Your Backyard Is Actually a Charming Private Dog Park—If You Say It

Greg Jessup, wherever possible, likes to squeeze money out of his five-bedroom home in Wilton, Connecticut, often listing it on Airbnb. But this spring, he took a good look at space around Also looked at the house and its potential.

In May, he began listing manicured grounds on Sniffspot, an app where homeowners let dog owners rent their yards by the hour, where their poochs can play.

“I’m always looking for some way to make an extra few bucks,” said Jessup, 43, a chief technology officer for the hedge fund, which charges guests $8 an hour for use of the space, and The latter lists their swimming pool. Also a pool rental app. “If someone’s going to pay me a few bucks to use the yard, great.”

Sniffspot is one of the latest startups designed to help homeowners capitalize on every inch of their wealth. While vacation apps like Airbnb and Vrbo have long dominated the market with traditional home rentals, newcomers have joined the party with special offers — like Swimly, where homeowners rent out their pools by the hour. , and the spacers or peerspaces that transform the living room. party places. Uses vary, but the underlying concept is the same: A homeowner creates a profile on an app, uploads a few photos, and possibly bookings begin.

Sniffspot started as a simple website in Seattle in 2018. Now based in Boston, the company has 1,500 cities, with 7,000 hosts making about 10,000 bookings a month, according to David Adams, 35, the company’s founder. After guests log on, search for places near their home and sign up, most listings cost around $10 an hour for one dog or $15 for two.

For an average of about three to four guests a week, Jessup’s profit is modest as he pays the 22% commission that Sniffspot tops out, plus credit card processing fees. But as far as passive income goes, it doesn’t get any easier than hosting dogs. Jessup simply leaves the keys to the backyard to the guests, and they come and go without much effort on his part.

Some hosts are more involved, such as Meghan Rabon, who rents out her acre lot in Oxford, New Jersey, a rural community of 2,500 people about 70 miles west of New York City.

“We make it a dog’s paradise,” said Rabon, 37.

The shaded, fenced yard has a small upstairs pool with ramps so dogs can jump in. Down a long, gentle slope is an obstacle course, complete with a seesaw, tunnel, and puppy parkour equipment designed to outsmart any four-legged visitor. , The day I went, birds chirped, a rooster roared from a nearby property, and my dog ​​was in heaven, running from one end of the fenced property to the other.

Rabon, who breeds Jack Russell Terriers and works for a pharmaceutical lab, said most of his guests drive from New York City in search of a place for their apartment-bound puppies. I paid $35 for the one-hour visit, a premium for the site, but Rabon said she puts the price high to limit use because each booking means she has to mow the lawn, clean the pool, etc. and equipment may have to be cleaned.

Sniffspot offers an alternative to a local dog park or even a leisurely walk. For timid or anxious dogs, playing with other dogs can be stressful. For a few dollars, a dedicated pet owner can secure a private dog park and expose a bored dog to new scents and experiences.

“It’s so enriching for a dog to be in a new place,” Adams said.

The biggest challenge many users face is actually finding a Sniffspot to use. Availability is still inconsistent, and is concentrated in Seattle, where the company started; One-quarter of all bookings are in Washington state.

Evolution was “purely verbal, biological development, it’s just something that people need,” Adams said. “Saying that these things take off like rockets isn’t really how these things happen.”

Renting out your property to the endless throng of visitors is not without its disadvantages. Last year, a guest who booked Rabon’s property brought a dog — and seven human guests. The group blew up the music, ordered food delivery, and postponed their trip by about an hour. When Rabon finally told them to leave, they left all their trash behind.

“They were looking for a place to party,” she said.

According to Rabon, Sniffspot banned the user in response. But she was so upset by the experience that she stopped listing her spot for the rest of the season, only to reopen it this month. Other hosts have complained about guests who fail to take after their dogs, park cars in the wrong places or complain about a host’s political gesture.

But for a job that, for the most part, involves little more than dropping a bowl of water, most homeowners seem satisfied. Nandini Persaud, 43, who lives in New York City and rents out her small yard, said she sometimes comes home and feels like her property was visited when she moved Because stuff was moved around.

So how does it feel to have random people walking through your yard?

Ask Stacy Couch. She had over 1,000 bookings since February 2021, when she first listed her 5-acre property outside Minneapolis.

Sniffspot users have access to nearly 3 wooded acres with plenty of walking trails. Couch, 56, who had a house cleaning service before retiring, says business is so busy in the warmer months that she has to take time off for herself. With 30 to 40 bookings a week, she never gets to roam around her land with her dogs or feed the black raspberries that grow in the summer.

So she cleans for one hour a day for her dogs. “My friends, they like it there too,” she said. But the day we spoke, they missed their scheduled 11 o’clock clamor. “I think it’s open after eight tonight.”

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