Asher Weinberger didn’t start out intending to create the Airbnb of pools.
All the Valley Stream-based entrepreneur wanted was a way to manage his friends’ requests to use his pool. But then he hosted a networking event where a young man floated the idea for an online service that would let homeowners rent out their pools at hourly rates.
“I thought it was crazy, but I said, ‘Okay, let's give it a shot,’” said Weinberger, 34. “We went onto Google Earth, we looked for big blue splotches from the sky, we knocked on 80 doors. We got kicked out of 76 of them, and we got four pools to sign up.…And voilà, within five weeks, we had thousands of strangers swimming in strangers’ pools.”
Weinberger and his co-founder, Bunin Laskin, 22, who lives in Rockaway Beach, raised $1.2 million in capital, called the new service Swimply and, after running a pilot program in 2018, officially launched it last summer. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, they worried their new business would go under. Instead, it has seen a massive surge in demand from cooped-up people desperate for ways to relax and get relief from the summer heat while avoiding crowds, Weinberger said. It also has attracted attention from homeowners seeking new income streams, he said.
Swimply now handles “well into seven figures a month" in revenues and operates in 42 states as well as Canada and Australia, Weinberger said. The next step will be the launch of JoySpace, which will let people rent spaces such as sports courts, docked boats and barns, he said.
Weinberger said Swimply has about 80 to 100 pool listings on Long Island, and more than 5,500 nationwide. Hourly costs typically range from about $45 to $60 on Long Island; the service takes a 15% cut of that, and charges guests an additional 10% fee. Swimply requires hosts and guests to sign waivers, and hosts set rules about use of bathrooms and take care of hygiene and pool maintenance.
Among the Long Island hosts is Eddie Mack, who renovated the backyard of his Port Jefferson home last year, installing a new pool, sports court and landscaping.
“It’s fun, actually,” he said of welcoming guests onto his property. “You get some people that you never meet, and you get some people that you hang out with.”
The 35-year-old insurance agent charges $200 an hour for use of the pool and sports court, and he said he cleans surfaces between each visit and provides hand sanitizer, among other precautions. His guests, he said, are “normally people who know each other, like families,” he said. “Most people are pretty respectful, they take their trash with them. I haven’t had any issues as of yet.”
Mark Moshel, 36, a locksmith who lives with his family in Queens, booked Mack’s pool and sports court for his son Harel’s second birthday party, bringing together three generations of family members for one of their first gatherings since the shutdown started, Moshel said.
The family spent the time “making good memories and having a good time,” Moshel said. “I really enjoyed it, and I can't wait for the next time.”
Kenia Estrella, who lives in the Bronx, heard about Swimply on television and searched the metropolitan region for a place to host her daughter Charlize Gonzalez’s 12th birthday party. The family ended up traveling to Howell, N.J., for a pool party. “I wanted to do something where we can be outside but not be around so many people,” said Estrella, 40, a stay-at-home mom. “This was perfect.”
In some local municipalities, officials said they have no regulations specifically preventing homeowners from renting out pools. In Long Beach, a city spokesman said if the city received a complaint, it would investigate, as it does when it receives a complaint about a home rental. Homeowners could be fined for violations such as running a business out of their home, said the spokesman, John McNally.
Dan Barry, 37, a stand-up comedian who lives in Amityville, said when people first hear about Swimply, it might sound “kind of dodgy.” But he said he loves using a pool in Rockville Centre that he said is pristine and picturesque. He has booked the pool for $65 an hour when his three young nieces, ages 4 to 6, visit Long Island, or he’ll split a visit with a friends.
“It’s somewhat of a luxury item, but it’s also not really,” he said. For a socially distant way to spend time with family and friends, he said, “it’s not a bad deal.”
Swimply at a glance
- Typical rental rate for pools on Long Island: $45 to $60 an hour
- Swimply takes a 15% share of the hourly rate.
- Guests pay an additional 10% fee.
- Guests and hosts sign waivers.
- Hosts handle pool maintenance