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Homeowners using social media to rent out pools, backyards for special events

Lynn Crête sits by the pool at her home in Gatineau, Que., on Tuesday, July 6, 2021.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
July 07, 2021 - 9:00 PM

Kim Johannesson knew she needed to get creative in finding ways to work out when Manitoba went into another COVID-19 lockdown in May.

For the third time since the pandemic started, gyms and other fitness facilities, including public pools, were shut down.

Desperate to find a way to continue the exercise she depends on for her physical and mental health, Johannesson started searching online for options.

"I've always loved the water. I've always loved swimming and I just thought, 'Is it possible there's somebody that would rent their pool?'" she said.

Turns out there was.

Swimply is an online booking app, similar to Airbnb, that allows users to rent someone's private pool by the hour. Hosts decide on the rate. Some charge between $40 and $100 an hour.

The platform launched three years ago and operates in the United States, Canada and Australia.

A combination of pandemic restrictions and word of mouth thrust the app into the Canadian market sooner than the company expected.

"We never planned it. We always had a suspicion that Canada would be a good market for us, and it's turning out to be very much the case," said Asher Weinberger, co-founder and chief operating officer of Swimply.

There are hundreds of hosts in Canada. Most are in Toronto or the surrounding area.

Listings in the country have increased by 400 per cent this year, said the company.

"This is the most effortless income you could earn," said Weinberger, adding the revenue that hosts bring in allows them to pay for pool maintenance and upkeep.

That was one of the reasons Kevin Zhang decided to list his pool on the app last month.

The resident of North York, Ont., said looking after a pool is expensive, especially when few people in his family use it. "We spend a lot of money to maintain. (We) have to buy lots of chemicals," he said.

Zhang charges $60 an hour for up to five guests. After that, it's an extra $8 hourly for each additional guest.

On the flip side, pool rentals give people an opportunity to enjoy a luxury many are not afforded.

While Swimply appears to be one of the only apps dedicated to pool rentals, other postings across Canada can be found on various buy-and-sell sites.

Lynn Crête posted her pool and yard in Gatineau, Que., on Kijiji and Facebook Marketplace. Crête uses Airbnb to handle the listing, but thought posting it elsewhere would garner more attention.

She started renting out rooms in her home through Airbnb a few years after the death of her husband in 2011.

"When he died I put my heart and soul into creating these beautiful gardens and beautiful backyard. There's no way I would ever consider leaving and going and living in an apartment," she said. "But then, at the same time, I knew I couldn't stay here by myself and maintain all of this."

Crete decided to rent out her pool and yard for birthday and bachelorette parties as well as graduation events. She said she reinvests the money she makes into making her space more enjoyable.

She charges $300 for the day for up to 10 people. It's an additional $25 per person if the group is larger than that.

Crête recommends using a third-party service to handle bookings because there are insurance policies in place.

Through Swimply, North American hosts are eligible for up to $1 million in coverage in case of injury and up to $10,000 for property damage.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 7, 2021.

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This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship

News from © The Canadian Press, 2021
The Canadian Press

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