Is timeshare good value?
Timeshare membership. Good return on your money?
Timeshare membership is presented as many things: A financial investment, an investment in your happiness, a quality guarantee for future accommodation, a way to save money... The list goes on.
Sales patter aside, what do you need to know?
In the 80s and 90s and 2000s a lot of people bought timeshare. This was before the internet, and a consumer's only source of information about their vacation accommodation was the glossy brochure in their travel agents.
Timeshare operations sold aggressively to vacationers frustrated with the disconnect between the airbrushed images and the 2 star reality greeting their tired family on arrival at the actual hotel.
Timeshare resorts were 5 star quality and designed to impress. Plus the exchange facility meant that when you went to other destinations you could expect the same luxury. People wanted this upgrade and were happy to pay.
The reality? "Yes, timeshare delivered luxury, and it still does," agrees Suzanne Stojanovic, spokesperson for American Consumer Claims, "however lots of regular hotels and resorts do too, and in 2023 nobody relies on a travel agent’s brochure's accuracy. User generated review sites like TripAdvisor make it far more difficult to disguise poor quality accommodation with clever photography."
Timeshare resorts in their heyday were largely purpose built, and were for the exclusive use of members or exchange guests from other clubs.
If you wanted in, you paid. You still do today.
Timeshare memberships involve a large upfront 'joining fee' and then an annual management charge per week roughly equal to staying in that standard of accommodation for the same time period. People were happy with that deal and today over 20 million households vacation through timeshare memberships.
The reality: "Exclusivity is something all of us value and timeshare resorts have done an amazing job of monetising it," says Suzanne. "Unfortunately, many resorts have abandoned the commitment to exclusivity.
"The resort bosses have allowed regular vacationers to book empty timeshare inventory on Booking.com, Expedia and other accommodation sites."
Suzanne believes that timeshare resorts may have shot themselves in the foot with this approach. "Sure, they gave themselves a much needed revenue injection in the short-term by renting out the empty units to non-members," says Suzanne. "But to the member who paid tens of thousands of dollars to join an exclusive club it is a kick in the teeth. Certainly it removes much of the motivation for new members to join up if they can now book into the same complex without any upfront investment or commitment."
A way to save money
Back in the 80s, 90s and early 2000s many resorts had a 'financial logic' pitch designed to show how buying timeshare would save a vacationer money over ten years or more. Originally a large part of the financial logic pitch was that the member was fixing today's prices for the future.
The reality: Most resorts have long since given up trying to push this narrative. "This no longer holds water, if it ever did," explains Stojanovic. "The value of owning timeshare vs regular vacation stays has been written about ad infinitum. There is no question that it is more expensive to take the same vacation via timeshare membership rather than by booking through Expedia et al.
"Timeshare annual fees are around the same as the cost to a non-member checking into the resort through ordinary booking sites, and those fees rise every year at least as much as inflation. Add on the sometimes tens of thousands of dollars it costs to join (as well as extraneous costs like exchange clubs), and you are looking at a substantial net loss over time."
Again, this 'benefit" is not realistic. In the past (and to some extent today, by unscrupulous salespeople) timeshare has been presented as a form of real estate investment, and therefore likely to increase in value over time.
The reality: "This is and always has been completely disingenuous," says Suzanne Stojanovic. "Even if the owner has a title deed to show they own an actual slice of real estate, the cost of a typical timeshare week multiplied by 52 would give a value to the apartment so overinflated that it would take centuries to make a profit.
"The majority of timeshare ownerships are actually a 'right to rotational occupancy.' This right only exists as long as the company providing it exists, and more companies are going into administration every day.
"For confirmation that timeshare is not a financial investment one need only look at the volume of timeshares on Ebay for $1. The reality is that you can't give them away. In fact you have to pay specialists to help you escape from an unwanted timeshare."
Investment in yourself
This purported benefit is that you/your family deserve luxury, and by committing financially to the timeshare membership you are making sure that you get it.
The reality: The idea that timeshare was a financial investment didn't survive very long, and many resorts turned instead to the (conveniently unquantifiable) line that it was an 'investment in yourself'. "This is like saying 'spoil yourself, you are worth it,'" says Suzanne. "It allows them to continue using the word 'invest' while completely reversing the meaning of the message to: 'this isn't a financial investment; it is treating yourself to something nice.”
"In a way that logic does appear to bear up because people who pay for something are likely to use it," continues Suzanne, "until they can't. The pandemic was an unwanted dose of reality for many owners. Their 'investment in themselves' has revealed its true colours as an obligation to pay for a week of vacation even if they can't use it. The investment is actually a burden".
The arguable truth is that timeshare is an idea that has not evolved with the times. Many existing owners are looking for ways out of restrictive contracts.
The large volume of people looking to find a way out of their timeshare contracts has attracted a lot of fraudsters who promise to help for a fee, before disappearing with the money.
If you are thinking of retaining experts to help you relinquish a timeshare contract, make sure you are dealing with one of the reputable claims firms.
Get in touch with our team for further advice on your specific situation.