Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Something’s Fishy With This Broker’s Fiduciary Responsibilty

Look at these listings, the first page of many, that I found on a timeshare broker’s site for Wyndham points at their Bonnet Creek property. 

POINTS    PRICE
400,000  $48,500 
154,000   $1,900
126,000    $17,000
105,000    $11,000
189,000     $21,000
 64,000      $12,000
 84,000       $10,352
320,000     $21,900
 84,000      $152,258
126,000      $8,500
105,000      $10,500
168,000      $11,281
105,000      $8,600
128,000      $15,832
 84,000       $12,277.70
511,000       $60,000
525,000      $28,000
 84,000        $12,507
166,000       $12,130

I don’t know about you, but these listings make absolutely no sense and send a clear warning sign that something is amiss. All of these listings are for the same resort and all are for points. Points, for those of you unfamiliar with timeshare, are the ‘currency’ whereby an owner has access to a reservation system. You don’t actually own much of anything. So while no one house or condo is exactly the same-difference with lot size, view, layout, floor of building, etc. , points at a resort are all exactly the same. 

Now how is it that in this broker’s exact words from their own website; “15 years of experience and an outstanding reputation in the timeshare industry, our licensed real estate agents are vacation ownership experts and we promote timeshare listings using extensive digital marketing
that provides exposure to prospective buyers from across the globe” they can charge such drastically different prices for the exact same product while all the while, operating with the seller’s fiduciary interests at heart?

One of the reasons I tell people to work with a broker when selling their timeshare is that in theory, a broker will help owners determine a sensible price to list their timeshare for in order to maximize their chances of a sale. 

If these insane listings aren’t bad enough, a quick glance at Sharket.com will clearly show that the average selling price of a timeshare at Wyndham Bonnet Creek dating back from 2012 is $1,000 based on more than 1,000 verified sales. 


Something is fishy here and this broker has some questions they need to answer. 

Friday, February 8, 2019

There Aren’t Enough Cliches To Describe These Proposed Laws

The people who run the very large timeshare industry in Florida have proposed some significant changes to the existing laws as they pertain to the so-called timeshare exit companies. 

You can read the entire proposed bill here:  http://m.flsenate.gov/session/bill/2019/435/billtext/filed/pdf

Now while I agree that consumers are being ripped off at an alarming rate by the vast majority of these firms, some, if not most of the proposals being put forth are laughable. If this isn’t a case of the pot calling the kettle black, I don’t know what is. 

While these proposed rules and oversights directed at timeshare exit companies, are well intended and do provide some protection for consumers, I feel strongly that they go above and beyond current rules and oversights in place for the timeshare industry. If the legislature chooses to implement these rules, I ask that similar rules be implemented for the timeshare developers engaged in the sale of timeshare interests, whether weeks or points. 

In particular I find that if the consumer is to be provided with a copy of the agreement to review at least 1 business day before the purchaser is to sign the agreement (Lines 316-318), the same methodology must be implemented by the developer attempting to sell a timeshare interest. It’s important to remember that the current paradigm of a “90 minute sales presentation after which the consumer is forced to make a purchasing decision or forfeit their right to make a decision in the future without benefit of seeing, much less reading the contract, POS, etc.” was instituted 40 years ago by the timeshare industry and can be easily changed if they wanted to change it. 

Additionally I find that if exit companies are to perform “random recording and testing of the oral representations made by employees or independent contractors
engaged in sales or other customer service functions, if the provider uses telemarketing” the timeshare developer should do the same as a way to protect the interests of the consumer. 

If a consumer is to be informed about options before dealing with an exit company, then should timeshare developers not give out similar options to consumers, such as AirBnB, etc?  At the very least, the timeshare seller should be required to make it clear that they are working in the interests of the developer, such as a real estate agent must disclose they are a seller’s agent. 

These are just a few of what I consider salient points of this proposed legislation that deserve a very careful review. As I said, at first glance it seems both innocuous and a boom to consumers. Read it again. 

Of course, none of these proposed rules and oversights would be necessary for timeshare exit companies if in fact the timeshare developers themselves offered viable alternatives for consumers who for one reason or another, do not want their timeshare interest any longer. The timeshare industry has done everything in its power to suppress a secondary market, thereby opening the doors for these exit companies to thrive as consumers feel they have no other choice. 

