What does Timeshare really cost?
Every apartment is for sale 50 weeks of the year. 50 sales of one week each to fully sell one apartment.
They don't sell 52 weeks because they want two weeks to decorate (so they say).
Every 'week' owner has to pay their mortgage and annual maintenance or else the ownership is forfeited. My maintenance fees for 2024 were $455 for each week I own. I also have to pay RCI more than £100 for each different week you use through me. You will pay a service charge when you check in. I will give this back to you. I can get you into the biggest and best apartments anywhere because I paid $50,000 to buy 4 weeks in perpetuity. Your £150 a night is covering these fees and paying me back about 1% of the purchase cost I invested.
Owners can book to stay in their apartment their week without paying any more.
Or else, the owner can deposit their week with RCI to exchange - and pay all the various RCI fees. There are a lot of them.
We own weeks.
It took us several years to fully understand points. The sales people are very secretive about them and different developers' points are worth very different amounts. The main advantage is that points can be exchanged for a minimum of 2 nights and up to, I think, 21 nights for one exchange fee. They are more flexible. But we would have to pay another $7,000 or so to convert our weeks to points, and it just isn't worth it.
Timeshare weeks in the USA are probably luxury apartments in what are probably fabulous resorts in what are probably the most popular tourist destinations in the USA. Which means most of them are around Orlando, Miami and Las Vegas.
The people who own these weeks have paid a very high price for them precisely because they want extra space, always spotlessly clean*, well looked after grounds and extra amenities. They were promised they could exchange any weeks they own to go anywhere in the world just as good instead.
But this promise of equally good accommodation throughout the world is where the sales pitch starts to separate from the reality. You often don't get an equally large apartment outside of Las Vegas, Orlando and Miami.
* spotlessly clean when you move in. You are buying ownership of a week and that means you don't get hotel maid service. However you can take out trash and exchange as much linen as you like during your stay. They will give you more toilet rolls etc as well.
Some of the weeks on offer are exchanges with owners and others are weeks still for sale made available to RCI by the developer to get more couples into sales presentations.
First, not all weeks are equal. A week owned in a small mountain resort with few facilities would exchange for less than a week at the most fabulous resort in Orlando with beautiful lakes, footbridges, outdoor activities, kids club, bar and restaurants and so on.
Second, in Las Vegas, Orlando and Miami you are likely to have a full apartment with a full kitchen and laundry whereas outside these areas you might only to get a studio or even just a hotel room.
If you want to be very close to the beach in Miami, near enough to the parks in Orlando or the nightlife in Las Vegas, and you want space and comfort and you don't want to eat out every meal, Timeshare is the way to do it.
If you want a hotel room pretty much anywhere else in the world, you might as well search yourself on travel web sites.
How do you refuse to attend a presentation?
You may be obliged to attend a sales presentation by the RCI terms and conditions, but they are not obliged to let you in.
If you don't want to go in, the trick is not to refuse to go in yourself, but to fail to qualify and be refused entry.
They only want couples who can buy jointly and afford a mortgage of about £20,000. Don't be a couple, or don't be able to afford a mortgage.
I'm being a bit over the top here. I hope you get the idea and plan what you will say
We were married but now we are divorced. We are here to put on a brave face and be a family for a week for the sake of our children.
We are not a couple. This is a dirty weekend.
This week is a gift from someone. We don't have any money. And, when asked, no we couldn't afford a mortgage, we can barely pay for our electricity.
Not all the resorts have a sales team or sales presentations any more but Grandview has bought the land next door and will be building and selling for many years to come. They need new people to see what they do and the quality they provide. That's why existing owners are encouraged to get their friends to take a timeshare resort holiday.
But they won't waste their time with people who cannot afford a decent holiday every year.
How do you attend a sales presentation to get your reward but say no to buying?
However you get approached, you will be asked to hand over a cash deposit when you book your appointment and you will be promised your deposit back, along with your reward, if you attend as agreed and don't walk out early.
You may be asked to attend a presentation when you check in.
You may be in Disney or Universal, walking around Las Vegas or eating out and you may see a sign for cheap theatre tickets. These will be marketing people paid to get you in to presentations at developers' resorts.
This sounds scary but it isn't. We have done this at least 10 times and always got our deposit back and our reward. They want to fill their presentation with suitable couples without any no-shows or couples who don't have enough money.
I want to stress, you can wriggle out of attending a sales presentation at Grandview and you can say no to anyone else, but if you do attend, most likely because you get offered a very valuable incentive, prepare yourselves first by reading this web page thoroughly to fully understand how to say no and the truths behind their fake enthusiasm.
