So what of these consumers whose hearts are set on vacation ownership? Is there a way to ensure that they’re getting the best possible “bang for their buck” when they purchase a timeshare interest? Is there such a thing as a particularly “good” timeshare deal?
Short answer? Maybe. Long answer? Probably not. It all comes down to how you define “good.”
Timeshares were originally developed to fulfill a need within the vacation industry. For years, they provided a reliable, fixed vacation option for a set price. The growth of the timeshare exchange market added flexibility to that offering, as owners no longer had to spend their allocated weeks at just one resort.
So, though we’ve written time and again about the byzantine nature of the modern timeshare industry – and its decidedly anti-consumer policies on everything from sales pitches to ongoing maintenance to aftermarket value – there will always be a subsection of consumers interested in timeshares, be it out of a starry-eyed dream of vacationing for cheap or a romantic nostalgia for their family’s old cabin or beachside condo.
Don’t Buy Directly From the Developer
In the earliest days of the U.S. timeshare industry, the most typical method of timeshare unit ownership was, in fact, as a deeded piece of real estate. Your interest was a specific “slice” of a resort condominium that was also divided up for time. Since the turn of the century, however, the industry has transitioned to a “points-based” or “right-to-use” model, in which consumers buy points which grant access to resort properties, rather than any actual tangible real estate.
Generally speaking, unless you already have a deeded interest – almost certainly purchased in the last century – you probably don’t want to purchase from a developer directly. Despite what marketing materials and sham deeds advertise, you will likely not be purchasing any real estate with tangible, lasting value when you sign on the dotted line. Instead, your money will be going toward points, which convey very little value and are subject to the rules and whims of the developers.
On top of this, consumers eyeing a timeshare must factor in factor in annual maintenance fees – which tend to rise year over year at most resorts – as well as the possibility of an assessment over and above the “normal” maintenance fees. Remember, as an “owner” you’ll be on the hook for these annual obligations regardless of whether or not you use your interest. And while you may have big dreams of using your interest every year right now, you’d be surprised (or not) to learn just how often weeks go completely unused, due to illness, inconvenience, or, yes, high costs.
So if you start with the above proposition as gospel (and in our experience, it’s pretty close) it therefore follows that doing business with the developer these days means every penny you provide for your purchase is money over and above the value of your vacation. If you consider the annual maintenance fees, even without assessments, your annual cost is probably equal or at least close to the cost of simply purchasing your vacation as a “one-off” vacation online from Expedia or one of the other travel sites.
Are There Timeshare Deals on the Secondary Market?
Although the secondary market is puny and undeveloped when compared to the massive market run directly by the developers, you can find some fair deals – in the sense that you can acquire an interest for next to nothing. Indeed, there are plenty of timeshare interests listed on resale sites like eBay for as little as $1.
There’s a reason for that, though: The developers keep such a tight-fisted control on the resale market that it’s all but nonexistent. Unlike cars, furniture, or even clothing, interests lose their value instantly, and the market is so saturated by dissatisfied owners that eager shoppers can certainly find a very appealing price.
Many resorts are very nice, with great locations and amenities. Often, they have the advantage over hotels in the sense that many have multi-room availabilities. So if you do decide a timeshare meets your lifestyle requirements, shopping the secondary market is your best bet.
With that said, we don’t necessarily think there’s any perfect or great deal available for a timeshare, even on the secondary market. There are all sorts of strings associated with resold timeshares, and some resort developers strip away benefits to new owners, even as they require you to pay the same rising maintenance fees and assessments as an owner with full access and privileges.
In other words, a secondary market purchase is better in the short term for the consumer; there’s pretty much never a “good” timeshare deal once you factor in the lifelong obligation of rising maintenance fees and assessments. Even if your upfront deal is a good one, the rising maintenance fees with which you’ll be strapped may make that ‘good deal’ on an inexpensive interest a short-lived victory.
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.
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