SOUTHWEST FLORIDA — A pool-sharing app called Swimmy is giving non-pool owners access to a hot weather escape.
"It's a great way to let their idle pool get some action. It's a great opportunity to make some income, and it's one of those things that you can do right on your phone. You can do it right on the go. It's right from your platform and app. And in the matter of seconds, you can be grabbing your towel and preparing to make memories,” Isobella Harkrider, a Swimmy representative, said.
The app launched in 2017 but stayed mostly in Europe. Recently, it has hit the United States. Swimmy brought their services to Texas, California and Florida.
Harkrider said Florida was an obvious choice. The weather was an added bonus.
"Florida represents fun. I think it represents relaxation, fun and memories. You can't think of Florida without smiling and thinking about let's go to Florida and have a great time. And that energy around the state, I think, is what appeals to Swimmy,” she said.
Reviews on the app are mixed; while others enjoyed their Swimmy experience, others were not happy. People expressed concerns about hosts deleting ratings, issues with pool reservations and emails that went ignored.
Another issue is safety. Hosts are exposing a massive part of their property to strangers.
Thomas Kontinos, a pool owner and security consultant, said he would never use the app.
"The money part it's not worth it to me. I saw some of the Youtubes where people are making tens of thousands of dollars. That's a lot of rental time. That's a lot of people going into your backyard. You have no idea who 95% of the people are there in your backyard," he said.
Swimmy offers similar services to other apps like Uber, Airbnb and Swimply, so naturally, safety was a concern.
"The best way to keep it safe is not to do it at all, of course, but you know, that's people make that. As a business decision and a financial decision," Kontinos said.
He said if you decide to use the app, invest in curtains and a security system.
Swimmy has a verification process that includes providing proof of address and the last four of your social security. Kontinos said this doesn't add any level of security.
"Understand only one person. You're only getting one piece of the information. I've looked at the app and you know, there's 5, 10, 15 guests that could necessarily show up at a pool party. Well, you only know one of those people; you don't know who the other 14 people are. They're showing up there. Are they friends or their relatives, or who they are? So, does it give they give a layer of security? I think not, you know, because you're getting less than 10% of, of the group itself and who they are,” he said.
He reminded users that your backyard is a private part of your property.
"You can't watch your backyard 24/7, and you've already exposed your property,” he said. “They know it; they can come back. They'd probably know what kind of car you drive because it's parked in the driveway,” Kontinos said.
Harkrider said pool host and guests could chat before to communicate any concerns either party has.
But pool experts warn about pool cleanliness. Chris Wiant, the Water Quality and Health Council chair, said public pools have regulations that private pools don’t have.
"If its the homeowner is maintaining the pool and if they really aren't skilled at that, then you can really have the same kinds of problems where the pool water quality isn't very good,” Wiant said.
If you decide to use Swimmy, Wiant recommends hiring a professional pool cleaning service.
Connor Bare, a Pool Doctor manager, said the average pool owner shouldn’t use Swimmy. He said the extra traffic in the pool makes for more maintenance and possible algae build-up.
"There's a lot of behind-the-scenes things when it comes to pool servicing and cleaning the average person doesn't know. So, I would recommend unless you were proficient in something like that to get into it, but for the average pool owner, I don't think I would really recommend," he said.
He said it takes the proper amount of chemicals to limit extra bacteria from living in your pool.
"If you don't use enough chlorine in the pool, it's going to be a little bit harder for the chemicals in the pool to react with the algae and the bacteria. You do want to make sure you have the proper level of chemicals in the pool, just so you know that it's being treated and handled accurately,” Bare said.
Swimmy recommends guests shower before entering the pool and Wiant agrees.
"It's particularly important because whether we think so or not, there is contaminants on your body. Fecal material, it's sunscreen, it's whatever it may be, and that gets in the pool and utilizes the chlorine,” Wiant said.
Harkrider said the app doesn’t monitor pool quality, instead relying on “good faith.”
There are currently no pools in the Fort Myers or Naples area that you can rent, but Harkrider said soon the app will reach all across Florida.