Timeshare isn't bad but it is a lot of money. It is also a life-long committment and your lifestyle and needs will change. It sells because the quality and space are many times the quality and space in most hotels. A washing machine, tumble dryer and iron are valuable to Americans because they pay a fortune if they have to take a suitcase on a plane. They try to travel light. And a family saves a fortune if they can prepare supermarket ready meals in their own kitchen, rather than eating out in restaurants.
I estimate it costs at least $7,000 to sell each week. Part of that $7,000 is spent giving you $80 to $150 for a couple of hours of your time.
You might say that you would like a small part of $7,000 for free but you don't want to part with $7,000 yourself. Fine. Smile. Sit still for 2 hours. Try not to show too much excitement. Say no thank you. Take your gift.
Bear in mind the sales people do this twice a day every day. They are good at maintaining friendliness. But their aim is to get your money.
The very nice sales person at your table will raise a lot of valid issues and put your money values against them all. The very nice sales person at your table is not selling. They are building your excitement.
The issues will be valid, but the values and the maths will be suspect and not entirely true. You either need to be sharp, or you need to be a bit thick and 'not see it' the way they do.
It is not enough to agree between you, before you go in, that you won't buy anything. They will tell you they know you made that pact. They will tell you that's fine. A percentage of those who attend buy and they are only looking for those few.
They know, they see it twice every day, that if one of you gets very excited the other will give in and the pact agreed before you went in will dissolve away. And, of course, they don't leave you alone to discuss your "excitement" privately and sensibly. They don't want you to calm down.
The examples they use as every-day-normal examples won't be bargains you could ever find yourself. They may have only been that good once, when someone entering a deal on to the computer typed it in wrong. Perhaps deliberately, just to give the sales people something brilliant but unrealistic to photograph and show you.
They show you the best maths. But, realistically, you could not usually benefit this well every single year - for the rest of your life, or your children's lives - to the extent they are claiming you can were everything to fall neatly into place every single year. Suggest you expect to be ill for a few years; or you expect to be tied to looking after elderly parents or grandchildren soon.
The polite way to say no and still get your reward is to SPOIL THEIR MATHS.
They will forget to include annual maintenance in their calculations. Get them added in to make the maths look less exciting.
They will forget to mention how expensive RCI is. It is very expensive. There is a fee for everything: combining weeks, extending weeks, exchanging weeks, changing the name on the booking, expensive phone number when booking.
What seems to make timeshare expensive is firstly the massive sales cost added to the true value that each buyer has to pay, and the really quite high RCI costs to exchange. Timeshare big apartments and best-value, we found, is limited mainly to only half a dozen popular areas in the USA. You can see all the best stuff in only 6 years. But you buy timeshare in perpetuity. The in-perpetuity price is too high if you only use it 6 times.
Timeshare means that that a developer builds and sells a development and sells each apartment 50 times, to 50 couples who can each afford a week but who could not afford to own an apartment outright and leave it empty most of the year. In this sense, timeshare is unquestionably good.
If their development has 70 apartments a timeshare developer sells 3,500 weeks. Assuming $10,000 after sales and marketing costs, that is $35 million. Half a million dollars each apartment. That might be fair market value and timeshare is just another way of selling and owning. It brings a big holiday apartment within reach of many more couples.
Every week owner has to pay annual maintenance. Maintenance doesn't only pay for repairs. It pays for electricity, reception, maid service, linen, the pools, the gardeners, wifi and so on as well. Every week owner pays at least $400 each year. Maintenance income from each apartment is at least $20,000 annually.
Don't be afraid to tell them you have heard from friends that the only truly good value exchanging timeshare is big apartments in the USA. Your friends told you there isn't any benefit elsewhere in the world or inside cities. They will have heard it before. They know it is the truth and they won't fight it (much).
Your nice sales person at your table is unlikely to tell you how much you need to pay to become owners. They are there to get a nice big, fat figure on a piece of paper. The amount timeshare will save you over a lifetime.
If they know that figure is more than the selling cost, and you look excited, they will call over the sales manager. He whips up your excitement even more going through the same figures, then he tells you the price and tries to close the deal.
If you want the reward, but you don't want to buy, the numbers on their sheet of paper need to look too small to be too good to be true. You want the sales manager called over to sign you off to let you go and get your reward. You don't want him spending his valuable time with you when there are still other couples in the room.
The big players are developers like Holiday Inn, Disney, Hilton, Marriott, Wyndham and others, who mostly own and run hotels as well.
The big players are big brands we trust. There is a lot of competition. They all have to be good.
First you will sit down with someone who asks about your holiday habits, where would you like to go, offer you some hospitality, take you round an apartment and perhaps their facilities as well. This first person is going to explain how timeshare will work for you, but a lot of this explanation won't be entirely true.
