bookings have extra amenities that can be included in the booking, such as pool toys, grills and barbecues, or towels and dishware.
Laskin said bookings have increased by 152% since the year before. Some customers book pools for kids’ birthday parties, while others book just to have some quiet pool time alone.
Christine Richardson in Petaluma said parents who couldn’t find open public pools during the pandemic started booking her pools for private swimming lessons for their kids.
“People on Nextdoor were saying how sad they were that their kids can’t get swimming lessons,” she said. “I said I’d be willing to rent out my pool if you want to get your own swim instructor.”
Like Housman, Richardson’s kids are older and her pool doesn’t get used much anymore. Renting it out through Swimply helped offset the costs associated with her pool, as well as helped her to know her neighbors better.
“It’s a good community builder,” she said. “It’s great to see the pool getting used again.”