Want to get the real scoop on time shares? Here to shed some light on what actually goes on inside the industry is Lisa Schreier, author of Timeshare Vacations For Dummies and Surviving A Timeshare Presentation…Confessions From The Sales Table
What is your background in the timeshare industry?
I started in the industry as a total “green-pea” out of necessity in 1998 as the Owner Referral Manager at a timeshare resort in Orlando. I earned my Florida Real Estate License in 1999 and for the next 6 years, I was a salesperson, a sales manager and the manager of the trial program at a few resorts around town before deciding to dedicate myself to educating people about timeshare.
Are timeshares the right choice for seasoned travelers? Do they lock you down to a single destination year after year?
Timeshares can be a wonderful way to vacation for seasoned as well as novice travelers. Seasoned travelers will enjoy the large range of vacation opportunities around the world, while novice travelers will enjoy the security of having a vacation home that they can return to year after year. With more than 5,800 timeshare resorts worldwide, ranging from quaint cottages to high-rise beachfront condos, there truly is something for everyone with timeshare. However, it is important to know what you want ahead of time so that you don’t get stuck with something that is not valuable or useful to you.
What do you think of the new trend of fractional home ownership?
Fractional home ownership is great for some people. For the traditional timeshare owner however, it can be cost prohibitive. Timeshares are generally sold in one-week increments; and while it is true that some owners own several weeks, fractional home ownership is traditionally 4+ weeks a year. If you don’t use all of your fractional home ownership, you may be stuck with having to find renters to offset your costs. Vacations should be fun, not work!
What are some tips to insure you don’t get scammed by a too-good-to-sound-true timeshare offer?
Well, first of all, let’s differentiate between a “too good to be true” vacation offer that includes a timeshare presentation, and a “too good to be true” timeshare.” Timeshares are still marketed circa 1975. You get a call, fax, e-mail or direct mail piece, or worse yet, are accosted on the beach or coming out of a restaurant, with offers ranging from discounted hotel stays, free or greatly reduced attraction tickets, dinner show certificates or some other “catch.”
Rest assured every single one of those offers is designed with one goal in mind…to get you to a timeshare resort and in front of a salesperson whose mission it is to sell you a timeshare. Are these “too good to be true?” Yes and no. No, in that they are what they are. After the timeshare sales pitch, you will get what you were promised. Thankfully, the days of being promised a “boat” and getting a 4′ long inflatable 2-person raft have gone by the wayside. You have to ask yourself, though, if sitting through a sometimes high pressure timeshare pitch is worth whatever you are getting when you factor in that in most cases, you’re talking about 4+ hours of your valuable vacation time spent at the resort, listening to a pitch and commuting back and forth.
Now, the timeshares themselves…are they “too good to be true?” Understand that the easiest definition of timeshare is the difference between renting your vacation accommodations and owning them. There are differences of course between fixed weeks, floating weeks and points, seasons, locations, etc. I advise my clients at Timeshare Insights to do their homework ahead of time and to stay away from any salesperson or sales manager who uses one of more of these words, “FREE, PERFECT, ALWAYS and/or NEVER.” Free and perfect don’t exist and always and never are very long times!
How difficult are timeshares to sell?
It’s not so much, “are they difficult to sell?”, it’s “what can you get for them”? In 2007, the average price of a 2-bedroom timeshare worldwide was approximately $18,000. If you were to sell that same timeshare today, you couldn’t expect to get more than half of that.
How well do timeshares fare as real estate investments?
In a word, lousy. Don’t think of timeshares as real estate investments, rather as an investment in your future vacations. Timeshares are not “Donald-Trump-type real estate.”
What are the top 5 secrets timeshare companies don’t want you to know?
- The average price of a timeshare. Last year, the average price of a 2-bedroom timeshare was around $18,000, but the resorts don’t like to advertise this. I think its imperative for consumers to know the average price in order to make wise choices.
- “Red Time” is not always “Red Time.” In timeshare, “red time” is the terminology used to designate high demand time. Certain places, such as Orlando, Las Vegas and Hawaii are designated as high demand, year round. While it is true that Orlando may still be busier in January than the Wisconsin Dells are in July, if you own a January week in Orlando, it does not have the same trading power as July week in Orlando.
- Almost everything is negotiable. When it comes to money, you have to remember to figure in the cost of the timeshare itself, the annual maintanance fees, real estate taxes, closing costs, upgrade fees, membership fees, exchange or trading fees, special assessments and so on and so on. If you’re going to be spending $18,000 at a resort, you better ask what they can throw in. If you don’t ask, you don’t get. You should also ask if the price itself is negotiable. Back in the days when I was a timeshare salesperson, I was stunned at how few people actually asked for a lower price. It’s the same as paying “sticker price” at a car dealership!
- You don’t have to buy it “today.” Here’s one of the reasons the timeshare industry has such a negative reputation. The salesperson and then the sales manager try to get you to part with your money by insisting that the price will be much higher tomorrow, so you had better buy it today. While it is true that some very legitimate timeshare resorts offer what is called a “First Visit Incentive,” I doubt that any of those resorts would refuse to honor that first visit price if you came in the next day with a credit card. However, with due respect for my old profession, DON’T waste your time or insult the salesperson’s intelligence by lying and saying “I’ll be back tomorrow with the cash” when you both know that you don’t have the cash and have no interest in buying the timeshare. The easiest way out is simply to say “No thanks, I can’t afford it” or “No thanks, I’m not interested.” Don’t lie.
- You do not have to sit through a timeshare presentation in order to buy a timeshare and you don’t have to buy from the developer. Again, this is where the industry gets a bad name. I can’t think of any other product or service where you have to be bribed with offers and then sit and listen to a salesperson before being “allowed” to purchase the product. You are free to visit any timeshare resort in the world and ask to see the property and get some prices without a sales pitch. If they try to get you to a pitch, WALK OUT. On the other hand, you don’t have to purchase a timeshare from the developer at all. There are ways to purchase a timeshare at significantly less than that $18,000 average. The trick is to know who to deal with. Again, that’s where working with an independent firm such as Timeshare Insights becomes valuable. We don’t financially benefit if you purchase a timeshare or not, but we can guide you through the murky waters.
Is it possible to get a timeshare in some off-the-beaten-road places? Southeast Asia? Eastern Europe? South America? If so, what resources would you recommend?
Yes, there are more than 5,800 timeshares worldwide. You are more likely to find them in places that attract lots of travelers, so you probably won’t find any in Vietnam right now, but may find some there in 10 years as global tourism there increases. For instance, if the current trend continues, Dubai will have more timeshares there in 10 years than Orlando! There are pros and cons of buying timeshare out of the country. The most obvious con is if the contract is written in a language that you are not fluent in. If you don’t understand exactly what you are buying, then don’t!
For more information, check her website: Timeshare Insights.