Monday, December 18, 2006

Off the clock: The Washington Post took a long, hard look (in Friday’s paper) at the timeshare market, by coming to the timeshares capital of America, Orlando. Local color does not, somewhat surprisingly, include writer Carol Sottili stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic on I-Drive at 3 a.m. Sottili tries out six different sales pitches, and finds them to be hopelessly complex — not to mention probably a waste of your money:

Disney, like many timeshare companies, uses a point system. Audrey says I’d need to buy at least 242 points for my family of four, which would cost about $24,442 ($101 a point), plus about $963 a year in maintenance fees. She whips out a calculator and shows me how this is quite clearly the deal of the century: Divide the $101 cost per point by 48 (the number of years of the timeshare deed), which works out to $2.10; add the annual dues of $3.98 per point and, voila, each point actually costs $6.08 a year. Multiply that by the number of points you spend to stay in a studio in the lowest season — 11 points — and you’re spending just $66.88 per night to stay at an upscale Disney property.


Intrigued by the ubiquitous billboards offering timeshare resales, I stop at International Properties/GMAC Real Estate on International Drive, one of the many companies in Orlando that specialize in reselling timeshares. The timeshare agents I’ve talked to have all emphasized that buying a timeshare should not be viewed as a monetary investment, but rather as an investment in family and quality of life. And they’ve all carefully sidestepped my questions about resale values, probably because reselling a timeshare is not easy.

The Federal Trade Commission states, “Don’t assume you’ll recoup your purchase price for your timeshare, especially if you’ve owned it for less than five years and the location is less than well-known.” Bill Rogers, founder of the Timeshare User’s Group, an organization composed of timeshare owners, is even more blunt: “I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but selling a timeshare is very, very difficult and in some cases almost impossible,” he states on his Web site, “The main reason is supply and demand. The supply of timeshare resales greatly exceeds the demand for resales.”

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