Thursday, July 13, 2017

Guest Post-Timeshare Thoughts

Some great insights here. Thoughts?

What I have started to think when it comes to timeshare ownership and the future of the industry...

Everyone knows this industry is not well regulated (but obviously needs to be).  Some of the actions and activities of individuals and companies that gets reported in the timeshare world would result in major fines and possibly prison sentences in other better regulated industries.

It appears the industry has long depended on being "self regulating."  It has not done a great job of that but it seems there have always been just enough legit companies that seem to try and deliver a quality product and quality customer experience at the same time they balance trying to make a healthy profit.

I think of a brand like Disney first and foremost.  Also while I know a company like Marriott has their critics, in all my years traveling and staying at their hotel and timeshare properties I always got the impression they were serious about fulfilling their fiduciary responsibilities and providing top shelf customer service and a quality customer experience.  I am sure there are other good examples.

In the past the bad eggs of the industry (the industry's worst examples) seemed to mostly be of the smaller, regional variety.  The negative impact was always minimal and able to be managed before it metastasized.   But the potential problem as I see it is that in the last decade plus, it appears what may be described as large predatory financial engineering companies almost "posing" as timeshare companies have risen and aggressively worked every loophole and non regulation to their own advantage and now are probably guilty of gross violations of their fiduciary responsibility to their customers / owners.  These companies have created vast fortunes for a very small network of individuals at the top of the pyramid.

Ironically though, and looking at historical examples from other industries, it is these very companies likely to bring the whole industry into the national spotlight and to its knees eventually.  Some of these appear to have walked to the edge of doing that already.

As these quasi financial engineering / timesharing companies become increasingly more brazen in chasing profits by any means possible, raising fees rapidly at the same time they are reducing owner benefits, due to their increased sheer size the public outcry will likely increase and just the odds of random probability suggests there will be a gotcha moment or event that will bring increased scrutiny and increased legislation.

If the good timeshare companies try to ignore what the bad ones are doing, they may find someday that their systems and profits and share prices are negatively impacted by the future regulations forced on the industry from the egregious actions of the bad actors in their industry.

Pharma for example is still dealing with the Turing Pharmaceuticals fallout even now 2 years later, and that fallout will likely not dissipate anytime soon.

This is just my still forming hypothesis.  We'll see.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Stop With The Spin.Just Stop


Lately, there's been some truly laughable advice about timeshares; buying, owning and selling that certain people and certain organizations have been able to get through to the media.

I'm tired of this, so here's my thoughts:

1) ARDA-ROC has positioned itself as 'an alliance of over one million timeshare owners.’

It's not really 'an alliance of over one million timeshare owners' when not a single one of them votes, advises or even participates in anything that they do.

2) Timeshare is a usage product and not something that should be purchased as an investment, but rather as something you buy to save money on vacations.

True on the first two points. Usually false on the third. If you buy a timeshare from the developer then add maintenance fees, reservation fees, usage fees, etc., the average person does not save money.

Usage or not, any purchase for $20K should have some residual value after 5 or 10 years, assuming it's been maintained. Not so with timeshare. Listings abound for $100 or less.

3) You should call your resort to see if they have a take back program

Hysterical. Why a take back program and not a buyback program?  Go ahead, call and let me know what you find out. I have close to 1,600 emails from owners who want out.

4) Work with a broker

Another funny. Did you know that there's at least one major developer whose product will not be handled by any of the brokers in the LTRBA?  Did you also know that the residual value of the majority of the timeshares for sale is so low that if a broker were able to sell it, the original owner would end up paying money for the privilege of getting rid of it?  Doubt me?  Check Sharket.com

5) It's the 'mom and pop drive-inn on the Jersey Shore that have little to no value.'

None of the 1,600 emails I gave from owners wanting out own at a one of those resorts. They own at Bluegreen, Wyndham, Festiva and Diamond for the most part. There's hundreds more who are members of FB groups. Oh, and although they're geographically close, you may want to check out The Manhattan Club saga.

6) Don't list it for $1

GOLDEN. This comes from a spokesperson for an online listing platform that charges both a membership fee and a listing fee that has thousands of listings for $1. This is also the same platform that willingly takes listings from Diamond properties when they know that Diamond does not allow listings in third party platforms and will take punitive action if they are caught.

What does all this mean?

You had better be very careful who you trust with your money and your decisions concerning buying, using and selling timeshare. Question everything. Trust no one blindly. Verify everything. Don't believe something just because it was on the Internet.

Most of all, follow the money.

 

Monday, May 15, 2017

71%!

Last week, the American Resort Development Association released "Shifting Historic Industry Perception with Owner Data" in which they, along with the ARDA International Foundation, attempted to clear up 6 myths.

It was "myth 6" that caught my eye:

Myth #6: All timeshare owners disliked the buying experience.
Fact: More than seven out of 10 recent purchasers (71%) found their buying experience to be excellent or good.

Now, I don't know what "recent" means, nor do I know if the people surveyed purchased at a resort or on the secondary market.

However, I do know that the overwhelming percentage of timeshare complaints that I receive on a daily basis have to do with the buying experience a/k/a the sales pitch.

So, let's hear from you, my readers.  Agree, disagree with these findings?  Feel free to divulge as much information as you'd like.

Monday, May 8, 2017

The Case Against Timeshare Points

Timeshare points.

I used to like them. Back in 2001, I worked for the first resort in the Orlando area to convert from RCI weeks to RCI points.

So many things to do with points. So much more you could get with your points than with weeks. So much more flexibility.

Flash forward to 2017-in addition to RCI Points, nearly every brand name timeshare has instituted their version of points and in good conscience, I no longer recommend points of any kind.

