At VOC, we understand that helping timeshare owners doesn’t always mean providing a legal contract termination. Oftentimes, they simply need honest feedback on where they are or what they can do with their timeshare. Unfortunately, far too many buyers never totally understand the purchase until they run into problems. There’s a reason why sales teams aggressively rush consumers during the presentation. So, if you don’t even know what to look for in a timeshare vacation package, then you shouldn’t put yourself in a position to buy one until you have the information needed to make such a commitment.
Understanding the product before signing the agreement is absolutely crucial. Those that don’t are often convinced before they even think about reviewing all verbal guarantees and promises. But it’s not exactly their fault. Over the course of the summer, we intentionally spent a lot of time explaining the deception behind a timeshare sale and how consumers are misled throughout. This is important because leisure travel will resume at some point in time and timeshare companies will be looking for new unsuspecting buyers.
What to Expect When Closed Resorts Reopen.
When travel bans and local restrictions cease, millions of tourists will be exposed to the ever-luring timeshare sale and thousands will be sucked into a presentation. It’s difficult to talk someone out of “the deal of a lifetime” when they believe it to be true. The point is, the only way to slow down the misinformed purchase of timeshares is to reach consumers before they’re sold.
What Does An Ideal Timeshare Vacation Package Look Like?
The thousands of inquiries we’ve processed over the years prove that bad, impromptu decisions can be painful and expensive to fix – kind of like getting a random tattoo that says “no regrets” one crazy night while out with friends. The next morning, the reflection in the mirror may elicit a different set of emotions. Bad decisions that are said to be permanent can be erased. But the removal process will cost additional time and money while possibly leaving behind a few scars.
So, if you’re considering vacation ownership or planning a trip in the near future, here are 8 things to look for in a timeshare vacation package before signing up. If you honestly can’t confirm these critical elements of a good vacation, then you should be able to confidently say “No” and walk away without any remorse.
1. The Timeshare is Available During Ideal Dates.
One of the most common causes of timeshare regret is limited availability. Although a number of sales teams claim booking options are nearly endless, it doesn’t always pan out this way. Buyers rarely consider the element of retail travel and don’t realize timeshare companies send a good portion of their inventory to 3rd party booking agencies (Expedia, Priceline, etc.) throughout the year – especially during peak seasons or dates with a high demand.
As a paying owner, it’s frustrating to be told your annual trip is not available. Especially when you can book the same trip on a retail travel site that’s available to the general public, for less than what you are obligated to pay as an owner. So before you buy a timeshare travel package with a seemingly vast selection of trips, understand that availability can be somewhat of a mirage.
UNEXPECTED REALITIES CAN HINDER VACATION PACKAGES.
If your family’s schedule limits you to specific dates or a certain week of the year, then it’s important you’re able to guarantee availability in the terms of your timeshare agreement. Assuming the best typically makes timeshare matters worse. Those fully reliant on verbal promises and an ambiguous contract often learn the hard way. Even after stumbling through ownership, many continue to inconveniently force an undesirable vacation just to get something for their money.
If this is not important to you, then by all means, sign away. But it should be. Many consumers fail to ask these types of questions prior to executing such a binding agreement. The thought of running it by a contract attorney is discouraged and rarely even crosses their mind – setting them up for disappointment. Answers don’t come easy at a timeshare sales presentation, but requesting a contract review is easy. Specific language that confirms promised availability should give you confidence in the product – vague information should not.
2. Reservations Are Available in Ideal Locations.
Similar to booking certain dates, availability in certain locations or destinations can be just as misleading. Take one of our clients, Maria, for example. Immediately after purchasing her timeshare vacation package (because of family discounts to the Dominican Republic), she was not able to find any availability or discounts. When she called the timeshare, she was essentially told it wasn’t their problem.
Just because you purchase a package from a prominent resort doesn’t mean you’re going to be flooded with options. Now that points systems are in play, it’s easier for resorts to limit access and offer upgrades. The initial purchase is often used as a foot in the door that leads buyers down a rabbit hole of conditional upgrades, claiming to carry a much better experience. The problem is, further purchases often result in additional contracts and unexpected fees.
In order to avoid all of this mess, you have to ensure your expectations are in writing. Far too many consumers buy a timeshare vacation package thinking they’re going to be traveling to Hawaii for Christmas. A few months later, when they go to schedule the trip, they realize every resort in Hawaii is booked solid and Wisconsin Dells is the only option. There’s no need to have a weary Christmas and a crappy New Year. If the contract language doesn’t secure your “ideal” trip then expectations can’t be high.
3. All Anticipated Costs Are Fully Explained.
Timeshare sales teams have been known to intentionally avoid the pertinent details of the contract (annual fees, interest, travel expenses and other hidden costs) in order to manipulate the actual cost of timeshares. They do this for good reason. Aside from the thousands of dollars that could be billed at any time for maintenance or special assessments, no bank will refinance the purchase. Interest rates drastically increase the overall expense and a $20K product can easily turn into $45K over a 10-year payment period.
