Saturday, March 11, 2017

Lesson 2: How to be a Time share owner or not.

(c) 2016 Walt Disney Company DVC Logo
I know, I know, I have not been writing a lot lately. I have, however, been busy doing other business things. But it’s no excuse to not write in this blog. This post is not sponsored in any way.  These are only my experiences and the experience of others.  This post should not persuade you to think one way or another.

 Today’s lesson is all about cold calling. More specifically when you are trying to find customers in the vacation home market, otherwise known as timesharing. In case you’re not familiar with the term of time sharing, it specifically means a vacation home, you spend some time at, like a vacation spot, such as Disney, or the Florida Keys, or some villa off the coast in France.  You own a piece of the property. (correction: you own the right to stay at the property). This is how I saw it over 10 years ago when I bought into The Disney Vacation Club or DVC for the rest of the post.

Now, there is no surprise here that I like Disney. I have mentioned it on several occasions. In this situation, I became a DVC member in 2003. I have heard about DVC sometime before that but thought that I would never be able to afford to be a member of DVC, not to mention to be part of the thousands of people who would become timeshare owners.  It seemed so impossible to do such a thing but I was determined to see what this was all about.

 Before I go into what happened today, let me take you back to 2003 for a moment. Like most people, I wanted to find a way to go to Disney every year, without trying to save a whole bunch of money to stay at a resort. Like most vacation spots in Florida, Disney does offer a solution. I did my usual research and looked into it. I found out that it was indeed possible for me, my current single situation and my future family to go to Disney at least once a year, and still be able to do everything money-wise.    It is that simple, or is it? 

So, Randy, my sales rep, made it sound so simple, and next thing you know, I am using my credit card for a down payment.  It was that simple.  A few days later, my paperwork arrived. Oh, there was one little catch, they do check your credit and I passed with flying colors. Anyway, I got my paperwork, which seemed like a gazillion pages long, and you have to either sign or initial your name on the line.  Once done, you take your paperwork to a place to get it notarized. Even though the property was in Florida and I was in Ohio, it still needed that little thing to approve it.  Once notarized, place your stuff, I mean, paperwork in the envelope provided, and send it on its merry little way. If this sounds familiar, yes, it is like buying a home, and if you ever have gone through the process of buying a home, this is it- vacation style.  

I waited like a month before I received a package from DVC, and when I opened it, the first thing I saw was “Welcome Home”. I have arrived, and I was the newest member of DVC.  They sent me a backpack (still got it), a picture of my new “home” away from home, and my first points. Also in the package, it explained what the points allow you to do, which is to make a reservation to spend time at Disney and your lovely vacation home.  You pay dues once a month, annual fees once a year. I planned out my first trip to the mouse’s house as a new member.  As I was saying, I became a member in mid-2003, and our first vacation was Easter week 2004.  My family and I had a blast. We stayed five nights and the sixth night, stayed one night in the shoddiest hotel near the airport the day before we left to come home.  I think dad wanted to teach us all a lesson in don’t forget where you came from. Compare to the Boardwalk villa at Walt Disney World, it was bad. You had to carry your suitcase up a flight of stairs (Because there was no elevator), and the rooms were not much to look at. But enough about the last day in Florida, let me continue with the days before. On second thought, I will save that for another post.  I owned a piece of Disney until 2006, and sadly, I had to give it up.

