Thursday, October 30, 2014

"Become a Member and You Don't Need a Broker!"

It might not be new or new to you, but I've just discovered the latest way timeshare owners are being preyed upon. 

There's a company that charges a membership fee in order to list your timeshare for sale. Yes, a membership fee. Not a listing fee.  Not an advertising fee. 

While that may be odd enough, a quick look at the listings clearly illustrated the need for owners to get a dose of reality when it comes to understanding the 'value' of a timeshare on the secondary market. 

30,000 WorldMark Points $60,000

2 bedroom Westgate Lakes $30,000 Exchange Resorts Condominiums

2 bedroom Marriott Cypress Harbor $32,000 Exchange Resorts Condominiums

I'm fairly certain that these prices are higher than what you'd find being pitched by the developer, to say nothing of the fact that both Westgate Lakes and Marriott Cypress Harbor are Interval Internal affiliated properties, not whatever "Resorts Condominiums" is supposed to be.

This company charges $98 for "lifetime membership" and $398 to list your timeshare for sale.  I'd like to know how long  the Westgate Lakes property for $30,000 has been listed.

Yet another example of timeshare owners being led astray.  There are legitimate secondary market platforms out there.  No, I'm not one of them,  No, I don't sell timeshare.  However, I'll be happy to point you in the right direction.

Alas, this "membership based company" isn't the way to go.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Why A Consumer Cancelled Her Timeshare Purchase

Remember the post a few weeks ago regarding the insane methods that one frustrated owner had to go through to cancel her timeshare with Silverleaf?

Happy to report that it's done!

Also happy to share her thoughts on some follow up questions I posed to her, and it has NOTHING to do with cost on the primary or the secondary market. This is an important read for consumers and developers alike.

Can you tell me why you originally purchased?
We've always wanted to travel and the extra RSI membership seemed to make international travel affordable.  The stories our salesperson told us about the places she had been with her family sounded fantastic.
What caused you to change your mind about your purchase?
I was sitting up that night looking over the information and noticed discrepancies in some things I'd been told, how I'd understood them, and what the literature was disclosing. I realized that the people, who I thought I'd connected with and trusted, had not  been direct.  Example:  I was told I was getting a great deal on a contract that was being resold, and driving a hard bargain on a single bedroom unit, but the price was within the normal selling range quoted in the material for that exact unit.  They also wowed and exclaimed over some "extra" I'd gotten as part of the "hard driving bargain", but it was actually a standard amenity.  I started to wonder where else I might have thought I understood what they were telling me, but in fact was misled.  I remember thinking that if I can't engage in normal, intelligent conversation, ask succinct and direct questions, and get answers that are clear and complete, then I am not able to communicate well enough with these people to feel confident that we are on the same page about anything.  And I've just made a big purchase from these people! 

Another for instance...I initialed a statement that I had seen the unit in question, but realized I had not.  I had been shown a 2 bedroom unit, but bought a 1 bedroom.  When it was sold to me  I was assured it was "just like the 2 bdrm without the extra bedroom", but the floor plan I looked at was much less pleasant.  And here was a clincher, although it may seem mild.  I asked if I could have extra people sleeping on the floor in sleeping bags and the sales person said, "I do".  But the literature indicated that this could be a way to get kicked out...and still have to pay up!  I realized "I do" was not a lie, but was misleading and that these people were playing me. 

Then I thought I'd check the procedure for cancellation, and it was not "right in there" as I was told when I asked at the signing.  So I phoned the member services  number and got a message that the office in question was unavailable - and then I was disconnected.  I phoned another number and was also disconnected.  This is about where I panicked because I realized I had made a major purchase and the contact information they prominently displayed was inoperable.  

Would it be true to say that you think timeshare may be something you'd look into in the future?

At the moment I would be very leery of the veracity of anyone selling a timeshare. 

There are some important lessons to be learned by both consumers and developers from this tale,  Who will learn the lessons?

Monday, October 13, 2014

LightStream Offers Alternative To Traditional Timeshare Financing

If you've purchased a timeshare, you are familiar with the financing that the resorts offer you.  Let's say they're not the most value driven.  The numbers can look something like this:

Loan Amount                                     $20,000

     Term of Loan                                     6 years (72 months)

     Interest Rate Charged                       15.9%

     Monthly Payment                              $432.74

     Actual Cost                                        $31,157.28

Until now, purchasers had limited alternatives to this.  Recently however, LightStream, a division of SunTrust Bank, has come on the market to offer timeshare purchasers who meet their requirements (such as a good FICO score) significantly lower than average resort-based financing in an simple, online format that generally takes no more than 24 hours.  Now the numbers can look something like this:                       

Loan Amount                                       $20,000

           Term of Loan                                       6 years (72 months)

Interest Rate Charged                          9.24%

Monthly Payment                                  $362.90

Actual Cost                                            $26,128.80

Savings Over Traditional Financing       $5,028.48

To find out more about LightStream, I sat down with Gary Pierce, VP of Business Development at SunTrust Bank
Gary, tell us a little bit about the genesis of the LightStream product and why SunTrust decided to include timeshare.
The online lending division of SunTrust Bank, LightStream is designed to serve clients who want the convenience and value of online banking.  For people who have good credit and a substantial credit history, LightStream can provide unsecured loans at fixed, competitive rates that can be used for virtually anything.  This allows Lightstream to fund purchases where---like for timeshares---loans have traditionally been difficult to find or have been offered at comparatively high interest rates.

