Social distancing has been a worldwide phenomenon for more than a month now. Billions of people are grounded, waiting on government aid to revitalize their hope. Now that the Coronavirus has everyone’s attention, certain expenses are being looked at through a different lens. Decisions are being made to a different tune. It’s difficult for anyone to know just how different the post-pandemic era will be. While it may be easy for most to cut costs, it’s not that simple for timeshare owners. So how might timeshare owners respond to a pandemic?
Over the past few months, we’ve discussed a number of possibilities that could make vacation ownership worse. Unexpected events, like job loss, medical emergencies or natural disasters could eventually place buyers in a really big pickle during a really tough time. Especially if they’re not even able to use the purchase. But aside from what you could expect or what to be leery of, it’s important to understand your options.
Far too many struggling timeshare owners are predictable when it comes to finding relief. At the same time, it’s not exactly their fault. Some have an inaccurate or vague understanding of their perpetual agreement. They might even believe options like resale or buy-backs exist because of what they were told at the point of sale. Unfortunately, misleading presentations aren’t uncommon in the industry. After owners realize they’ve been misinformed or lied to, their desire to get out of the agreement usually grows. What’s interesting is most timeshare owners respond the same way. Let us explain.
What Might Timeshare Owners Be Thinking?
Looking through the lens of the consumer in these situations not only helps us understand how we can help, but also how to avoid further letdown. Oftentimes we speak to owners that simply need advice on something they’re considering for relief. Pressuring people to cancel the contract isn’t always in their best interest. Knowing what you’ve been sold and where to look in the contract for answers allows you to make intelligent decisions regarding your timeshare.
With that being said, many of you are currently holding onto the hope that vacation ownership isn’t a mistake. As we’ve highlighted in our recent news articles, most resorts have talked about bouncing back better than ever before. Although they haven’t directly addressed how this might affect you, you’re trusting the timeshare will reward you for your patience. While the resort will most certainly appreciate your loyalty, it’s difficult to say if they’ll be eager to reward you.
THE PANDEMIC SHOULD ELICIT BETTER DECISION MAKING.
Based on the history of our clients, many of them hold out hope for the purchase to turn around. They’re told one promise after another, sometimes investing thousands more, only to find themselves back where they started – with a higher expenditure. Although our intent isn’t to mistake your loyalty for ignorance, we encourage you to reach out to your resort for clarity. If there are major changes to availability or fees increase, will the purchase still be worth it?
We talk to thousands of people that wish they would have taken action sooner. This is why it’s so important that you think things through. Especially when it comes to an expense of this magnitude. Why wouldn’t you want to know if there is a way for you to suspend payments if hardship were to strike? If these programs end up costing you thousands of dollars in interest will it be worth it?
Ask them what they would do if timeshare owners respond to the pandemic in a negative manner. Find out how they prepare to manage priority bookings in the future. Let them know you’re interested in all of the benefits they have to offer. But if you’re thinking about trusting a sales organization to do what’s “right” when they’re losing millions – you might want to think things through.
Thought 1: I’ll Just Sue the Timeshare Company.
Before the pandemic even arrived, some of you may have already been frustrated with a timeshare purchase. While some see value in the vacation package, others feel like they’ve been forced to carry the burden for far too long. The Coronavirus will probably be the last straw on the camel’s back for many. But no matter how upset you are or how bad you think you’ve been screwed, you must proceed with caution.
Aiming to hire an attorney and file a class action lawsuit isn’t always fruitful. An average lawyer just isn’t equipped to battle a timeshare company in court. Even those experienced in timeshare litigation struggle to keep pace. Unless you have visible evidence of sales fraud and you’re able to afford the legal process, then you could lose an awful lot of money. Many timeshare owners have.
While lawyers do their best to represent you, timeshare companies have unlimited funds and elite legal teams that know how to use the contract against you. Even most sales laws benefit timeshare companies. Some states currently have an unlimited cap for assessment fees. Unfortunately, successfully suing the resort because your maintenance fees skyrocketed or a special assessment arrived in the mail is highly unlikely. Your contract says it all.
Thought 2: I’ll Just Walk Away From Payments.
