26 May, 2020

Today’s topic: Timeshares!

Before we get to the timeshare topic, I’ll bring you up to speed for my week. My lavandaria is open! No more kitchen-sink laundry! I will say the thought of washing my bed sheets in the kitchen sink was daunting! I think the owner is working short hours – she told me to pick up tomorrow at 3:00 pm, and not later! Strangely, even with sheets AND a pair of jeans, my laundry is costing less than the last time I went. I’m not complaining!

Marino is either having a sale on the big can of their special roast coffee, or they’ve mismarked it – the prices list it at $160 pesos and the standard grind is more. On the way home from the lavandaria I swung through the mercado and picked up a can, some filters, and four tamales de camarón. Then a quick stop at Loncheria Zambrano for two tortas de pierna to-go. Now I’m set for pre-made meals as I still have my caldo de pollo, tortas, and tamales! And coffee to drink! Oh, and I have a torta ahogada in the freezer too! Woooo!

Ok, now to the Timeshare topic! I think many viewers may have had some interaction with timeshares, as you can’t get through the airport arrival section without going through the ‘shark tank’ (room of timeshare salespeople, telling you they’re the transportation to your hotel so they can get you cornered and sign you up for a sales pitch). The cities that allow this should be ashamed. What a way to tarnish the vacation of a first time visitor to their cities! From the posts I’ve seen, timeshare presentations NEVER take the 60 or 90 minutes they promise you. Many times you won’t get the freebies, or they’ll come with conditions you can’t meet. What I promise you will get is a wasted day that could have been spent on the beach or by the pool, enjoying some nice appetizers and drinks. Appetizers and drinks, or a wasted day. Hmmm. The choice is so hard!

So why would anyone in their right mind want to buy a timeshare? I have three and a half weeks per year, so let me go ahead and tell you why I did. I’ll start by saying I bought in places that I felt I wanted to vacation at every year. I had reached a point where I wasn’t traveling, and paying the maintenance fee(s) was the incentive to do it. Too much work is not a good thing! I did a lot of homework, and found a resort in Mazatlán I liked for $1 on ebay. The annual maintenance fees were very low. The contract was right to use (see below) and expired in 2022, so I wouldn’t be stuck with it if I didn’t like it. After a few years I saw another week at the same resort – and they were paying the buyer $200 to take it off their hands. I also like Puerto Vallarta, so I put on my research hat again. This time I was looking for the favorite timeshare resort in the area. Pretty much everyone posting on the internet LOVED the Lindo Mar. So I sat on the computer scanning eBay listings for Lindo Mar timeshare weeks. After six months one came up. Bingo!! I paid a tad more than $1, but it was under $100. The last resort I have is in South Lake Tahoe. It’s beautiful there. I like slot machines and buffets. There’s a dropzone just over the mountains and skydiving there has an amazing view. Those were all factors in my deciding to buy (again, from eBay) – but the major factor was I wanted something with trading power. Timeshares in México have been oversaturated and tourism is down quite a bit from the heyday of partying in México. My every-other-year Tahoe week gets me two weeks of timeshare in Acapulco. More on trading later.

And now to the nitty gritty of timeshares. There are three basic types of timeshares:

  • Deeded weeks – These are actual ownership of property. You pay property taxes and own something other than a piece of paper.
  • Right to Use – This is a guarantee by the owner of the property that you will be given a set number of days to use each ownership period, for a maintenance fee. Almost ALL right to use contracts have an expiration date; and almost all Méxican timeshares are right to use.
  • Points – You buy into a point system in the timeshare company. You don’t own physical property. The timeshare company assigns a point value to each of their rooms, and you pay for your reservation using the points you have in your account. Every year you receive a certain number of additional points for your maintenance fee. Most of the time you’ll have a ‘home’ resort, but can use your points at any of the resorts in the timeshare company.

There are also ‘Seasons’ that affect the cost of your timeshare – High season contracts are usually able to book almost all weeks of the year. Many resorts block off Christmas week and sometimes Fourth of July. Low season contracts are for the times of year when tourism is down, and these contracts will cost you less. Sometimes a resort will assign colors to their seasons.

You can also often buy an ‘Every Other Year’ contract, either for use on odd years or on even years. If you go this route, make sure you understand the maintenance fee schedule – are you paying half every year, or the full payment every other year.

Within the types are also sub-types:

  • Fixed weeks/units – You own a particular week and unit number. Each time you return to your timeshare resort, you come during the same week of the year and stay in the same unit. Weeks usually start either Friday, Saturday, or Sunday.
  • Floating weeks/units – You don’t own any particular week or unit. You make your reservation based on what week you want to go. Sometimes they’ll guarantee a particular room if you request it and it’s available. The downside is that often the week you want is not available (they’ve oversold fixed weeks, or other floating week owners have booked before you). VERY often the prime weeks will not be available, so have a second – or third, choice ready.

Most resorts have different room types, 1 bedroom, 2 bedroom, Junior Suites, Penthouses, etc. Most timeshare resorts have kitchens or kitchenettes but some are basic hotel rooms too.

