Along with Clorox wipes and toilet paper, the demand for backyard swimming pools has skyrocketed since the pandemic began.
Swimming pool and hot tub suppliers across the country struggled to meet a sudden surge in demand. But creating a pool is an expensive proposition, and not everyone who wanted to swim could build their own backyard oasis.
That gave Ned Gilardino an idea.
He has a pool his three older children seldom use. In 2019 he listed it on Swimply – like a Airbnb for swimming pools – so families near his home in Aurora, Colorado can rent the space for an hour or two.
Ned Gilardino rents his heated saltwater pool in Aurora, Colorado for $ 60 an hour during the summer months.
There weren’t too many bites at first. Then it is Coronavirus crisis closed public swimming pools along with everything else. “All of a sudden around this time last year I got emails,” Gilardino said.
Gilardino’s backyard was fully booked until June when families looked for Covid-friendly activities. He even started a waiting list that grew to 90 names. “It was absolutely wild,” he said.
As a retired teacher, Gilardino was on hand to greet the guests and tidy up between appointments. He even walled in the lower floor so guests could use the bathroom and basement to change clothes without accessing the main part of the house. He also added backyard games like bocce ball and extolled his fire pit.
By the end of the season, Gilardino had made around $ 50,000, he said.
“”There was a pent-up demand for what we were offering, “said Asher Weinberger, Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer of Swimply.” We did it in a way because Covid made us a more relevant story.“”
Weinberger estimates that the business grew by more than 4,000% in the past year. Swimply is now active in every state in the country.
There are currently more than 3,000 pools listed on the website, many of which cost less than $ 100 an hour. (Gilardino charges $ 60 an hour for up to five people on weekends and $ 45 an hour on weekdays. However, discounts are available for multiple bookings.)
Swimply co-founder Asher Weinberger next to his rental pool in Valley Stream, New York.
Leroy Jackson | CNBC
Swimply’s web platform simplifies the booking and payment process and charges hosts and tenants a fee.
Admittedly, according to Weinberger, insurance was an issue that also rents out its own pool on the platform. The company is now using a third party insurer to insure the hosts, and tenants are required to sign a waiver that will compensate the pool owner in the event of accidents.
“It may not cover all of the loopholes,” warned Eric Kollevoll, owner of Kollevoll & Associates, an independent insurance agency in Pennington, New Jersey.
Kollevoll advises the hosts to carefully check this policy with their own insurance company and to check whether it covers accidental damage as well as property damage. “Make sure they include medical payments in case someone gets injured,” he added.
“There are different scenarios in which losses can occur, and they are more common in pools.”
Buy extra coverage where you can, he suggested. “The homeowner should be aware that there are significant risks.”
“It’s one thing to have good insurance and another thing not to be sued,” said Pierson Backes, partner at Backes and Backes law firm, also based in Pennington.
Beyond insurance, “pools are scary even from a legal standpoint,” he said.
There is cause for concern that this could change the name from a family backyard pool to a semi-public pool, according to Backes. This brings a new level of liability that may dictate certain signage, self-closing gates, or rescue equipment – in addition to complying with Covid-related restrictions, he said.
Also, depending on the municipality, there may be a regulation that restricts renting part of your home or property as a convenience.
“I would like to see more shared resources,” Backes said. “But from a liability perspective, I just can’t imagine steering it.
“You’re safe in a minefield.”