What has the response been from the timeshare purchaser since you launched?

The LightStream experience has surprised and delighted timeshare customers.  They’re impressed with LightStream’s fixed loan rates, process ease, flexible terms, and excellent customer experience.  They also like that there are no fees, no appraisals, and no prepayment penalties.

Are there any timeshares or type of timeshares that LightStream is excluding?

No.  Funds can be used for any timeshare purchase in any location.  Loans for $5,000-$100,000 are available to qualified borrowers who have good credit and substantial credit history.  (Borrowers must be U.S.citizens).  Funds are deposited directly into borrower’s bank account, often as soon as the day they apply.  Not only can funds be used for the timeshare’s purchase, but also for associated costs such as insurance, travel, etc.
(EXCLUSIONS ·         Funds must be used for the stated loan purpose ·         Funds cannot be used to finance/refinance an existing LightStream loan)

Can a purchaser be preapproved for this financing before the sales presentation in much the same way someone would be pre-approved for a mortgage?

No.  LightStream does not provide pre-approvals.  However, many people prepare to go into the timeshare market with a LightStream loan already in place.  With funds in their bank account, they’re able to negotiate with the power of a cash buyer.

Because LightStream loans range from $5,000 to $100,000, they are able to be used for any timeshare purchase: primary market, secondary market, and refinancing of existing loans.

For more information, check out or their partner, the National Timeshare Owners Association at

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Should It Be This Difficult To Cancel A Timeshare Purchase?

Some time ago, I received this e-mail through "All Experts" where I volunteer my time to assist consumers with timeshare issues.

I purchased a timeshare from Silverleaf Resorts Inc, on August 17, 2014 and wish to cancel the contract.  It states on the front of my contract that "YOU MAY CANCEL THIS CONTRACT AT WILL AND WITHOUT EXPLANATION WITHIN SEVEN (7) BUSINESS DAYS AFTER YOU SIGN IT, IN WHICH EVENT YOU WILL RECEIVE A FULL REFUND.  SEE PAGE 1 OF THE OFFERING PLAN."  There is no page 1 of my Offering Plan.   So I don't know what I'm supposed be able to learn from going to page 1. 

I have made several phone calls to the corporate offices and owner services and spoken in person with some of the employees but no one will guarantee a procedure I need to follow to cancel my contract within the grace period.  They say "read your contract", but no one will say exactly where I should be looking or reading the contract.

I have written and sent a letter stating my intent to cancel the contract and written "Cancel this contract" across the face of a copy of the contract. I've sent both items to a fax number that was given to me at Owner Services, and mailed both items to the address on the contract, certified mail.  I also plan to send these items via email to an address given to me by Owner Services.  Does this seem adequate to cover my tracks and get this matter settled?

I have also asked a friend to verify in writing that she has looked over the paperwork and also determined that there is no apparent information regarding cancellation of the contract within the 7 days.

Thank you for any advice you have about dealing with this cancellation from a company that just has too many inconsistencies to make me want to stay in contract with them. 
I am pleased to see from your profile that perhaps there are timeshares worth trying...later. one at the office would tell this owner how to cancel her purchase, or for that matter, inquire as to why she wanted to cancel and potentially save the sale.  This already left a bad taste in this person's mouth, but it gets worse.
I volunteered to call the office on her behalf and see what I could do.  I also told this consumer that not all timeshares were like this and gave a "thumbs up" to timeshares in general.
The story continues (with redacted names and phone numbers):
Dear Lisa, thank you very much for offering to call on my behalf.  I've been given so many numbers and names in the past two days that I will try to narrow it down to the pertinent ones!

The phone number for the sales office at the Oak N Spruce Resort is REDACTED.  Today there is a helpful person answering named REDACTED.  My sales agent is REDACTED and his cellphone is REDACTED.  I had verification loan officer REDACTED, who I think has tried to be helpful.  And today I spoke with Office Manager REDACTED at REDACTED.  Her Office Assistant REDACTED is wonderful.  But none of these people could direct me to a page or clause that clearly states the procedure for cancellation of contract during the grace period.

The corporate number for Silverleaf Resorts Inc. is REDACTED.  This number was not working well the times I have called and frequently told me the number I had pressed to get to another department was "not a valid choice".  The member hotline number is REDACTED and you can get to Owner Services through this...sometimes.   Needless to say the number of different phone numbers alone is confusing. 

At this point I have asked for an emailed verification that the cancellation of contract documents have been received in a timely manner, that they meet all requirements of correct procedure for cancellation (since I could not locate any clear information in the extensive documents I was given and no employee would direct me to such), and that the cancellation is being duly processed in good faith with a full refund to be sent to me. 