Here are just a few of the many reasons I prefer timeshare weeks over timeshare points:

1-Inflation. A week is 7 days. It is now and it will be in 60 years. Not so with points. Your yearly allocation of points may get you a week in a resort this year. Next year, it may be 6 nights. 60 years down the road, who knows. There is no hedge against point devaluation and you, the owner have no control.

2-Continual Upselling. In order to counter the above, owners are continually told they need to buy more. And more. And more. I'm sorry, if your new car continually had to 'upgraded' each year because it wouldn't drive on new roads, no one would let this happen. Yet, this is precisely what is happening. The timeshare you purchased in order to accomplish good vacation accommodations, no longer does that.

3-Confusion and Lying. If I had a dollar for every time someone called or wrote saying that they had been told that the weeks system was going away and if they didn't convert, usually for upwards of $7,000, they'd no longer be able to exchange their timeshare, I'd be a wealthy woman. Just not true. Add to that the number of salespeople who don't really know about points, but desperately try to convince consumers of their 'magical powers' and you've got a mess.

4-Where's The Asset. A timeshare week is generally backed with real estate. Not so with most point systems. You're buying air. And oftentimes charged closing costs and other real estate based fees when you own no real estate. Frankly, why should you pay maintenance fees? You don't own any part of the property.

5-Sold Out Status. A timeshare with 100 units can have 50,000 owners, assuming each unit can be sold 50 times. Try to do that math with points. Try to find anyone who gives you the straight answer to 'how many total points is this property allocated?'

Are there exceptions?  Possibly.  But in general, I find timeshare points to be a poor alternative to timeshare weeks.

As always, I value your input.
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Thursday, April 20, 2017

Big Changes

As most of you know, I started Timeshare Insights and the blog “The Word From The Timeshare Crusader” with one goal:  to be a catalyst for positive change within the timeshare industry.

I’m pleased to say that I’ve helped a lot of timeshare owners and prospective timeshare owners.  While I’ve garnered some terrific media coverage from such outlets as CNBC, The Chicago Tribune, Senior.com and WGN-TV, it’s not about the media coverage, it was always about helping consumers and attempting to move the timeshare industry forward despite its stubborn intentions to stay stuck in the 1970s.

Today, in 2017 consumers are being ripped off in record numbers, there’s a never ending array of so-called “experts” who are hawking their latest company designed to prey upon unsuspecting timeshare owners and the industry has taken little or no steps to change an outdated marketing and sales structure which continues to foster a sense of distrust with consumers.

Despite that, I believe that timeshare has great potential.

So, it’s time for some changes.

Effective Tuesday, April 25th, Timeshare Insights will change to a new company.  I’ll have more information on their important services to assist the timeshare owner on my new blog.

Simultaneously, The Word From The Timeshare Crusader will be redesigned and relaunched as The Timeshare Crusader Blog and can be accessed directly on http://www.thetimesharecrusader.com and on Twitter at @TheTSCrusader.  It will have more news, more guest bloggers, more features and will of course; maintain my own independent voice as the main blogger.

I continue to tweet at @LisaLooksAt and will remain as the timeshare contributor at Senior.com.

Additionally, I continue my important work with the National Timeshare Owners Association which is celebrating 20 years of educating, advocating and encouraging responsible timeshare management and ownership.  Check them out at http://www.ntoassoc.com.

In conclusion for today:  If you like what I’ve been doing for the past 12 years or so, stay tuned, it’s going to get better and more positive changes are just around the corner.  If you don’t like what I’ve been doing for the past 12 years or so, here’s a quote from Star Wars to get you thinking; “You can't win, Darth. If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you could possibly imagine.”

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Underhanded? You Ain't Seen Underhanded Until Now

I've been advising prospective timeshare purchasers for a LONG time on the questions that they need to ask before jumping in.

Those questions involve such things as:

*  what is the five year history of the annual maintenance fees
*  how sold out is the development
*  how is the HOA structured

Now however, I find out that there is another question that needs to be asked.  This question is so unexpected that I admit that I was shocked.

Here it is:

"If I purchase this timeshare, am I waiving my rights to enter into a Class Action lawsuit against the developer?"

Yes, you read that right.  It seems that a certain timeshare developer includes that somewhere in the morass of 974+ pages of documents that no one (other than themselves) ever reads.

How underhanded do you have to be to know how underhanded your business practices are and prohibit owners from suing you in a Class Action lawsuit?

It's a new low as far as I'm concerned.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Weeks, Points and Remaining Timeshare Inventory

If you're thinking of purchasing a house in a development, it's quite simple to figure out how sold out they are,

If you're thinking of purchasing a week-based timeshare, it's a bit more difficult to figure it out, but it can be done.  Find out how many units there are, multiply by 50 (leaving two weeks per year for maintenance) to find out how many total weeks there are, and then either ask the question or get the information from the county.

Not so with point-based timeshare.  How do you get the total number of points that have been allocated to a project?  I can pretty much guarantee that your salesperson has no clue.  It's not real estate, so the county records won't have it.

There are small resorts that I am quite familiar with in the Orlando area that have been in actives sales for years and years...what are they selling?

It's imperative for prospective owners to know how sold out any resort is.  Why?  It affects how and when control reverts back to the owners or the HOA.  It affects the legality of selling something that may or may not exist.  It affects the owners' ability to use what they paid for.

Do you know how sold out your resort is?  Did you ask before buying?  How did you verify the information?  Can you verify the information?

We want to hear your experiences.  Call your resort and ask the question.  We'll print all your responses.