Timeshares have existed in some form or another for the better part of a century now.
And though the industry has grown and changed with the times, several myths and misconceptions continue to define timeshares in the minds of many, spread by industry insiders, the media, and even timeshare consumers themselves.
Let’s dissect three truths that many hold to be self-evident about timeshares:
1.) “A Timeshare Is Always a Real Estate Investment That Will Appreciate in Value.”
The vast majority of timeshare resorts today fall under the operational umbrella of one of a handful of major developers, most of whom have adopted a “points-based” or “right-to-use” system. Put simply, this means that a consumer is not buying a piece of the resort when they sign on the dotted line, but, instead, purchasing points, which can then, in turn, be exchanged for the right to have access to a piece of the resort for a designated period of time.
So, even though your timeshare may have been marketed like real estate – complete with a certified real estate professional handling the sales presentation and even an official-looking deed at signing – it’s important that you don’t think of a timeshare as you would a real estate purchase.
The many benefits of home ownership don’t really apply to timeshares. For example, timeshares will essentially never appreciate in value, and, in fact, developers’ systematic suppression of the secondary market often forces owners to resell their interests for pennies on the dollar (when they can find a buyer or legitimate reseller at all). What’s more, timeshares will not pass along value if left to a loved one through inheritance, nor do they offer significant or unique tax benefits.
The biggest difference to remember? Homes – even vacation homes and investment properties – offer residual value and re-marketability; the vast majority of timeshares have no resale or inherited value whatsoever.
2.) “A Timeshare Is Always a Less Expensive Option Than Booking a Hotel Room!”
Timeshares ostensibly rose to prominence for what they offered – a cheaper, less-stressful vacation option for families. Rather than having to scramble to book accommodations or shell out an unpredictable sum for a hotel room, the timeshare could act as a dependable alternative, offering a routine vacation for a set price.
There are certainly still advantages to timeshares. Most resorts are quite lovely, and many offer top-of-the-line accommodations and enough space to fit an entire family, even in high-demand vacation destinations. But, with that said, the idea that a timeshare bought through a resort developer is always going to be a less expensive or more reliable option than a vacation purchased through other channels is quite off-base.
The reality is that we live in an age of unprecedented options for travelers. A bevy of apps offer cheap airfare and easy access to transportation choices that would have been unheard of even a decade ago; meanwhile, sites like Expedia, Priceline, and Travelocity have incentivized comparison shopping and competition, making it less expensive than ever to find an affordable hotel room.
What’s more, consumers can book these vacations at their leisure, knowing that they’re free of the many strings that can come with timeshare ownership, including annual maintenance fees, which tend to rise every year and are charged whether or not a consumer ever even uses their “home resort.” We’ve also heard countless stories of owners running up against a wall when trying to actually book time at a timeshare resort, or get the runaround when trying to exchange their points.
Even owners who have bought a timeshare on the resale market – perhaps the best value available to a consumer looking to get the amenities for less – are still subject to fees and assessments, even as, in many cases, this owner’s ability to use and exchange points is stymied by the resort company.
So, while timeshares do have a place on the market, one question always hangs overhead: Why put up with unfriendly consumer practices – and pay out more every year – for a vacation you may or may not even take?
3.) “Don’t Like Your Timeshare? It’s Easy to Get Out of Your Obligation.”
Just as there are any number of reasons why a consumer may want to sell a car or move to a new home, here are any number of reasons why an owner may no longer wish to use their timeshare interest. People get sick and old and find themselves unable to travel. Families split up. Costs become unsustainable.
Whatever the reason, a consumer may expect that it will be easy to cancel, sell, transfer, or otherwise get out of their timeshare commitment when life gets in the way. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth.
As we’ve suggested earlier, many major resort developers actively resist a healthy, profitable timeshare aftermarket, leading to all sorts of problems – many consumers can’t resell their timeshare at all, and more just list their interest on eBay for a dollar or less. Others try to convert their timeshare into a rental opportunity, only to find that it’s harder to do so then they ever imagined. Some consumers try to contract with a third party transfer or redemption company, only to be left hanging for months – perhaps even years – at a time, still on the hook for maintenance fees with no resolution in sight. Every year, dozens more find themselves lured into a timeshare resale or redemption scam, desperate for any recourse or opportunity for closure.
In short? It can be very hard to “get out” or exit a timeshare, regardless of what a salesperson may say at closing; indeed, many of the statutory protections designed to help consumers immediately after a sale are often woefully inadequate to realistically address buyers’ needs.
Bereft of other options, many consumers have found that consulting with an attorney is the surest way to a conclusive resolution of their timeshare woes. A licensed attorney is only obligated to fight for you, their client; retaining an attorney offers consumers significant leverage in negotiations, and offers certain protections from debt collectors.
Want to get the conversation started? We encourage you to reach out to discuss your next steps! 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.