An ‘Airbnb for Pools’ Is Making A Splash
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An ‘Airbnb for Pools’ Is Making A Splash

Swimply reports surge in demand amid pandemic, rising pool-chemical costs.

By SAMI SPARBER
Wed, Jul 21, 2021 10:51amGrey Clock 3 min

Jim Battan’s tree-lined swimming pool at his home outside Portland, Ore., had been sitting untouched since his youngest daughter moved out two years ago. Then in September, he listed it through an online platform for renting private pools.

He booked the pool three times within the first two hours, and says he has hosted 2,700 guests in less than a year. Mr. Battan expects to have earned $111,000 by the end of the summer, which would just cover the $110,000 he and his wife spent on the custom-built pool eight years ago.

“I thought, ‘Wow, that’s weird,’ ” Mr. Battan said. “It’s nice to feel like we didn’t have to spend all $110,000 for nothing.”

He is one of 13,000 pool owners in 125 markets across the U.S., including cities like Los Angeles and Austin, Texas, who are cashing in on their underused pool by listing with the company Swimply, which some media reports have dubbed the “Airbnb for backyard pools.”

Swimply said its pool owners have made about 122,000 bookings since the start of 2020. Business began picking up before the Covid-19 pandemic, but it boomed during the health crisis as public pools closed and people sought to make extra cash or safely gather after months of lockdown.

“We’ve seen a lot of families [and friends] rekindling with Swimply,” said Bunim Laskin, Swimply co-founder and chief executive.

Hosts on average earn between about $5,000 and $10,000 a month, according to Asher Weinberger, Swimply co-founder and chief operating officer. Most pool owners charge between $35 and $50 an hour, while Swimply collects 15% from the hosts and another 10% from the guests.

Some of the hosts’ earnings help pay for costs related to pool maintenance, which have jumped during the pandemic because lockdowns and business slowdowns disrupted the pool-chemical supply chain. Mr. Weinberger said he now spends $85 a week on chemicals and servicing his pool, up from $45 before the pandemic.

“It’s a hunt for chlorine at the best price,” said Shanon Zoeller, a Swimply host in Oklahoma City, who said he has made $10,000 since he started renting out his pool last June.

Most swimmers are local families, Mr. Weinberger said. Bookings on average run five to seven people. Hosts choose their rental rate, upload photos of their pool and list amenities, such as a barbecue grill or sound system.

It’s not a party for the pool owners. Rather, hosting is “an amazing amount of work,” Mr. Battan said. Most days he wakes up at 5 a.m. to skim the water of leaves. His wife cleans the pool-house bathroom and lays out rows of pool toys before each booking.

Swimply isn’t the only pool in town. Peerspace, a marketplace for booking film-production locations and event venues, offers thousands of spaces with swimming pools at hourly rates.

“With the heat rising, we see lots of demand for outdoor spaces, many of which have pools,” said Matt Bendett, Peerspace co-founder and vice president of operations.

Short-term rental companies like Airbnb Inc. and vacation-home rental firms including Expedia Group’s Vrbo also rent homes with pools by the day.

Like Airbnb and its industry peers, Swimply has to navigate safety and liability concerns. A swimmer could drown or rowdy guests might cause property damage.

To mitigate those risks, about 80% of the company’s hosts opt to stay home while guests are using their pool, Mr. Weinberger said. The company also has in place host liability insurance for as much as $1 million and a property-damage-protection policy.

Mr. Battan said he hasn’t had a serious problem arise while renting his pool, but he still prefers to be home during bookings. “There are too many risks with unattended guests,” he said, referring to “horror stories” of underage drinking and noisy events.

Next month, Mr. Zoeller is hosting a nearly 40-person pool party. He said enforcing rules about street parking and loud music has kept his neighbours happy.

“The worst thing that’s happened is I found two beer cans in the skimmer once,” Mr. Zoeller said.

Reprinted by permission of The Wall Street Journal, Copyright 2021 Dow Jones & Company. Inc. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Original date of publication: July 20, 2021



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A Killer Golf Swing Is a Hot Job Skill Now

Companies are eager to hire strong players who use hybrid work schedules to schmooze clients on the course

By CALLUM BORCHERS
Fri, Jun 14, 2024 5 min

Standout golfers who aren’t quite PGA Tour material now have somewhere else to play professionally: Corporate America.

People who can smash 300-yard drives and sink birdie putts are sought-after hires in finance, consulting, sales and other industries, recruiters say. In the hybrid work era, the business golf outing is back in a big way.

Executive recruiter Shawn Cole says he gets so many requests to find ace golfers that he records candidates’ handicaps, an index based on average number of strokes over par, in the information packets he submits to clients. Golf alone can’t get you a plum job, he says—but not playing could cost you one.

“I know a guy that literally flies around the world in a private jet loaded with French wine, and he golfs and lands hundred-million-dollar deals,” Cole says.