Resorts come in two flavors as well. Mandatory all inclusive (AI – NOT AL! Don’t call it AL!), and not mandatory all inclusive. If the resort is all inclusive, then you will pay a daily fee for food and drinks. Fees are usually flexible (cheaper if you attend a dreaded sales meeting), and come in different levels (better food/top shelf booze).

Maintenance fees also come in two basic flavors. Most maintenance fees are paid every year. Some rare and mysterious timeshare resorts will charge you maintenance fees only in years you use your room.

Timeshare purchases can generally be made from three different sources:

  • Developers/Resort – This is the most costly way to go. You’re paying thousands of dollars on top of your maintenance fees. This is the way the developers pay for the cost of building the resort, and a hefty profit. Think of this as you would an automobile loan. You sign the contract then every month make a payment for xx months. Additionally you’ll pay the maintenance fees. Be aware that there is a rescission clause in every timeshare contract. It’s buried deep in the depths! You have a set number of DAYS to cancel your contract … follow their procedures EXACTLY as they’ve stated them.
  • Resellers – Timeshares were very popular in the 1970’s and 1980’s. The people that purchased then are now at the age where they can no longer travel, or they’ve passed and their children have taken over the timeshare. The owners just want to sell and get out from under the reoccurring maintenance fees. They’ve been bamboozled one last time by a radio or television advertisement promising to help …. these are those bamboozlers. The owners have paid them, often more thousands of dollars, to get rid of the timeshare for them. They often list these timeshares for $1 on ebay. So, you pay the $1 and take over the maintenance fees – and you get ownership (if it’s deeded) and use of the timeshare. BE VERY CAREFUL as these people list hundreds of timeshares for sale and often misstate something. If you’re purchasing, this is the second best way of doing it.
  • Owners – These are the same type of people that sell to the resellers, but this group has done their homework and realized they don’t have to pay someone else thousands to put a listing on ebay. This is the best way of purchasing a timeshare, as you can ask the owner any questions you may have before making the purchase. Ask things like, ‘why are you selling?’, and ‘what do and don’t you like about the resort?’.

When transferring a timeshare contract there is almost always a fee by the resort for making the change. Often this will be listed on the back of the contract. Sometimes a seller (or reseller) will pay the transfer fee. Sometimes they’ll want you to pay it. Factor that in when deciding if you want to buy – AND keep it in mind for when you want to SELL.

Selling – as mentioned, there are the bamboozlers you can pay thousands of dollars to. You can post on eBay. There are user groups like redweek and timeshare users group that take ads. Sometimes, and more often these days, the resort will take a deedback. As long as your maintenance fees are current and your contract is paid off, you pay them a certain amount of money (most I’ve seen are under $1,000 usd) and they take the timeshare back. One last group you’ll want to contact are other owners. Many times another owner at your resort will take your week, and may even give you a little chunk of $$ for it!

I want to also take a moment to discuss what to do when someone has willed their timeshare to you. You are under NO obligation to accept anything willed to you if you don’t want it. Period. If your parents had a timeshare property that you enjoyed as a child, and keeping it would give you warm fuzzies then by all means – take it, use it, enjoy it. But if taking possession will cause a financial hardship, or you just don’t want it – tell the executor/executrix – No way José/Juanita! And feel free to tell them that the estate will have to be paying the transfer fee as well! If you’re the administrator of the estate I would suggest contacting an attorney if a timeshare isn’t wanted. Timeshare resorts have gotten better about taking deedbacks, especially from owners who have passed – but some can be nasty and they’ll need a STFU letter from an attorney.

Lastly I’ll give an overview of trading your timeshare. There are two major trading companies, RCI and Interval International. The basic procedure is that there’s an annual membership fee you pay. You confirm a reservation at your resort (either your fixed week, or you book your floating week), then you call the trading company and deposit the week with them. Points are assigned to each room type in a resort, and to the week you have reserved so find out which weeks have more points! When you want to travel, you go to the trading company’s website and find a resort in a location you want. Each room will have the cost, in points, listed. You check availability and book if you have enough points. There is also an exchange fee at this stage. Be very careful that you check to see if additional fees (like all inclusive) will be charged by the resort! Locations like Hawaii are VERY popular and will usually require a lot of points (at least the ones on the beach do). Locations like México are not as popular, and will require few points. During the year there are also sales where fees are lowered, or fewer points are required, or you’ll get two exchanges for the price of one. Some trading companies have ‘hot deals’ – last minute rooms that are insanely inexpensive. If you can travel at any time, these are a great way to go. As I said, my every other year week in South Lake Tahoe gives me enough points to book two weeks in México, so when I figure in all the fees, it comes out to about what I pay for my timeshare in Puerto Vallarta. I’m good with that – especially since I can pick where and when I want to go.

In closing I’ll recommend that anyone who is thinking of purchasing a timeshare (or who already has one) joins the Timeshare Users Group (http://www.tugbbs.com). They have a wealth of information and a huge group of owners who collectively can answer any question accurately.

** The opinions expressed above are my own and are not meant to apply to any one particular timeshare resort/management company/reseller. Bamboozlers know who they are, I won’t name them directly.

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