What's wrong with buying a timeshare?

Published: 16th September 2009
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I worked in timeshare sales on the front line many years ago and on numerous occasions have been called in by timeshare companies to advise on sales and marketing techniques. Now please don't misunderstand me, I have nothing against timeshare, I think it is a wonderful concept and for many people, is an ideal solution to their vacation needs (myself included). For some people though, it is just not suitable and I admit, some timeshares (very few) are an absolutely dreadful proposition for anyone at all.

Similarly, there are many timeshare companies out there that are reputable, honest and who will bend over backwards to provide first class service to their customers. I am sure that you will have heard of Disney, Marriot, Sheraton ... the list is long.

I think that everyone who has ever owned a timeshare or has been on a timeshare presentation will agree that there is nothing really wrong with owning a timeshare. After all, it works well for the five million or so people who make use of it each year. There are just four main problem areas that have given timeshare a bad name, all of which arise from the way it is sold.

Timeshare is basically sold in one of two ways. There is the 'slow sale' format and the 'quick sale' format.

The slow sale format is generally used by companies that advertise timeshares for sale such as a few developers and some timeshare resale companies. There are even a few resorts that I have come across that use the slow-sale format (hats off to them). Here, potential buyers are the ones making the initial approach. They come to the table armed with a certain level of knowledge about timeshare and generally have very specific ideas about the sort of timeshare they are looking to buy, where they want to buy and how much they are prepared to pay. These potential buyers are 'educated' to some degree about the product, in other words they have had time to contrast and compare the different types of timeshare products and have often spoken to other timeshare owners about the pros and cons of timeshare ownership. It goes without saying that these type of potential buyers are in the minority.

The quick sale approach is the most popular method for developers selling timeshare as it is both efficient and effective, whilst maximising sales prices. It involves using several tried and tested sales techniques that are focused on getting a 'newbie' to make a quick decision, without recourse to research or advice from an independent source. Here, developers and their sales teams will offer high-perceived-value incentives to buy on the day. So, the first problem is that by their very nature, these presentations are designed to get you to make an ill-informed decision: you will only be armed with the facts that you have been told by the salesperson. It's pretty much a certainty that you will buy at an inflated price and you will be taking a leap of faith.

Whilst it is the job of any sales person who believes in their product to extol the benefits, it is the sales person who lies about a products' features or omits to inform potential buyers of the pitfalls that causes the problems.

At just about every timeshare presentation that I have ever attended (of which there have been many), the three biggest un-truths that are told, or at least inferred in some way, over and over, is that one, you will be able to exchange your timeshare week each year and basically go to any other resort in the exchange network, whenever you wish and two, should you ever wish to sell your timeshare for any reason, that there is an eager market for the product in the timeshare re-sales market and that three, you may even make a profit on your investment.

All three of these are completely untrue and they are in my opinion the three major reasons (apart from the pressure of having to make a buying decision on the spot) for timeshare having a bad name.

So, before you write off the idea of buying a timeshare, consider what I said earlier. Over five million people use timeshare each year and you should know that according to independent research over four in every five timeshare owners are very satisfied or extremely satisfied with their purchase. All you really need to know is:

(1) how does the timeshare exchange system really work and

(2) what can you expect to get back for your timeshare when or if it no longer suits your lifestyle.

Get honest answers to these questions and then, and only then, are you ready to consider buying a timeshare.

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