If based in Los Angeles Bunim Laskin grew up all he wanted was a swimming pool. When he was in his 20s, he found a way to get one: when a neighbor complained about the cost of maintaining his backyard pool, Laskin suggested he rent it out and was paid to manage it. Soon he was renting out swimming pools all over his neighborhood. He set up a hotline for people to call to book a pool in their area, and in 2019 formalized the business as Swimply, a website and app for Los Angeles homeowners to rent out their backyard pools for a few hours — sort of like Airbnb but for swimming. It expanded to Toronto in 2021 and is now available in Vancouver and Montreal.
It’s not surprising that homeowners are looking for ways to make some money from their properties. With interest rates rising and inflation rising, it’s a difficult time for many, especially first-time owners. And for those still hoping to hit the market, renting part of their property may be the only way to afford a home: The average home price in Canada is down 12.1 percent year over year, according to the House Price Survey up to $815,000 from Royal LePage. Homeowners are finding ways to use their largest and most expensive assets to make extra money to offset those expenses.
“The cost of maintaining a pool is significant, no matter how often it’s used,” says Laskin. “And according to an internal survey we conducted among our hosts, these pools are used less than 15 percent of the time. Renting it out during those idle hours is easy cash.” According to Laskin, some hosts are making up to $10,000 a month with Swimply. The average cost of renting a pool for an hour ranges from $20 to $100, and the pool owner keeps 85 percent of that.
“People often look at what they already own and try to make passive income from it”
Swimply and similar companies are part of the consumer-to-consumer or C2C space, which includes everything from Airbnb to Facebook Marketplace and is growing massively. Facebook Marketplace, for example, has more than a billion monthly active users in 2021, according to CEO Mark Zuckerberg in a earnings call. And Laskin says that so far this year, Swimply has seen an 82 percent increase in new guests in North America. partly because so many people are looking for cheaper stays.
According to Statista, in 2019 almost half of all online purchases worldwide were made through a C2C marketplace, while retail websites accounted for just a quarter of purchases. In 2020, more than 100 million people in the United States were using some kind of C2C website. This is much larger than a classic newspaper classifieds section, although it follows the same principle and many companies are springing up to facilitate these transactions – particularly those involving residential real estate.
Jean-Michel Petit founded the C2C company Eatwith in 2015, which enables homeowners to rent out their dining rooms and offer meals to paying guests. “We see that post-Covid there is an appetite for smaller events,” says Petit. “Canadians want that human experience and they might not care if it’s a three-star, Michelin-level meal or not.” The platform has amateur hosts to semi-professional chefs serving between 10,000 and 15,000 dollars a month hosting private dinners. Eatwith currently has only a few hosts in Canada, but the start-up is growing — bookings are up fivefold compared to 2019 — and it’s considering how to expand further in North America.
The C2C model is also applied to the shared use of home offices. While many people would like to work from home, not everyone has the best place to do it. UK-based Daniel Hillman faced this while working from home as a property consultant during Covid. His wife also worked from home and they had a two year old living with them. Daniel asked his neighbor if he could borrow his home office for a video call, and before long he was borrowing many of his neighbors’ home offices. Now he has turned it into Jarvo, running a pilot home office rental business in Reading and Bristol, UK, with over 1,000 workspaces.
“Our homeowners want to make extra money; Inflation is at its highest level in years and the cost of living continues to rise,” Hillman said. He hopes to bring Jarvo to Canada next year. “The sharing economy is worth $204 billion globally,” he says. “People often look at what they already own and try to make passive income from it. This is a quick way to do that.”