Where to Find the Answers to Your Timeshare Questions

Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a place you could go to get the answers to all your timeshare questions? How about a place where you could get advice about timeshare from people who are experienced in dealing with the issues…the owners? Timeshare forums for owners and potential owners are a good place to start looking for answers. 

Owners Supporting Owners

Inside these forums owners share their experiences about owning, selling and buying timeshares. Forums contain a wealth of information. They can be used to choose a resort or location for your next vacation, find out about potential scams and how others avoided or handled them, and learn about bargains or how to use points.  You can also find information to questions such as managing all the ins and outs of successful exchanging and making the system work for you, or issues on maintenance fees, or resort improvements, that are all freely discussed in the forums.
In last week’s blog, we talked about how important it is for new buyers to do the research before they buy, and one of the points listed was to talk to owners about their experiences. The forum is a good way to reach them and in the forum format, it may be easier to get your questions answered.

Where to Start

Many timeshare and vacation companies have their own forums and/or use social media platforms for owner communication.  For instance, there’s a Wyndham Owner’s Forum, Occidental Vacation Club uses Facebook for postings, and Trip Advisor has a Timeshares/Vacation Rental’s Forum. Other forums include:
  • The National Timeshare Owners AssociationThe National Timeshare Owner Association (NTOA) is a platform to advocate for timeshare owners, and to educate and help owners find answers and resolutions to ownership issues. Aligning itself with industry and community partners, NTOA has created a multi-media internet education center. In addition to their Feedback Page, NTOA recently initiated a new toll-free consumer helpline (1-844-ASK-NTOA). Owners can access the association for assistance with timeshare related issues and give feedback on great experiences.

  • RedWeekThough you may think of RedWeek as a site to go to rent or buy timeshare units, it also contains several timeshare discussion forums. The latest forums cover such topics as point systems, timeshare exchanges, buying renting and selling, plus travel tips and advice, timeshare resorts and an open discussion. 

  • Timesharing TodayAnother site for timeshare owners to share ideas, find answers to questions and communicate with other owners is Timesharing Today. The company states that it "offers its members independent, unbiased information."

Positive vs. Negative

It’s important not to let your site become a forum for negativity. Though it’s good to identify problems and work on ways to resolve them, too much negativity works against one of the purposes of the forum–to help educate others to the positive aspects of timesharing and help bring more members into the fold. Forums excel when they are used to provide a platform to bring owners together by sharing ideas and experiences, and providing support and protection for members.

5 Ways to Help You be a Better Timeshare Consumer

You’re a timeshare owner or thinking about becoming one, and you’ve got some concerns. You’ve heard stories about unscrupulous timeshare companies, resale scammers, promises unkept, ridiculously high maintenance fees, and the list goes on. So how can you protect yourself and enjoy the many positive aspects of timesharing? There are groups available to help you protect your investment - American Resort Development Association, Federal Trade Commission, Better Business Bureau, State Department of Justice Consumer Protection—but the number one person to start with is you.

1. Be Your Own Advocate
  • Before and after you purchase a timeshare you must be your own advocate. New buyers need to do their homework. It is never wise to jump into any purchase that requires a sizeable investment before you do the research. Find out all the information you need to calculate the cost of a timeshare. Add up such costs as mortgage payments and all expenses like annual maintenance fees (does the plan have a fee cap?) and taxes, broker fees, finance charges, closing fees and even travel costs. Compare these costs to the cost of renting similar accommodations in the same location for the same length of time and in the same time period. Include amenities too. If the timeshare still looks good after the comparison, then go on to the next step.
  • Check with the local consumer protection agency in the company’s home state to see if there are any complaints against the company. Check out the property, quality of the resort and availability of units. Talk to current owners about their experiences—does the owner keep up the maintenance of the property? Make sure you understand all the paperwork involved, find out about cancellation policy and other issues of concern. Set up an escrow account for undeveloped properties and a written commitment from the seller as to when the facilities will be finished. That way, you protect yourself should the developer default.
  • Once you take the plunge and become an owner you need to continue to advocate for yourself by keeping informed of the latest timeshare legislation, getting actively involved in timeshare advocacy groups, and if you really want your voice heard, become a member of your timeshare’s Board of Directors.

2. American Resort Development Association (ARDA)
Timeshare owners have a fair and unbiased resource as well as a legal advocate with ARDA.  As ARDA’s website states, "our Government Affairs Team has a strong record of successfully advocating for the policies contributing to the growth and vitality of the industry while protecting the vacation ownership experience." ARDA’s website is full of information on the latest news and legislation effecting timeshare. Its 10 advisories, listed on the ARDA website help guide owners through the secondary market that includes timeshare resellers, internet advertisers and resale companies. The ARDA Resort Owners Coalition (ARDA-ROC) helps to protect owners by working to prevent legislation that might have a negative impact on timeshare. Funded by timeshare owners’ contributions (often as little as $1 checked off of the maintenance fee form) owners can take part in protecting and enhancing the timeshare experience.

3. Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
The FTC is another entity actively involved in helping the industry. Their joint task force, combing federal, state and international law enforcement, has been successful in bringing actions against companies involved in timeshare scams. Their website is an excellent source of information on the ins and outs of buying a timeshare, and recent criminal prosecutions and legislation concerning the industry. 

4. Better Business Bureau (BBB)
Just as you would investigate any business that you’re thinking of working with, investigating the business you’re going to buy your timeshare from is a must. The BBB is a good place to review a business, find out its BBB rating and if there are any registered complaints against it that haven’t been resolved. The BBB also offers its own information about buying a timeshare. Contact your timeshare company’s local BBB for information.