This is why it’s important for potential buyers to take the time to determine if the financial commitment makes sense. Just know it’s rare to work with a seller that’s willing to take the time to explain every aspect of the contract and forecast costs while comparing them to your budget. Because of this, confirming an accurate estimate is crucial.
Language in the contract should state whether or not you’re obligated to pay for special assessments (also known as liability) and what you can expect in annual fees (maintenance, taxes, transfers, etc). Moreover, does the timeshare contract disclose a cap on how much fees can rise each year? It’s also important to factor in how much your timeshare vacation package could cost you in food, drinks, entertainment and transportation. By considering these things, you may find that you in fact do not have an adequate budget for the purchase.
4. Contract Is Fully Disclosed By Sales Teams.
Although dates and locations are a big part of vacation ownership, understanding the totality of the agreement is far more important. A timeshare is not something you can easily ditch when it’s no longer fruitful. The purchase is not like a car that can be sold. No, you’re essentially buying a second mortgage for a vacation property you can only use sporadically according to the terms of your contract and the state of the industry.
While it’s nothing like homeownership, there are some penalties and binding terms that you’re going to want to know and understand. Underestimating the product can lead to a number of financial disasters if you’re not sure what to look for in a timeshare vacation package before signing up. Why assume you’re in good hands without confirmation?
If you happen to be told there is no time for an attorney to look over your contract, or that you’ll lose your “today only deal” if you do, then you should most certainly walk away. The salesperson is undoubtedly using unfavorable urgency and time close tactics to push for a rash decision that benefits them. A seller that encourages you to take the time you need to look it over usually has your best interest at heart.
5. Trial Period and Customer Care Is Reasonable.
Anyone that has owned a timeshare before knows that the customer service teams are oftentimes far below average. You could even assume most are simply another layer of incentivised salespeople. Nonetheless, you can normally gauge the level of service rather quickly by asking a number of critical questions and demanding straightforward answers. A sampler timeshare vacation package that delivers could be worth considering.
If sales or customer service teams are eager to serve you (no matter what) then you’re probably getting a soft preview of the experience. Most timeshare sales people look to butter you up, so you have to be willing to look past the sales pitch. All trials should match the description of the presentation and all upgrade options should be clear.
6. Available Opt Out Clauses With Conditions.
If you don’t plan on owning a vacation home (or week) for the remainder of your life, then why are you looking at timeshare vacation packages? Far too many buyers think payments cease once the mortgage is paid in full but fees and other expenses can easily add to the lump sum of the cost. If you’re led to believe you can cancel the timeshare contract at any time, then it needs to be in writing.
Almost every timeshare purchase includes a rescission clause (cancellation period) that expires 3-7 days post contract signing. Some buyers are privy to these types of options but most are not. For the most part, once you sign up, you’re in it for the long haul. It doesn’t take much research to confirm that hundreds of thousands of buyers spend countless hours and money attempting to make the purchase worthwhile.
If you’ve come across a timeshare travel opportunity that provides you with an opt-out clause or certain conditions that protect you as a consumer, then it could be a good deal. While you should still work hard to confirm other elements of the transaction, a convenient opt-out clause does communicate that your business is valued.
7. The Acquisition or Takeover Process is Clear.
One of the most unexpected scenarios of timeshare ownership is a transfer of power. This can occur when other prominent chains have more authority, know-how or capital in a certain region (and they strongarm the competition); or it’s a simple acquisition that benefits both parties in some type of way. Either way, this usually does not benefit vacation owners.
When another entity buys out another, their rules and requirements normally take over – hence the word. This means, the timeshare vacation package that was originally signed could become obsolete while being replaced with new terms and obligations. This can often get hairy for buyers, but there’s not much they can do.
This is why it’s important to review the contract of a timeshare vacation package to ensure there is favorable language in the event of an acquisition or takeover. If you’re unable to garner quality information regarding this or the salesperson responds with a bunch of fluff, then the opportunity may not be for you. Although a buyout may not devastate you financially, there is a real possibility that it could at some point in the future.
8. There’s No Rush to Make A Decision.
Like we’ve mentioned before, the pressure and urgency of a timeshare presentation can be overwhelming. Thinking on your feet while someone tries to convince you that a “deal” you weren’t expecting is going to expire can make one extremely uncomfortable. Listen, no sales process should ever be this way. If you’ve found a timeshare company that allows you to take the agreement home, or to review with an attorney before signing, then you have reason to be hopeful.
At the same time, don’t let one checked box convince you. There is plenty of reason to remain skeptical. Once they’re able to prove their willingness to honor terms, respect your time and exemplify all of the above characteristics should you be confident the timeshare vacation package you’re looking into. Nearly every timeshare experience is different and we hope you’re able to find something that works for you.