Tee times and networking sessions have long gone hand-in-golf-glove. Despite criticism that doing business on the course undermines diversity, equity and inclusion efforts—and the fact that golf clubs haven’t always been open to women and minorities —people who mix golf and work say the outings are one of the last reprieves from 30-minute calendar blocks

Stars like Tiger Woods and Michelle Wie West helped expand participation in the sport. Still, just 22% of golfers are nonwhite and 26% are women, according to the National Golf Foundation.

To lure more people, clubs have relaxed rules against mobile-phone use on the course, embracing white-collar professionals who want to entertain clients on the links without disconnecting from the office. It’s no longer taboo to check email from your cart or take a quick call at the halfway turn.

With so much other business conducted virtually, shaking hands on the green and schmoozing over clubhouse beers is now seen as making an extra effort, not slacking off.

Americans played a record 531 million rounds last year. Weekday play has nearly doubled since 2019, with much of the action during business hours , according to research by Stanford University economist Nicholas Bloom .

“It would’ve been scandalous in 2019 to be having multiple meetings a week on the golf course,” Bloom says. “In 2024, if you’re producing results, no one’s going to see anything wrong with it.”

A financial adviser at a major Wall Street bank who competes on the amateur circuit told me he completes 90% of his tasks by 10 a.m. because he manages long-term investment plans that change infrequently. The rest of his workday often involves golfing with clients and prospects. He’s a member of a private club with a multiyear waiting list, and people jump at the chance to join him on a course they normally can’t access.

There is an art to bringing in business this way. He never initiates shoptalk, telling his playing partners the round is about having fun and getting to know each other. They can’t resist asking about investment strategies by the back nine, he says.

Work hard, play hard

Matt Parziale golfed professionally on minor-league tours for several years, but when his dream of making the big time ended, he had to get a regular job. He became a firefighter, like his dad.

A few years later he won one of the biggest amateur tournaments in the country, earning spots in the 2018 Masters and U.S. Open, where he tied for first among non-pros.

The brush with celebrity brought introductions to business types that Parziale, 35 years old, says he wouldn’t have met otherwise. One connection led to a job with a large insurance broker. In 2022 he jumped to Deland, Gibson Insurance Associates in Wellesley, Mass., which recognised his golf game as a tool to help win large accounts.

He rescheduled our interview because he was hosting clients at a private club on Cape Cod, and squeezed me in the next morning, before teeing off with a business group in Newport, R.I.

A short time ago, Parziale couldn’t imagine making a living this way. Now he’s the norm in elite amateur golf circles.

“I look around at the guys at the events I play, and they all have these jobs ,” he says.

His boss, Chief Executive Chip Gibson, says Parziale is good at bringing in business because he puts as much effort into building relationships as honing his game. A golf outing is merely an opportunity to build trust that can eventually lead to a deal, and it’s a misconception that people who golf during work hours don’t work hard, he says.

Barry Allison’s single-digit handicap is an asset in his role as a management consultant at Accenture , where he specialises in travel and hospitality. He splits time between Washington, D.C., and The Villages, Fla., a golf mecca that boasts more than 50 courses.

It can be hard to get to know people in distributed work environments, he says. Go golfing and you’ll learn a lot about someone’s temperament—especially after a bad shot.

“If you see a guy snap a club over his knee, you don’t know what he’s going to snap next,” Allison says.

Special access

On a recent afternoon I was a lunch guest at Brae Burn Country Club, a private enclave outside Boston that was the site of U.S. Golf Association championships won by legends like Walter Hagen and Bobby Jones. I parked in the second lot because the first one was full—on a Wednesday.

My host was Cullen Onstott, managing director of the Onstott Group executive search firm and a former collegiate golfer at Fairfield University. He explained one reason companies prize excellent golfers is they can put well-practiced swings on autopilot and devote most of their attention to chitchat.

It’s hard to talk with potential customers about their needs and interests when you’re hunting for errant shots in the woods. It’s also challenging if you show off.

The first hole at Brae Burn is a 318-yard par 4 that slopes down, enabling big hitters like Onstott to reach the putting green in a single stroke. But to stay close to his playing partners and keep the conversation flowing, he sometimes hits a shorter shot.

Having an “in” at an exclusive club can make you a catch. Bo Burch, an executive recruiter in North Carolina, says clubs in his region tend to attract members according to their business sectors. One might be chock-full of real-estate investors while another has potential buyers of industrial manufacturing equipment.

Burch looks for candidates who are members of clubs that align with his clients’ industries, though he stresses that business acumen comes first when filling positions.

Tami McQueen, a former Division I tennis player and current chief marketing officer at Atlanta investment firm BIP Capital, signed up for private golf lessons this year. She had noticed colleagues were wearing polos with course logos and bringing their clubs to work. She wanted in.

McQueen joined business associates on the golf course for the first time in March at the PGA National Resort in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. She has lowered her handicap to a respectable 26 and says her new skill lends a professional edge.

“To be able to say, ‘I can play with you and we can have those business meetings on the course’ definitely opens a lot more doors,” she says.

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This stylish family home combines a classic palette and finishes with a flexible floorplan

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