5. State Department of Justice Consumer Protection
As state law varies from state to state, and country to country, you might want to check out the timeshare company through the State Department of Justice or Attorney General’s Office of Consumer Protection for local laws governing timeshare. For instance, if you purchase a timeshare and then decide to back out, in Florida you have 10 business days to return it for a full refund, in Nevada it’s 5 days, and in Indiana it’s only 3 days. These offices also have access to any pending legislation against companies. 

Now May be the Perfect Time to Market to Baby Boomers

With all the talk about millennials, you might be inclined to ignore the baby boomers - but don't. Those 76+ million boomers in the US are still one of the most viable sources of timeshare buyers. Why, you might ask? The reason is because they like to travel and they have the money to do so. Timeshares are appealing to boomers because they offer all the things boomers want in a travel experience - affordability, flexibility and quality.

Baby Boomers are Pre-Qualified

Baby boomers have disposable income. Instead of choosing to retire, many have chosen to keep working or at least work part time, and those who have retired have money to spare. True to their strong work ethic and "live to work" reputation, some 49% of baby boomers are still in the work force and don't expect to retire until age 66 or older. Those that have retired have planned well for their retirement time and have money to spend on travel. According to industry research, boomers spend $157 million on trips every year. And you don't have to convince them of the benefits of travel - baby boomers already view travel as a necessity not a luxury. In fact, in most travel polls, boomers rank travel as their #1 activity.

Timeshares and Boomers--a Perfect Match

Boomers favor luxury and comfort, and they are willing to pay for it if you can deliver. They like what a timeshare can offer, such as spacious accommodations with room for multigenerational family vacations. The "home away from home" atmosphere is attractive to boomers because convenience, comfort and added space for family is important. 

Variety IS the Spice of a Baby Boomer's Life
Boomers want flexibility and choice in their travel. The vacation options of timeshare are attractive to boomers. The ability to have flexibility in choosing when they want to travel and where - numerous choices of locations throughout the world - are all appealing to boomers.  They like the convenience of the "all inclusive" resort where food and drink is covered and where they will have plenty of activities to keep them occupied, because baby boomers are healthier and in better shape than their predecessors. They do not think of themselves as aging. According to Phil Goodman, co-author of Boomer Marketing Revolution, "Boomers will always try to act younger than their chronological age. As a result, they may want to fulfill the dreams they had when they were 25 even if their bodies aren’t willing." So bring on the adventure travel, but don’t forget the spa!

Aware of Cost
Raised by parents who encouraged savings accounts, baby boomers want to know that they are getting their money’s worth. They like a good bargain and timeshares fit the bill, particularly for longer stays. The cost of staying in a timeshare for 2-3 weeks or more, is far less than it would be at a typical hotel or resort. Advantages such as exchanging, the option of renting, and last-minute bargains, all make timeshare more cost-effective to boomers. 
The timeshare industry has always welcomed baby boomers, but now more than ever, may be a good time to get that welcome mat out again.

Who are the Leaders in Timeshare Sales?

Vacation Ownership World (VOW) - a digital magazine that acts as a forum for the trends and issues of the vacation ownership industry - has come out with its latest review and forecast of the state of vacation ownership sales. According to VOW, vacation ownership sales, timeshare and fractional sales combined, expanded 7% in 2013 over 2012. Combined with a 10% rise in 2012 over 2011, it’s the largest back-to-back sales growth period since the economy began its decline in 2008. Timeshare sales rose 11%...the largest jump since 2006 and 2007.

Last Year’s Top Developers Remain in the Lead
Changes and adjustments (noted in VOW’s 2012 review), are still being used by the leading developers who remain successful in an economy that is improving but still struggling. Some of the ways developers maintained success are:
  • Having access to sufficient capital
  • Using only the sales and marketing programs that have proven to be most efficient
  • Sustaining a ratio of new owner sales to existing owner sales
  • Recognizing that consumers are purchasing in smaller transactions (samplers, junior suites, biennials, triennials, etc.) and using social media to make vital owner contacts and building relationships
  • Using timeshare as a cash generator…some developers collect over 50% of the value of a sales contract up front. Ownerships allow developers to access inventory as needed versus carrying the cost of excess inventory on their books.
  • Improving cash flow and increased profitability by using sophisticated models to predict a prospect’s ability to pay

The Leaders in Timeshare Sales

The developers who had $5 million or more in 2013 sales include:

1. Wyndham Vacation Ownership
Wyndham Vacation Ownership (WVO) topped the list of the 2013 Sales Leaders with $1.9 billion in sales. WVO is one of those companies that stuck to their plan. Experiencing a banner year in 2012, WVO president and CEO Franz Hanning said that 2013 was a replay of 2012, "Once again our numbers were excellent, once again sales, tours, VPG, net income, EBITDA (earnings before interest, depreciation taxes and amortization) and WAAM (fee-for-service business model) sales and commissions were all up." Top on WVO’s strategy list…generate cash flow.

2. Hilton Grand Vacations
Coming in at #2 on VOW’s list was Hilton Grand Vacations with a record $830 million in timeshare sales. Much of the success was attributed to an increase in club membership to more than 200,000 and moving capital efficient sales from 17% in 2012 to 45% in 2013. Commenting on this, Hilton’s president of global sales Mark Wang stated, "We did this by welcoming more visitors to our sales centers allowing us to continue our strategy of adding first time buyers to our club." Mr. Wang attributed another part of HGV’s success to the company’s adherence to hiring and retaining qualified and dedicated employees, and their commitment to making an engaging work environment.

Rounding out the Top 10 in Timeshare Sales (in millions)
3. Marriott World - $679
4. Diamond Resorts International and Bluegreen Resorts each with - $465
5. Starwood Vacation Ownership - $326
6. Silverleaf - $244
7. Holiday Inn Club Vacations - $229
8. Villa Group - $116
9. Club Melia - $109

10. Welk Resorts - $105