I wish I could give you more succinct information and an easy way to communicate with this company. If I had been able to feel I could get through and get good answers to my concerns I might have felt I trusted this company. 

The address for Silverleaf is 6321 Boulevard 26, ste 400, N Richland Hills, TX 76180.  I was also given an alternate address of 120 Elm, Suite 4600, Dallas, TX 75270.  The only email I have is

I so appreciate your help.  I am so confused by all the numbers and addresses.  Even if they are closed on certain days I feel there should be one clear way to contact a knowledgeable and authoritative employee  and be assured my calls will be returned in a timely, businesslike manner.

I do look forward to hearing from you.
CRAZY!!!!!!!!!!!!  I counted five (5) people that this one owner was in contact with in addition to the non-working Owner Services number.  I called two of the five people listed, but they refused to even speak with me.  But, it gets worse...

Lisa, I found the mysterious "Page 1" that is referred to on the cover of my  Offering Plan!!  The one that tells how a purchaser can cancel the contract!!

It is on page OS513 of the entire document  (which, by the way numbers no fewer than 1037 poorly copied pages).  It is the 12th or 13th "page 1" out of over 20.  Even the lawyer I consulted today couldn't seem to find it. But then he only looked for 1/2 hour.  I've been looking for 3 days.

I have asked repeatedly for someone to please direct me to the page in my documents that states the procedure for cancellation of my contract within the stated grace period.   No one ever said, "the page 1 you are looking for is on OS513 of your Offering Plan.  It will give you the information you are asking for about how to cancel your contract within the 7 day rescission period.  Glad we could help you with this, and sorry it didn't work out for you." 

I was told "it's in there somewhere", a bit apologetically by some, with annoyance by others.  These were all Owners Services Agents ,  my sales agent NAME REDACTED,  verification loan officer NAME REDACTED, and Office Manager NAME REDACTED.  

There was also a surly clerk I met on Monday named NAME REDACTED who has been there 7 years.  It seems after seven years he might have been asked this question once or twice and might know the answer, but he said he was not authorized to talk with me about that. Since he was the only apparent person in the building I would have expected he had, at minimum, the authority to  be polite and give me a name and phone number to contact.  He was really awful!

**Just for the record, NAME REDACTED, Assistant Office Manager in the sales office, was a peach. She listened to my concerns and followed through on helping me in an effective manner.  They should clone her.  She will be an asset to any company she chooses to work in.**

A purchaser has 7 business days to cancel the contract.  At Oak N Spruce Resort the sales staff is "off" Monday and Tuesday.  For the date I signed the document (a Sunday) that means  I had only three business days in which to contact a person of authority at the resort where I signed up.  This was terrible, especially as no one mentioned that the staff would not be available those days.  I was told I could call the salesperson, but when he learned I wished to cancel he did not answer or return my calls.

Is this company practicing subterfuge, or are they extremely poorly trained?  I'm starting to get angry at how I was treated.

Enough for now.  Just wanted to let you know that there is actually a Page 1 hidden away in the Offering Plan.  Maybe I should share the secret.
Sounds good!

So if they only talk with members does that mean they won't speak to a legal counsel representing a member?

Think I'll file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau, and maybe the NYS Attorney General's Office.  Hmm, this could be my new hobby! 

More than twenty (20) "page 1s"!  More craziness.  Shouldn't the cancelation period and policy be easy to find?  And shouldn't someone at the resort have been able to point out "the correct Page 1" to this owner?

This person may in fact choose to purchase a timeshare one day...why did Silverleaf behave in such a way to almost guarantee that it won't be from them?

I'm happy to report that after almost 2 months, this consumer was able to get a full refund of her money and insure that the contract was cancelled,

In Part 2 of this saga, we'll find out a why the timeshare was purchased to begin was for all the "right" reasons and what caused this consumer to have second was not solely related to cost.

As usual with this blog, Silverleaf is cordially welcomed to chime in.


Thursday, October 2, 2014

Five and Almost 10 With...Michael Burns

Today we meet Michael Burns, President of

1.  What was your first job in the timeshare industry?  
After graduating from the University of Washington and planning to go to law school, my father convinced me to come to work for the company he co-founded in the industry, Vacation Internationale, where I worked in the marketing department doing a variety of marketing and sales support roles.  

2.  What is the greatest lesson you've ever been taught in business?  
First impressions are everything, so get it right and make it right from the beginning.  

3.  What is your favorite vacation spot?  
Hands down...the American & Canadian San Juan Islands in the Pacific Northwest.  

4.  If you could change one thing about timeshare, what would it be? 
 Quite honestly, we are doing it at Vacatia and that is to provide real, sustainable solutions for the resale/secondary market in a highly credible, accurate and transparent way with no upfront fees. 

5.  What is your favorite color?  
Most of the time...Blue. 

If you'd like to be included in this series, drop me a line at