Since that time, I have received every phone call known to mankind, of sales people who own these companies who buy back timeshares, and there are plenty of timeshares other than Disney.  Oh, you have heard the same spiel before. They call you by name, and they introduce themselves. Yesterday, I heard from Rachel, today, I heard from some guy who had a workshop in Reynoldsburg that will teach you how to sell your property.   My answer is always the same, “I sold my timeshare property in 2006.” Their response, “I’m sorry to have bothered you, we will update our records. Have a nice day”.  My question is “why are you operating on 10-year-old records in the first place?” I understand that business is slow, but if I still had the property, why would I want to sell when I love the thought of going to Disney once a year?  These people are a trip. 
Another name for the so-called sales people is called the resale market. They are looking for anyone and everyone who has the slightest problem with their timeshare property and try to buy back your property, to sell to someone else. This could also be a scammer who could be putting out feelers for a gullible person to be tricked into accidentally giving out their information.  In either case, do not be fooled by these people. After all, if you are a timeshare owner, the first reason why you bought into your particular property, even if it’s not by Disney, is so you can get away for at least a week, and have a place to go to on a yearly basis.
Now there are other ways to do it, such as buying a piece a vacation property, where you can go anytime you feel like it, but the problem with that is you own a second home.  With second homes, it sometimes looks like it is abandoned, and you do have to schedule upkeep for the property.  
You are probably wondering why would people want to buy a vacation home or even invest in a timeshare if it brings up so many problems.  It is like anything in life.  It is a matter of preference.  You like an area, but you want a place to escape to.  Mines happen to be Disney World.  Some people like the beach, while still others want either Europe, the Mediterranean, South Pacific, or the family farm. Again, it is a matter of preference.  Some people find this sort of thing ridiculous and meaningless. 
Do I miss it?  Of course, I do.  Some of the benefits of having the DVC are
·         10% off of Disney Merchandise
·         Ticket discounts, including Annual passes
·         Discounts on your dining
·         Events exclusively for DVC members
·         A discount (or exchange of points, can’t remember which one) for places such as
o   The Disney Cruise Line
o   Other timeshare companies who will exchange Disney Vacation Club points for their point system
o   And the Adventures by Disney program to name a few.
The whole concept of missing a program is to have the ability to sign up again.  This time, I have learned a few lessons about being a timeshare owner. I am preparing to own again with this program.  Disney has graciously erased the last one from my credit report, so it is like I never owned before.  That is between me and my new sales person.  I have already checked a year ago, but I was not quite in the position to go through the process. Could I go through one of these resale programs who annoyingly call my phone each morning to see if I want to sell my old one?  I could, but I will not get the benefits part of the ownership.  Disney stopped people who buy from a reseller rather than through them, from benefiting from their gracious offer to people who do buy DVC through Disney as of April 2016.  Now, I can buy from a reseller, then turn around and then buy an additional 25 or more points through Disney.  This is called an add-on, and I would get the benefits package that way. 
Keep in mind, I am not an expert in all things timesharing or DVC.  I am a person who is very interested in the program and in timesharing.  My aunt has a similar timesharing program with another company, and we benefited staying in one of the cabins at Pigeon Forge, TN, November 2015.  The cabin was very roomy, enough for 5 families to stay there.  In addition to renting the cabin, we also had an additional smaller cabin for one more family to stay in (they housed all the teens).  She frequently takes trips with her daughter and anyone else who wants to come along.  Getting back to my old DVC membership…. I was able to allow a complete stranger use my points in 2005.  A member does not have to be present in order for someone to use their points.   I did have to claim the family, which I did.  The woman and her family had a wonderful time while at Disney, and I was happy to do it.  She did pay me for the stay.  

So, this is lesson 2 for me.  It was not really a lesson in learning new things but it is a way of learning, period.  It is also a lesson in be careful who you talk to. 

My takeaway for you:  If you plan on becoming one of the thousands who enjoy taking a vacation via timeshare, I highly recommend it, but before you do, here is what you need to do:

1.      Plan.  Where do you want to vacation at?  Is it a different city or one place each year?  How much do you want to spend on a timeshare?  Keep in mind there are 3 fees:  The down payment (which is a one-time payment), an annual fee, and a monthly fee for loans (you can also pay cash to avoid a third fee and no credit check is needed).  What will you accept as a benefit?
2.      Research.  Researching several timeshares will help you know what you want in a timeshare.  I presented one timeshare, but there are several out there.  Do a search on “timeshare properties in X”.  Disney may be your destination, but there are other theme parks you may want to visit, for example, does the property you are looking at have some benefits theme park hopping as well.  If so, DVC may not be for you.  Make sure you have an out (see #3 for further details).
3.      Financial.  Make sure you are able to be financially fit to take on a timeshare.  As I said, you have 2-3 fees each year until you decide to sell it (or get out of the contract).  When I was no longer able to afford my old membership/timeshare, I contacted a resale timeshare company, not the other way around.  I had been on several DVC groups with the person, and I researched her before trusting the owner to help me sell my property.  Also, Disney had to approve the sale, which they did.  This made the transition much easier for me and the new owners, so make sure you have a financial out, should there be problems with your finances or you grow tired of going each year. All timeshares should have an “Out” clause in their contract.  Never sign anything, unless you have an “Out” clause.  Make sure there are no leans on you financially.  In other words, follow the rules of buying a home because that is the way it is treated by the company, the state where the property is physically located at, and the United States law.  (I cannot speak for the rest of the world).
On a final note:  be aware that there are people who would love to talk you out of your timeshare.  When they call (and they will) if you are not ready to sell, say, “No thank you, please take me off your list.”  Do not get mad and yell.  It is their job (or scam).  When you are ready, you look for them, not the other way around.  Research the resale company.  After all, you are in control.

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