Timeshares - the most expensive vacation you will ever take.
In my 30 years of practice, I have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to clients who have purchased a timeshare.
Here are some tidbits that may help you avoid one of the biggest financial blunders out there...buying a timeshare from a developer at full retail price.
NEVER attend a sales presentation for timeshares. These often come with "free" stays at resorts as an enticement to attend the sales presentation. In the "heat of the moment", many unthinkingly buy a timeshare after one of these high pressure presentations while staying in a beautiful resort. The pressure to buy at one of these presentations is too great - do not attend.
If you are interested in buying a timeshare, look to the secondary market. There are plenty of folks who regret their decision to sign up for maintenance fees for life and will sell you their interest for $1.00.
Use tripadvisor to do research on the resort you are interested in buying into. There you can find hundreds of reviews on your resort and comments that will give you insights into that particular resort. You can often rent a unit identical to the unit occupied by "owners". For example, in popular Las Vegas, 2 of the most popular timeshare properties are readily available directly from their hotel partner. (Hilton and Marriott)
Timeshare companies are usually independent of the hotel chain they affiliate with and are just licensees of the name. But as mentioned in the previous paragraph, you can book properties like Marriott Chateau and Hilton Grand Vacations on the strip directly at the hotel website.
Many timeshares are now point based systems that give you the ability to go to any participating resort and use your points in exchange for a vacation. These systems are notoriously complicated, you must have a thorough understanding of what you are buying BEFORE you buy. There are many questions that need to be answered before you commit to maintenance fees for life.
The timeshare industry uses many tricks to get you to take the bait and sign up for maintenance fees for life.
Think twice and do your research (lots of it) before you sign on the dotted line.
The vast majority of people are better off booking annual vacations one at a time with no future obligation to take vacations that they may or may not be able to do in the future, with the legal requirement to pay maintenance fees (which can increase in most cases) forever.
Most resorts and hotels are open to the general public offering the ability to book a single stay at a known price in advance of the vacation, often with the ability to cancel the booking with no penalty within a few days of the planned vacation.
Never finance your timeshare purchase. If you can't afford to pay cash for your timeshare purchase, you have no business buying into a timeshare. After the magic of your first vacation wears off, it will be a very unpleasant experience making monthly mortgage payments on a timeshare in addition to paying maintenance fees for life.
Only for the most sophisticated traveler, will timeshares potentially save you money. And this is only true if the timeshare is bought on the secondary market from someone who paid full price to the developer. These are folks with lots of time on their hands and know how to work the system. And they know what they want. For these folks, timeshares can be cost effective and fulfilling. You can't "leave things up to chance"...you have to understand how the properties and systems work and exactly how to navigate them to your advantage.
A timeshare interest often becomes a "ball and chain" around your ankle mandating annual payments, telling you that you have to take a vacation, when you will take the vacation, and where you will take the vacation. Forced payments, timing and destinations are not part of a vacation!
In my recent research of the larger timeshare programs, I discovered a host of fees that apply in addition to the "Maintenance Fee" assessed by the timeshare to each "owner". There is no other way to put it, the fees charged by companies like Hilton Grand Vacation Club, RCI, and II are ridiculous.
Finally, there are NO tax advantages to owning a timeshare now that 95% of the American public uses the standard deduction and does not itemize their deductions.
The Timeshare user's group has been around a long time and contains a wealth of information on timeshares.
Timeshares work for some people, please don't be offended by the cautionary tone of this page. For all too many people, they turn into a financial disaster. For those who enjoy them and figure out how to make things work, more power to them!!
Before you buy a timeshare, be sure to google the name of your timeshare company followed by the word "complaints". Included in google's search results will likely be a link to the Better Business Bureau's page listing all of the complaints associated with your company. Marriott Vacation Club and Hilton Grand Vacations Club
will both come up with hundreds of complaints and horror stories from consumers. This way you can make an informed decision regarding your timeshare purchase.
There are many reasons not to buy a timeshare:
Up Front cost which often includes closing costs. (Why not put this money in an interest bearing money market account and use it to book vacations?)
Lifetime commitment. (The annual maintenance fee invoice comes whether or not you feel like taking a vacation. It comes during bad times as well as good. It comes after you are DEAD!)
Complexity of booking stays, particularly in high demand locations during peak periods.
Your deeded timeshare is often managed by a large corporation that has a tight contract allowing them to charge your HOA (Homeowner's Association) management fees plus expenses. Because there are so many dispersed owners, they effectively have zero control over the operation of their property.
There are thousands of new lodging options given the evolution of sites like AIRBNB, Homeaway, VRBO, etc.
These options are a one time expense, and while they may not be cheap either, and even include fees for housekeeping etc, you know EXACTLY what you will be charged when you book your reservation.
There are also thousands upon thousands of hotels available at prime locations, often competing for your business. You can review these hotels and resorts online at tripadvisor.com and get a very good idea of what you will be getting when you check in. This competitive environment means that hotels and resorts are competing for your business and offering hot breakfasts and other incentives to get your business. (This isn't true of a timeshare).
Hotels increasingly offer suites and have always offered adjoining rooms for those who are vacationing with large families and need space to stretch out.
Finally, you can simply rent timeshare like accommodations at sites like redweek.com or directly from Hilton or Marriott without the hassle of ownership. This is a good option for folks who want to try timeshares on for size and experience the convenience of a full size kitchen, in unit washer and dryer, and multiple bedrooms.
Sign up here...maintenance fees for life.
Todd's Tax Service LLC
Todd's Tax Service LLC