Timeshare maintenance fees are part and parcel of timeshare ownership, and they tend to rise year over year, regardless of the rate of inflation.
For many timeshare owners, high maintenance fees are a key factor pushing them away from the industry altogether, as industry surveys have indicated. This unhappiness with fees – which are piled on top of assessments, interest payments, and other expenses – is exacerbated by the fact that the average timeshare consumer is all but powerless to affect change or protest their fees, given the complex entanglement of most timeshare owners’ associations, boards, and management companies, which together comprise a system that empowers developers to run their resorts unchecked by engagement with or interference from the resort’s individual “owners.”
The point? On average and across the board, maintenance fees are extremely high and likely to keep rising, and there’s very little to be done about it once you’ve signed on the dotted line. This is a major turn-off to many, particularly since vacation ownership originally rose as a more affordable travel alternative for many families. Today, however, the unchecked avarice of major developers has driven the price of buying into the timeshare industry up and up, to the point where many idyllic vacations are significantly less expensive than owning a timeshare interest and keeping up with its attendant fees.
What do we mean? Consider this: It is absolutely not uncommon for maintenance fees to hover between $800 and $1000. Add interest payments and other expenses – setting aside the cost of transportation, food, and any other expenses associated with vacationing – and it’s not unrealistic for a typical timeshare commitment to run between, let’s say, $2000 to $4000 a year (this is generous) for one mere week of vacation time!
While it should be noted that many resort facilities are quite nice, and there’s something to be said for having a set vacation week, these prices could hardly be called affordable. While it could be argued that ownership passes along some advantages to owners, it could hardly be said to pass along value. The overabundance of travel options and “bundles” available to consumers today, largely thanks to sites like Expedia and Kayak, along with a plethora of budget-conscious travel apps, make taking an affordable vacation a much less daunting endeavor than ever before.
We looked around recently and were able to find weeklong deals at several top resorts in Hawaii for less than $1000 per person, including airfare, making it a less expensive and more flexible proposition than vacation ownership. Without bundling, you can secure hotel rooms on the Big Island for between $30 and $40 a night. Or what about other accommodations? There are Airbnb rentals available in Honolulu that run the gamut from $25 per night for a single bed to an entire condo, sleeping four, for $200/night.
Or what about taking a road trip? Gas prices sit well below their all-time highs of just a few years ago; if you’re curious about planning a route, try this gas calculator from AAA. You might be surprised at how little you’d have to budget for gas and tolls, particularly when compared to the high price of airfare. And while you’re tooling around, many roadside motels and hotels offer dirt-cheap rates per night, while national parks, beaches and other attractions are largely inexpensive compared to other travel options (your whole family can get into Yellowstone National Park, for instance, for just $30/vehicle!).
The point is to remember that timeshares are not the be-all and end-all, despite what a marketer may be quick to tell you during that laborious sales pitch. Countless timeshare owners pay up dutifully every year without ever taking advantage of their points or weeks due to other costs or personal matters, while maintenance fees, assessments, and other expenses turn what initially seems like a deal into a lifelong financial burden for many more.
Before signing on the dotted line, ask yourself: Why commit to a lifelong financial obligation when there are countless other options available right now, for a one-time cost that may be less than your annual fees alone? Do your research, hunt for deals, but above all, remember the golden rule of timeshares: “buyer beware.”
Led by Attorney Michael D. Finn with 50 years of experience, the Finn Law Group is a consumer protection firm specializing in timeshare law. Our lawyers understand vacation ownership as well as the many pitfalls of the secondary market of timeshare resales. If you feel you have been victimized by a timeshare company, contact our offices for a free consultation. Know your rights as a consumer and don’t hesitate to drop us a line with any questions or concerns.