If you feel strongly about this, as I do, here’s who you should contact

Senator Travis Hutson

Representative Mike LaRosa

Representative Wyman Duggan


Friday, February 1, 2019

Governor Bryan Wants Overhaul of Timeshare Sales Regime in USVI

The United States Virgin Islands won't have a timeshare amendment added to the books this year, after newly elected Governor Albert Bryan took a strong, independent stance and vetoed Timeshare Bill 32-0351. The American Resort Development Association (ARDA), the industry trade group of developers in the United States, drafted what it called a new set of "model laws" that would take recent changes in the industry into account. 

What were those changes? In the most basic terms, the current laws in the USVI are similar to most states in the U.S. which are structured around the sale of deeded timeshare ownership, which is real property, as opposed to what many consider a service contract of a points club membership which do not involve any real estate interest whatsoever. Today, nearly every major resort developer sells a points model program with only a small number  still selling the original deeded vacation product. So ARDA worked to get their bill sponsored and lobbied aggressively to get it passed through the territory's legislature. 

Many observers agreed that this bill favored developers to the detriment of the consumer. Last year, ARDA also filed litigation against the territory after the "timeshare room tax" was deleted and replaced with an impact fee that appeared to have no difference in cost to consumers, but had apparently never been enforced. Developers said those extra fees would make it more difficult for them to sell vacation club points to members. 

While ARDA was seeking to get its "model" amendments added to the existing laws, both the litigation and perhaps more importantly the recent changes to the vacation club product seem to have crossed the Govenor's desk at the same time. In one of his first acts, he decided not to sign the bill and requested instead that the legislature act on a comprehensive overhaul of the timeshare sales regime to include ownership rights, sales protocols, licensing and regulation of salespersons, property taxation reporting and foreclosure.  

This more stringent overhaul sends a clear message that Governor Bryan is not willing to settle for the same old practices that have been in place and perhaps signals that consumers need more protection than had been previously granted them in the US Virgin Islands. 

Sources: 

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

If It’s Important To You Ask To See It In The Contract

As if last week’s post of common lies, I mean misrepresentations, told at a timeshare sales session wasn’t enough, here’s a recap of an email I received:

Here is a list of some of the lies we were told:

>They said we would own property that wouldn’t depreciate and we could use it as a tax write off

>They said there was a resale department that we could use if we ever wanted to get out of the timeshare. What they purposely didn’t mention when they misled us was that it has to be paid off first

>They said we could cover maintenance costs by renting the timeshare out. Unfortunately, the rental market is as overcrowded with useless timeshares as the resale market. So, we do not have a penny from rentals but we do have increasing maintenance fees

>They neglected to tell us about many charges including not booking 60 days in advance as well as for booking in places other than where we signed up

>They told us we could use our points for airfare, cruises, car rental and other amenities. What they didn’t say as that it would take hundreds and thousands of dollars to get this many points

>They told us we were buying in the location that they showed us but
our contract is actually located at a different place

>They didn’t tell us about the rescission period either

ALL of this could have been easily avoided by the consumer a) using a modicum of common sense and b) asking to see exactly where the pertinent clause is in the contract. This person paid over $12,000 for her timeshare. 


What I don’t understand is this:  If these things were so important to her and may have been some of the reasons she purchased seeing as she clearly remembers these items more than 4 years after purchasing, WHY didn’t she ask to see where these items were covered in the contract?

Friday, January 25, 2019

Misrepresentations You May Hear

This is reprinted from my most recent article I wrote for SeniorNews.com

If you’ve ever sat through a timeshare sales pitch, you know that they can be high pressure. The sales staff has been trained to do one thing and one thing only—-influence you to purchase on the spot. Because of that high pressure, these sales pitches can be laced with, ahem, some misrepresentations. Here are the most common things that are misrepresented at timeshare sales pitches:

Price Today vs Price Any Other Time

This is the one that is used the most, often in conjunction with ‘quoting’ some State Statute. If there is such a statute, such as in Florida, it has to do with whatever gifts you’re being bribed with to sit with the salesperson, not the price. Trust me, they’ll take your money tomorrow, next week or next month.

Resale Value And Your Ability To Resell

The truth of the matter is that the resale market is awash in timeshares that owners are willing to sell for $1,000 or less. Sales agents simply refuse to disclose that. In some cases, licensed brokers will refuse certain listings because the timeshare literally has NO resale value because of the draconian restrictions placed by the developer in secondary market purchases.

