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If you haven’t been approached by someone offering you a free gift (often cash or a trip) to sit through a timeshare presentation, then you need to read this before it happens. Now, they may not outright tell you it’s a timeshare presentation… they may say it’s about vacations, or vacation ownership as timeshares do have a bad rap. But the bottom line is that they want to get you in a room, get you excited about taking vacations, and sell you a timeshare. My best advice is to not go at all. I just don’t believe the pressure is worth it and so many people end up buying overpriced timeshares that they never intended to, can’t use, and can’t get rid of.
What I have Learned About Timeshares (and What You Should Know Before Attending a Timeshare Presentation)
I actually learned quite about timeshare ownership after working on both sides of the business and becoming a timeshare owner. Based on my experience, I don’t actually recommend that anyone go to a timeshare presentation, not even for the free gifts. If you are daring, I’d at least like to share some insights that may help you survive your next timeshare presentation if you decide to not heed my warning. 🙂
- You Don’t Really Have to Buy On the Spur of the Moment. You will get an amazing offer if you “buy today” and that is the pressure that a lot of people hate about timeshare presentations. When I was selling timeshares, I asked my manager what would happen if someone came back later and asked for the sale price. In the end, they want to sell timeshares, so most companies would do whatever they could to get you on board. The reality is that you don’t want to buy from the resort anyhow, given that there are so many free timeshares available from those seeking to get rid of them.
- There IS Such Thing as a Trial Membership. Many of my customers asked if they could try before they purchased. Sales reps can’t offer that, so they won’t really answer the question. In fact, the sales rep does not get paid if you buy a trial membership (unless and until you come back to purchase the full package later). You will have to hold out until the end and be willing to walk away (because I can’t guarantee that every company offers this). If the company you are working with does not offer this, you can always find another company that offers it.
- You Don’t Have to Own a Timeshare to Stay in One. Do you know how many timeshare owners would LOVE to rent you their timeshare week? There are many companies and listing services out there that list timeshares for rent. Also, just ask around… you will find that you have friends who don’t or can’t use their timeshares and they would love to get something for it instead of nothing since they still have to pay their annual maintenance fees.
- There is a Secondary Timeshare Market Where You Can Get Timeshares for FREE. Perhaps you have seen timeshares for sale on eBay for $1 or heard of people giving away their timeshares. The reason is that people often end up not being able to use their timeshare due to life changes where they can’t travel anymore or they own a timeshare with fees that get so high that it’s no longer a “deal” for the purposes of travel. The most important thing to know here is that you should work with a professional (third party) to make sure the timeshare is legally transferred to you.
- There are Lots of fees Associated with Timeshare Ownership. When you are at a timeshare presentation, your sales rep will discuss your annual maintenance fees and the cost to stay on the property. What they may not discuss are the annual network fees that you have to pay to use the network or the resort fees in addition to the exchange fee. In fact, when I was selling timeshares, one of the veteran sales reps told me I was sharing too much info because I was discussing these fees.
- You Might Be Able to Purchase an Every Other Year Timeshare Plan. This means that you accrue points every other year as opposed to every year. Why would you do this? Because then you only have to pay your maintenance fees every other year (that’s what we own). If you have a points-based ownership, you can borrow from a future year, carry over points from a prior year, or purchase additional points as needed.
- It Will Be Very Hard to Get Rid of It When You Are Done Using It. One thing that they won’t address – or be up front about – in any timeshare presentation is what happens when you no longer want to use it. They typically don’t take them back, although they may lead you to believe so by telling you they have the right of first refusal. If you are lucky, you can find someone who wants to take it over (assuming your maintenance fees aren’t through the roof), but most likely you will end up hiring a timeshare exit company to help get you out of your timeshare. This is a cost that many do not plan for, but as long as you are aware that it’s coming, you won’t have any surprises. If you make amazing memories with your family, then it was worth the money you spent to get in and out of your timeshare.
My History with Timeshares
I have attended (survived) a few timeshare presentations, stayed at timeshares, sold timeshares for a short time (please don’t hate me) and I currently work in marketing for a company that helps people end their timeshare ownership. Ultimately I ended up buying a timeshare because it seemed to make sense for my wife and I. Well, let’s be honest… I like going to Las Vegas and after I stayed in one of the properties during our trial timeshare membership, I wanted to do more of that. Oh yeah, you can actually get a trial membership into timeshare ownership. That’s something else you need to know…. More on that later…
The first time my wife and I went to a timeshare presentation, we were on vacation (familiar story, right?). We were pretty green to the timeshare industry but we knew we enjoyed traveling, so we went to the presentation. It’s been a while (over 10 years) but I do recall that we liked what we heard, although we had just gotten married and did not feel that we could afford it. We were pretty good with our finances (I was in the mortgage business at the time) so we were not going to make any financial commitment we had not planned for, and we made it through the presentation without buying. We then met the folks who do the “exit survey” and that’s when they got us :-). In the end, they offered us a trial membership which allowed us a certain amount of travel over a certain amount of time without making a full commitment to purchase. We bit… we ended up purchasing the trial package and thought it would at least allow us to try things out before making a full commitment. I won’t go into all of the details, but long story short, but to a critical illness that my wife suffered, we ended up canceling that entry package and never got to use it.
