Property management and vacation resorts have found a new way to market their properties. Like the name suggests, timeshares offer vacationers the opportunity to share use of a property for a specified period of time. If you want a vacation spot without making a substantial investment, a timeshare may be the right option for you, or at least that’s what the sales people tell you. Here’s my experience dealing with the timeshare industry.
What Annoys Me Most
It’s no secret. I like going to Las Vegas. Furthermore, I like traveling – period. The one thing that annoys me most about Las Vegas however, is the timeshare sales people offering me “free” show tickets. You’ll find them at the entrance of the Miracle Mile Mall, and within some of the major resorts like Caesars Palace and even the Venetian. As much as I love to stay at these places, I dodge the timeshare sales folks like the plague. No offence, but I hate exchanging my time for a free show ticket or two. Besides, thanks to my “high roller” status with most casinos on the Strip I get the free show tickets anyways, without the need to waste my time in a high pressure sales environment trying to get me to buy into the next timeshare hype.
Yet, timeshare presentations are important advertising and marketing tools in the travel industry. Potential investors are lured to timeshare presentations to be shown an overview of the available properties. It’s not just Vegas where this happens. Pick any major vacation resort where North American travelers flock to, and you’ll typically find a timeshare sales rep. Or ten. They’re the reason one of the FAQ’s for my Travel Revolution program explains that what I do is NOT AT ALL about timeshares. Just to set that story straight.
Been There, Done That – In Handcuffs
As a matter of fact… I tried timesharing. I don’t own one, but was invited to stay at a timeshare property at the Hilton Vacation Experience in Las Vegas. If you’ve watched the Queen of Versailles documentary, you’ve likely seen the less glamorous story behind this former Westgate property.
My not so glamorous story of staying here, is that the Hilton staff called security on me. Why, you ask? I brought a drink to the pool – in Las Vegas, Disneyland for adults, of all places. For me, there were only two ways out of the “timeshare” pool – either in handcuffs or by handing over my beverage. Either way I wouldn’t have anything to drink, so I chose the path of least resistance and opted for a glass of water on the lounge bed (without handcuffs). I also vouched to never stay at the Hilton in Las Vegas again. I’ve stayed at almost all hotels on the Strip, and never before had I encountered any of these issues. Lesson learned.
Back to timeshares though. Should you be unfortunate enough to have fallen for the “free” show ticket / vacation / hotel stay or whatever else they lure you in with, be aware of what’s being offered. Often, even the sales people don’t know or understand what they’re selling. On the tour, they use the upgraded penthouse show suite and quickly gloss over the upgrade fee associated with getting that actual unit. As a result, many timeshare owners are completely unaware of what they own and how to even use it.
The Rules Of Timesharing
And that’s exactly the catch with timeshares. They can be worth your investment, as long as you’re fully aware of a few things:
- exactly what do you own – for example, do you own a partial title to the property?
- how to use your share – how often do you get to stay for “free”
- the fine print – if you can exchange your stay to another property, how often and how long can you do this? what are the categories and rules associated with stays elsewhere? (if you master this rule, you might have a winning hand)
- what are the maintenance fees or any other fees beyond your “investment” – these are usually glossed over in sales presentations. The maintenance fees alone may make your “free” stay every year (or two years) not so “free”.
- how to get rid of your timeshare – ask upfront whether you can (re)sell your share? Often this process is not as easy as it seems.
Agreeing to an offer made in a timeshare presentation can be a major investment, so if you decide to go down this path – be wise about it. Don’t be afraid to negotiate for a better price. Try to get as much as you can from your agreement, and be sure to get a concrete guarantee that you will ensure you receive everything you’ve agreed upon. As long as you know what you’re signing up for and how to maximize your trips, you might have a advantage – but regardless I’d consult a lawyer in your home country before signing anything. The final decision is yours to make.
You’re Free To Leave
If during the timeshare presentation you don’t like what is being offered, you’re free to leave at any time. Just give the group leader an honest reason, and head out. While (strongly) encouraging you to join, the presenters will usually promise to take no more than 90 minutes of your time. If the allotted time is up, you can say that you’ve met your end of the bargain. If you’re not satisfied, simply state that you’ve already given your precious time and do not wish to be badgered further. Tell them the truth if you’re not crazy about the offer, or make excuses. Whether you say that you don’t care for the resort or tell them that you have a relative living in the area and you can stay with them for free, the final decision is always yours. By attending a timeshare presentation you are under no obligation to stay or to buy – even though it may feel otherwise. This is why I don’t waste my time at these, no matter what they offer in exchange for my time. My time is precious, especially when traveling, and my focus is on enjoying the maximum amount of Experience Value on my trip. Being “trapped” in a high pressure sales environment definitely doesn’t fall within that category.
I don’t recommend any members of my Travel Revolution community to participate in any timeshares, period. But if you choose otherwise, the choice is yours. Just be sure to write everything down during the timeshare presentation. Anything that you agree upon must be documented to make it legitimate. Consult a property lawyer in your home country before signing anything. Jot down notes during the presentation to help in your decision making process. Afterwards, evaluate what you have written down and ask for more details where needed. For example, if breakfast is included, know whether it’s a continental breakfast or a buffet. If a television is offered with the room, find out of it’s colour or black and white (no joke), and if cable or movie channels are included. Know exactly what you are getting and take nothing for granted. This is the only way to ensure top value for your dollar.
Before You Sign Anything
If you decide to join the timeshare, you will likely need to meet certain requirements in order to qualify. Proper ID and a credit card are usually required prior to your admittance. Most timeshares require that you be at least 25 or sometimes 30 years of age, and if you are married you will most likely be asked to bring along your spouse. Once you’ve placed a “downpayment” of any sorts on your creditcard, you’re committed. Again, consult with a lawyer first and know exactly what you’re getting yourself into.
Don’t allow yourself to be pressured into making an immediate decision. Trust me, they’ll try. Even if you like the timeshare offered, get the contact number of the person or company, as well as a cancellation fax number. This will enable you to contact the manager directly to negotiate or cancel if you see something in the contract that you do not like.
In signing the timeshare contract, protect yourself by having a disclaimer and conditions included in the agreement. The disclaimer should state that you have the option of canceling within seven days without charge or penalty if the benefits and services are misrepresented or not available. A cool-off period is typical in any real estate transaction, but often not included when signing your timeshare agreement. Include a clause that in the event of cancellation, your money will be refunded in full. Further, if the exact amount you paid for the timeshare is not refunded or credited within a ten day period after notification, request a fee of $50 per day to be paid to you until you receive your full refund.
Include in the disclaimer that this specific contract supersedes all other contracts in this transaction. This is a necessary precaution in ensuring your security. If you wish to cancel the contract, do so immediately and without hesitation.
Don’t leave cash, even if they insist that you leave a deposit after the presentation. Simply say that you have a credit card, but no cash available.
Spending money on your precious leisure time is usually not the best investment. If you want to own property in a vacation destination, do your research before departure and never while traveling. High pressure timeshare presentations are never the right venue to find the right vacation property or real estate investment. Even if you wanted to (partially) own property in your favourite destination country, take time to attend several presentations, and review all of the details before making your final decision. Take your time. You’ll find it’s well worth the extra effort as you’re enjoying the vacation of your dreams.
If you’re like me, and don’t want to waste your time in high pressure sales environment while traveling, join my Travel Revolution program. Just like me, next time when someone offers you a free show ticket or free trip, you can simply respond with “I’m part of the Travel Revolution and got it covered, thanks”.Travel Revolution