Philadelphia area owners rent their pools on Swimply

Mel Stewart had no idea there were mermaid synchronized swimming clubs until a member of a local asked him to rent his Delaware County pool to practice.

But – because of their tails – the mermaids needed a deeper pool.

“Which is a shame because it sounded really cool,” said Stewart.

Stewart, a school administrator and former science teacher, and her husband Gary are offering their pool and hot tub for rent on Swimply, a rental platform that started a few years ago in central New Jersey. Hopeful swimmers can see accommodation listings and prices, just like vacation home rentals. The concept is gaining ground.

During closures at the start of the pandemic, swimming pools were popular additions as people trapped at home tried to create vacation settings. But most homeowners don’t use their pool every day, and maintenance can be costly. Strong demand and supply shortages also mean that homeowners who want a swimming pool are stuck on waiting lists that stretch for a year or more.

The Stewarts heard about New York-based Swimply in an episode of Shark aquarium Last year. Coincidentally, they were offering their Newtown Square backyard to many friends, family and colleagues for private use during last year’s closings.

They put their pool up for rental in April, but reservations took off after Memorial Day. More than 15 clients have reserved space starting at $ 68 or $ 80 per hour depending on the day of the week. One person reserved the pool to relax on their own. A group of girls celebrated their seventh grade graduation. Parents watched the children splash around for a few hours.

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Most swimmers are from Philadelphia. For those who can afford it, renting private pools for a few hours can be an alternative to the city’s outdoor pools. Twenty-two of the city’s 69 most accessible community pools will not open this summer.

“We have a really nice pool,” said Stewart, 48. “We are very lucky in life, and it’s kind of one of those things where we wanted to share our good fortune with others.”

According to Swimply, more than nine in ten Americans do not have access to a swimming pool.

»READ MORE: Here are the municipal swimming pools that will open in Philly this summer

Asher Weinberger, who founded Swimply with Bunim Laskin, from New Jersey, said that when he talks about the concept to people he meets, “there’s a very visceral response.”

“It’s either super weird for them or super awesome for them,” he said.

He said he believed more and more people would be looking for private alternatives to overcrowded public swimming pools due to health and safety concerns during the pandemic.

Day trips with the kids and small gatherings with friends are the most popular uses. But the pools on Swimply also have parties for birthdays, anniversaries and baptisms; aquatherapy for the elderly; swimming lessons; weddings; appointment for dogs; music videos; and photo shoots for swimsuits.

A woman reserves the Weinberger pool at her Long Island home four days a week to swim for an hour.

Across Pennsylvania and New Jersey, approximately 500 pools are available through the platform, and more than 1,000 are on the waitlist pending background checks and the like. In Philadelphia, approximately 50 swimming pools are for rent and 150 are pending.

California saw the strongest growth on Swimply, but until recently the state was linked with the New Jersey-Pennsylvania-New York tri-state region. The company sees the greatest growth potential in metropolitan areas such as Philadelphia, which have a significant gap between those with and without pools, but it has garnered interest in all states. Swimply offers sample guidelines and relies on hosts to comply with local regulations.

Hosts say beyond pool maintenance, rentals help pay off mortgages and school fees, and supplement retreats. Some earn tens of thousands of dollars; others across the country made six figures, Weinberger said. Swimply charges a 15% service charge for each booking.

Most hosts provide guests with access to restrooms, whether in a pool house, guesthouse, or portable toilets. Some offer barbecues, fireplaces and other extras.

Weinberger had just bought his first house with a swimming pool when he heard Laskin’s talk about monetizing private swimming pools at a business meeting a few years ago. Laskin started out by renting out his neighbor’s pool in Lakewood Township, Ocean County, and soon other cul-de-sac families used his pool as well.

»READ MORE: Natural swimming spots near Philadelphia

The couple knocked on about 90 doors to properties with swimming pools in the area in 2018. They picked up four owners and created a small website.

“Within weeks, we had hundreds of strangers swimming in stranger pools,” Weinberger said.

Today the business is profitable and the team has grown to 65 people with offices in Los Angeles and San Francisco. The company has gone from waivers to customers and now offers liability and property insurance. Swimply plans to soon offer the rental of other private spaces, such as basketball and tennis courts, gymnasiums and music studios, under the name Joyspace.

Keara Barber, a 21-year-old swim instructor, said Swimply has helped save the business she started a few years ago, KB’s Super Swimmers, as she works to open her own swimming school. Renting space in commercial swimming pools was too competitive and expensive, and she had too many students to use guest passes at her swim club. Thanks to Swimply, she said, she found her “dream pool” in Bala Cynwyd.

“I use their pool every week for swimming lessons, and it’s amazing,” said Barber, who lives in Upper Darby and works full time as a transaction support analyst at We Buy Any Car. She reserves the pool for hours on Sundays for students she doesn’t visit.

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Kevin Barry, president and founder of Ardmore-based Summit Swimming Pools Inc., said it makes sense for homeowners to see demand for their pools. Barry’s business designs, builds and maintains residential and commercial swimming pools, and during the pandemic, he said, he and his workers became “busier than we’ve ever been in our lives.”

“For construction, we are full for two years,” he said.

READ MORE: Demand for swimming pools rises for second year amid canceled vacations and long days at home

The commercial swim clubs and summer camps the company works with have never been so busy, he said.

In addition to high demand, materials such as PVC pipe, steel, and swimming pool equipment are scarce due to manufacturing disruptions and rising shipping prices. Summit Swimming Pools has been waiting for three spa orders for over a year.

In addition to supply issues, the cost of building a swimming pool can frustrate some homeowners. Installing in-ground pools can cost up to $ 40,000 depending on the features, while above-ground pools are more affordable for many people, said Michael Dean, a pool builder for more than 20 years based in North Carolina. and operator of PoolResearch.com, which provides advice to pool owners.

He advises owners to clean swimming pools regularly, maintain good water circulation, ensure good pool chemistry by testing the chemical balance often, and “shock” pools with disinfectant regularly.

As for renting backyard pools, “I’m not sure I would personally do that, but I’m getting the call,” Dean said. “There seems to be a very voracious market for this. “

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