Fast forward many years, we were invited to another timeshare presentation. The gift we were offered was a free trip… and of course, we love to travel, so we thought, “hey, why not… we know the ropes… we are just there for the free trip.” We also ‘made the pact’ to not buy no matter what. I don’t even recall the property or company, but I do recall the “free travel gift” was a joke. It was through a company with one of the worst online reviews ever (always check those reviews) that required us to pay a deposit up front. We then got a lame travel schedule that was simply unrealistic, and now they have one more unhappy customer because they took us for $50.
A few years later, we got another timeshare invite. This time, we actually thought we were ready to buy. We figured this company would offer us a free trial as well and that would give us that opportunity to “try before we buy” that we did not have a chance to enjoy prior. We were committed to getting a free trial, and I even asked about it when the agent gave us the numbers. She was pretty adamant that they didn’t have such a program (and of course she had to be) but we simply held out. In the end, we had the guy come over to give us the exit survey. As we expected, he offered us a trial program, with a price freeze, and even allowed us to make payments on it. We were excited because we got what we came for.
The first time I used our timeshare was on a business trip to Las Vegas. My wife was unable to join me, but of course, I was going to be super busy, so would not have much time to enjoy our time together. Anyhow, I happen to have a timeshare that is in the RCI network, so I stayed at the Grandview, which is a great property. I actually got to watch it be built because I used to stay at the hotel next to it (SouthPoint) on my trips to Las Vegas. The room was simply amazing. Being on business (and it being January) I did not get to use many of the amenities (such as a pool), but I would stay there again in a heartbeat.
Based on this stay, we decided to convert our trial membership to a purchase and ended up buying. The company I purchased from was actually the company that I had gone to work for (in the middle of paying for my trial membership), so I had learned a thing or two about how to buy. We got a pretty decent price and also got a nice deal on our fees where we pay them every other year instead of yearly. It comes out to roughly $333 per year including the RCI fee. Knowing what I know now, I would have never bought that timeshare because I could get the exact same timeshare for pennies on the dollar or free.
Closing Thoughts and Tips
Attending a timeshare presentation can be a very stressful event because the tactics used are often high pressure. Sadly, many times these sales reps are more concerned with earning a buck than truly helping you out. Here are some final tips and thoughts if you are considering purchasing a timeshare or attending a timeshare presentation.
- Know Your Budget. If the cost of your timeshare is far greater than your current budget and you don’t have any guaranteed plans on increasing your income, you are not ready for timeshare ownership. As opposed to being forced to travel, you will just be stressed about your payments and more stressed that you have a timeshare that you can’t use.
- NEVER Finance a Timeshare. Most timeshare companies offer financing with rates that are higher than what you could get if you took out a home equity loan or even borrowed from your 401k. Make sure there is no prepayment penalty if you need to line up your financing, so you can pay it off with a lower priced loan once you are able to. Most of all, remember that you can almost always find the same timeshare for free or for pennies on the dollar from someone who is trying to get rid of theirs.
- Do a Google Search to Find Out About The Company. Make sure you know what company you are going to hear a timeshare presentation for and do your homework. Look for patterns in the online reviews. Sadly, many of the big resorts do not have good online reputations – and they don’t seem to care about it.
- Ask Around on Social Media. You may find that you have friends or family members that own timeshares that they are not using are willing to let you either rent it or purchase it from them.
- Make Sure You Will Have Time to Use It. Many people are sold on the fact that they can “travel more” with a timeshare, but these people don’t often have vacation time from their jobs or the ability to fly to a destination to stay. Remember, a place to stay is only part of the vacation (you can’t drive to Hawaii) 🙂
- Know that Your Annual Maintenance Fee Will Likely Increase Every Year. This is one of the biggest reasons people want to get out of their timeshares. In 2017, the average annual maintenance fee for a one week timeshare interval was $981. In 2005 the average annual maintenance fee was just $471.
- Know That You Will Likely Have to Pay to Get Rid of It. Even if you get your timeshare for free or are able to get it for pennies on the dollar, there is no guarantee that someone will come behind you and want to take it off of your hands. If you factor in this cost, you will still do better than those who buy from the resorts given that an average one week timeshare interval was roughly $21,000 in 2017. There are also many scams associated with ending your timeshare ownership. The company I recommend is Newton Group Transfers; the company that wrote The Consumers Guide to Timeshare Exit.
Although I thought I got a good deal, knowing what I know now, I realize that I would have been better off buying through the resale market. Even if I paid a bit more in maintenance fees, I would have saved thousands of dollars on the purchase price.
Note: The views expressed in this post are mine and based on my personal experience.