Once timeshare owners realize that a class action lawsuit requires a lot of work, evidence, capital and patience – they often have the urge to refuse making payments. Look, we totally understand why. Anyone that’s been taken advantage of by a company they’re paying, no matter the number of occurrences, would find it difficult to be honorable. The binding agreement can seem meaningless when the other party doesn’t meet their end of the bargain.
No matter how good it might feel to stick it to the timeshare company, it’s important that you don’t take a contract breach lightly. This is why we always recommend adamant communication with the resort. This at least proves that you tried. When you stop paying for the timeshare, it really stacks the odds against you. While you may not hear from the resort for a few months (or even years), you can most certainly expect they will come calling.
Timeshare owners that think they’ve gotten away scott free are often surprised at some point with a series of ultimatums. Although the expense may vanish from your current balance sheet, it could require quite a bit of cash to settle out down the road. Are you willing to work something out with the resort or legally cancel the agreement now – or would you rather take your chances at the possibility of facing judgements, past due fees, interest and legal costs to name a few? Walking away from an expensive binding contract can be extremely devastating.
Thought 3: I’ll Just Resell My Timeshare.
Timeshare owners that are able to quickly overcome their emotions tend to look for ways to recuperate their loss. Many immediately turn to resale platforms to see how they can make money leasing or selling their weekly interval. If you search on Google, you’ll find hundreds of resale options that seem promising. The problem is, there just isn’t a market for timeshares. When people are selling them for a little as $1 on eBay, it should be rather telling.
Sadly, many vacation owners look at this as a safe way to endure the regret of the purchase and at least break even on the expense. But when a buyer doesn’t come knocking and nobody rents the condo then they’re back where they started. Some even invest in other platforms or pay for ads to increase exposure. But they just can’t get rid of them. Most timeshare buyers are aggressively sold at a timeshare presentation that they’re incentivised to attend. Almost no one is actively looking to purchase one. Especially now that vacation rental is huge.
Not only can resale be a waste of time, but it can also be extremely costly. A number of online scams prey on vulnerable timeshare owners. This is also true in the exit industry. They’re definitely waiting to see how timeshare owners respond to a pandemic. Tons of tactics are used in the 3rd party marketplace. Some even use the names of real businesses to operate the fraud. So don’t let the pandemic lead you to haste. One of the worst things you can do is hand money to someone that isn’t really interested in selling, renting or canceling your timeshare.
Thought 4: An Advocate Program Will Help.
Whether timeshare owners are burned by resale programs or pass on them, most simply want to find someone they can trust. At this point in their thought process, they’ve realized that working with someone who can represent them and advocate on their behalf is probably best. The problem is, many of these types of programs are similar to inadequate attorneys and even relief scams.
At the end of the day, an advocate simply communicates your plea or request in a professional manner. It’s the glorified way of making a demand so to speak. There is no guarantee, if at all, that this sways the timeshare company to respond in your favor. Even if you’re experiencing hardship. While we’d like to think timeshare companies will aid owners if restrictions last most of 2020, it’s highly unlikely.
So advocate programs shouldn’t be valued any more today than they have been. If anything, there will probably be an increase in advocate scams during this time. When you have a strong case, you should seek some sort of legal consultation. But if you’re looking for a way to get out of a timeshare contract, then a professional company will benefit you the best. There’s no need to waste thousands of dollars with an unproven solution.
Thought 5: I’ll Just Give the Timeshare Away.
Most people wouldn’t donate a timeshare due to the burden or out of desperation. So it’s hard to assume this is crossing many people’s minds right now. But for those that are thinking about doing so, donating or giving away a weekly interval is risky for two reasons. Not only could a transfer scam leave the timeshare deed in your name, but the donation could cause the recipient additional financial problems. What happens if the party you gave the timeshare to wants to give it back?
In the middle of this pandemic, it won’t be surprising to see a high number of timeshare owners looking to discharge their contract or escape the burden altogether. But it’s important that you don’t act irrationally and simply hope for the best. The last thing timeshare owners need is further penalties during an economic standstill.
Thinking about these types of decisions and your timeshare options is one of the best things you can do right now. Not all timeshare owners respond to a pandemic the same way. But helping everyone keep a level head so nobody throws away money is important to us at VOC. If you happen to have any questions about our qualification process or your timeshare contract, you can always schedule a free consultation to learn more.