You will find many articles on this? But I want to give my perspective and also our experience.
While vacationing in Orlando last July, at the Hertz counter corner, we were offered highly discounted tickets to Universal Studios and free breakfast. We had to sit through a presentation, blah, blah, blah, we were told. We had always avoided that thinking it was a scheme anyway. The time it would take was about 90 minutes. We thought, okay 90 minutes is something that we can afford early morning.
Next morning, we drove to a West Gate Resorts campus. Parking was almost full. We signed in and were taken in to the table. The breakfast was good. The Sales girl (can’t say she was a lady, she was pretty young) approached us and went over what will happen next. She was a polished Saleswoman. She said her father was in the Timeshare business and she also got into it.
She went on to ask us questions, prompting how many times we go on vacation, where we stay, how much we spend, etc. We then explained what West Gate Resorts is – how big it is, the timeshares are in Orlando – the time share capital of the world, how having a timeshare there means we won’t have any problems exchanging it. When you stay at a WG timeshare, you will always have 5-star accommodation, with all amenities including programs for children so the adults can getaway. She even complimented us on the choice of hotels we typically use on vacation. She calculated that we would on average spend $150 per night for a good hotel room and over 7 days, how much it would add to. Adding the cost of breakfast and the time it takes while on vacation finding a restaurant and eating, she was making the point that paying nothing while on vacation for these two will add up over a period of time. Point taken.
After we sounded convinced that we would save money over the long run, then she handed us of to the Manager. This guy went of different plans (how many bedrooms, which week of the year, etc) and said there is now a great deal. Someone who couldn’t keep up payment had foregone their timeshare and it was available for about 30 grand if we bought it now. In a way the number was good for us as we readily said NO, we don’t want to put that much money. So he went back in and came up with another plan – the deal here was in one year we would have a one bedroom condo and in the second, a two bedroom condo, so we could take along another family with us. That sounded appealing as we have some close friends we vacation with. The cost – about 16K. But the payments also had interest component if we paid monthly. This is not disclosed verbally. So you will think the 16K is your cost. Rama noticed that and asked how can we avoid additional interest. We had to pay the whole amount in an year with 10% down right away, and total of 50% within first 3 months. We settled for this thinking if we do use the timeshares often, it should be paying itself off over time. There would be a yearly maintenance fee of about $400 for the timeshare we were buying.
We didn’t have to go to the same place every year, but could exchange it with Interval International. There was a yearly fee for the membership (about $130), but the first year was free. So there you have the cost
– A upfront cost that might include interest (16K)
– A yearly maintenance fee ($400)
– A yearly exchange company membership fee. ($130, but when you upgrade for Gold it is about $145)
– Also, while exchanging with other non-West Gate owners, there is a transaction fee of $135.
This was during the July 4th weekend in 2007. We paid off the loan in an year and rarely had any time to use it in 2008. So all along these past 21 months, I had the feeling that we got lured into the same scheme others complain about. I did research the company later and found mixed opinions about timeshare owner’s experiences. Some cursed, some said it worked for them. West Gate has 20+ resorts within the US and we could exchange our timeshare for no cost. If we wanted to use property elsewhere, we had to go through Interval, we had to pay a transaction fee. There would be inventories that were unsold and members would get getaways for a throwaway price which was attractive – like at Lake Tahoe for about $35 per day. The key thing is you need to plan well in advance as inventories get booked early in the year.
Last weekend, a friend was discussing timeshare and whether it was worth buying it. I thought it is time to test this out, after all we had put a lot of money into it. I searched for availability in Myrtle Beach for the end of summer. Rama and Vikas like water a lot. There was none, but showed other available places, one among them was Aruba. Well, Aruba is always a great place to go, though it is expensive. Among available resorts for exchange we found two Marriott – the Marriott Ocean club and the Marriott Surf Club, both close to the water. The Surf club had a 1 bedroom villa with a Kitchen. It had a beautiful large pool and all villas have a ocean view (this could be anything, but we will find out). But you can’t go wrong with a Marriott. So we booked the Surf club for an exchange fee of $154. Yes, this fee was a but more than what we were told, about $20 more.
I later looked at booking a villa at the Marriott Surf club and the cost was $445 per day!! Whew, for seven nights, that would be close to three grand. Now we need to get there and see how good Aruba and the Surf club is. At this point I will say the long wait seems to have paid off; I can’t wait to get to the waters and away. The savings based on room cost alone makes me feel we didn’t put money down the drain or get schemed, but time will tell more.