Maintenance Fee Relief Programs That Do Not Exist

There are many permutations of this misrepresentation. Suffice it to say you should not purchase additional timeshare under some bizarre plan that you’ll be able to pay off your fees with the points. Read that again. It makes no sense, does it?

The Value of Travel Awards

Again, there is a myriad of promised schemes using timeshare points and the ability to purchase certain travel rewards. Bottom line, buy timeshare only to use as timeshare, not for the promise of being able to use it for airline tickets, etc.

Stating A Lower Interest Rate Can Be Obtained From A Bank Or Credit Union

In the event you’re smart enough to balk at the ‘convenient’ 15%, 16% or 17% financing the resort will offer you (and you’d be stunned to find out how many people agree to those insane rates), some salespeople will tell you that you can get a personal loan. Wrong. I have yet to find a bank that will finance a timeshare. What are they going to do if you’re foreclosed on? There is however a reputable source for people with good credit history. Check out LightStream.com.

Ease Of Ability To Return To Your Home Resort

Unless you purchased a fixed week/fixed unit timeshare, highly doubtful, you’re going to have to make reservations to come back to your home resort. You’ll be battling other owners and owners who are exchanging into your resort for prime season. You better fully understand exactly when you need to make a reservation and what the process is before you purchase. Don’t rely on the salesperson, talk to other owners.

Ease Of Ability To Trade/Exchange

If you think coming back to your home resort takes some doing, it’s nothing compared to attempting to trade or exchange into another resort. In addition to the fee averaging over $200 (!) most owners find out too late that they need to make plans either 12-13 months out or less than 60 days out in order to get what they want. A week in Branson, Missouri is not going to get you Christmas Week in Hawaii.
Bottom line here is do not do anything in haste. If you’re looking for assistance in determining what’s true and what’s false, figuring out if a timeshare is for you, or like millions of people who already own and no longer want or use what they have, contact me at lisaschreier617@gmail.com.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Is DVC Really Just ‘Another Timeshare’ Now?

Effective January 19th, Disney Vacation Club is implementing some changes, joining many other developers in placing some rather stringent usage restrictions on resale purchases. 

In short, here’s what’s changing;

>Resale contracts purchased for the original 14 resorts at Walt Disney World, Disneyland, and 3 stand-alone locations will only be able to use their points at those 14 existing resorts

>Buyers who purchase a resale of Disney’s Riviera Resort or Reflections – A Disney Lakeside Lodge (the newest resorts now being built) will only be able to stay at the DVC resort they purchased 

These are fairly substantial changes and are certain to affect resale prices, which have traditionally been very high, going forward. It also means that DVC will most likely exercise their Right of First Refusal more than they currently do, swooping in and purchasing inventory only to turn around and sell it again as ‘new’.

As one writer described it:  ‘The time of innocence is over. DVC is just another timeshare.’

Thoughts?


Monday, January 14, 2019

Charged Closing Costs For a Non-Deeded Timeshare

Another reason to not purchase a timeshare or related product outside of the US and to carefully read and understand the rescission clause:

So still fighting with my credit card company trying to reverse a charge from a meeting at a time share in the Dominican.   Again we were pressured into signing something and after 24 hours went back and issued them a cancelation letter but they are keeping fees for closing costs. I asked closing cost for what? We canceled within the time period.  They said it was in our contact that we signed and agreed to.  I said no the salesman told us we could cancel without any penalty. They sent the contract to my credit card company and therefore my credit card company has charged it back to my account. How can they do this? How can they charge this fee when we canceled? How can they charge us closing costs on something that's not deeded or a piece of property? Any advice?

Sadly, this is not the first time that I’ve heard of a timeshare company retaining some of the down payment even when the purchase ad cancelled within the legal time frame. It’s also not the first time I’ve heard of a timeshare company charging closing costs or other fees commonly associated with a real estate transaction when there was no real estate involved. 

It’s yet another example of consumers needing to ask the right questions and not being afraid to get up and walk out if the answers aren’t agreeable. 


Remember that YOU, not the sales staff is in control. 

P.S.  To make matters worse, I asked this person if this was in fact, a timeshare that she purchased or a vacation club. Her answer?  “I don’t know the difference.”  Kinda difficult to assist now, isn’t it?