A week is a week is a week
You know this isn't true already, because outside of Las Vegas, Orlando and Miami many are smaller apartments or studios. Walt Disney apartments at Walt Disney in Florida are a lot smaller than those built by the same people who built Grandview, only a mile further away from the Disney parks. We never saw a bigger or better apartment, but we have seen better resorts with lakes and golf courses. Weeks are not equal.
Our points trade better than others through RCI
Over the 7 years we have owned, we had two opportunities to talk privately with RCI representatives.
The likelihood seems to be that you get the same value, no matters whose points you buy, as we did when they still sold weeks.
No-one's points seem to trade better or worse. But points are more flexible than weeks.
Some points are fixed term, not in perpetuity.
Our weeks or points are worth two weeks or double points when you exchange, because our developments are the most highly sought after.
Like everything else, prices vary with supply and demand.
They will have found this to be true somewhere once, and they will have a picture of this rare example (it could have been an error) on their phone. But they won't go online and prove it to you live.
If their resort is better, as a Wyndham or Hilton resort may well be, and it exchanges better than poorer resorts, which is it better to own? Cheap or expensive? You can probably exchange two cheap years for one expensive year and it would have cost less.
Would you want to exchange one expensive week for two weeks in a poorer resort? Two weeks for the price of one sounds brilliant, but you get two lots of RCI fees and the resort you exchange into might be disappointing.
Where you have doubt, they don't make a sale. Remember to cast doubt on their logic.
We will give you a certificate, valid every year you pay your maintenance, to get an additional week free through RCI every year just for the relevant fee, booked within 45 days of checking in.
The relevant fee could be the same standard Late Deal Extra Holiday fee available to every RCI member. Or probably just a little bit less but the choice might be more limited. It might be limited only to resorts owned by the developer talking to you. True they may pay your RCI membership for 3 years out of the thousands of dollars they want you to commit to today, but as an RCI member these certificates could be virtually worthless because Late Deals could be even better.
You can exchange your USA weeks for similarly luxurious apartments anywhere else in the world you would like to go. You're from England? I just lurv your accent. You can holiday in England as well. There's lot of choice in England, France Spain ....
No you can't. Europe doesn't have such big apartments, particularly not with kitchens, that I have found. There might not be any timeshare in England not available sometimes on booking.com as well. There definitely is not a huge choice of big apartments with full kitchens in Europe, Asia or Oceania.
There might be an exception. The Canary Islands have some choice of large apartments with full kitchens.
When you go on holiday, how much do you spend on eating out? How much on extra baggage on the aeroplane because you don't have laundry facilities in a hotel? How much for a second room when you want grandchildren to come with you on holiday? And a whole lot of other items they claim cost you more in a hotel compared to an apartment.
They will paint a big and vivid picture that you will save so much not staying in a hotel, over your lifetime, your children's lifetimes after they inherit and their children's lifetimes when they inherit that $25,000 committment today is the best offer you ever had in your life - and it is not an offer they will repeat.
USA couples can fly a thousand miles for $20 plus taxes and fees. But only without luggage. 23kgs of luggage on an internal domestic flight might add $130 each. The total might become $800 for two return. They are claiming you save on luggage if you have a laundry. Explain what you paid to fly to the USA and how luggage was included, so this saving of theirs needs to be crossed off.
Along this journey through the savings timeshare provides compared to hotels, you will have been asked for lots of numbers. $ for extra baggage, $ for eating out and so on.
What they want to demonstrate is, using your figures, that buying a week (that you will exchange for two weeks and no mention of how expensive the RCI fees are) that even with mortgage interest you will save money for years to come signing up for a week today.
If your figures are fairly low: you won't be bringing children, the baggage allowance from the UK is 51lbs and sufficient, you don't go abroad every year - then they won't see much leverage, and you should be able to say no thanks, get signed off, go and collect your reward and leave.
Obviously, if they think you could save a lot, they will think they have a prime prospect here worth working on a bit longer.
The nice person you have sat with for 2 hours is still nice. They aren't closing the deal. They are just so happy for you to have this opportunity ....
and they secretly signal their 'manager' who is a bit more direct, gives you the price and is asking you to go ahead. He isn't a rottweiler but he has a lot more assertiveness.
This is when you want to say you really aren't interested and if pushed you might mention you saw an ad for pre-owned timeshares for a fraction the money they are asking for today. Get your reward and leave.
On the two occasions we bought two weeks, we said no to the sales manager despite the numbers looking very good. We were shown to the Corporate Guy from Head Office. He has the special deals, such as the mortgaged weeks that missed payments and were forfeit, allegedly for sale for only the outstanding on the mortgage. We paid at least a third less than the the original asking price but we still paid too much, bearing in mind Covid robbed us of two years and we are getting older.
Should you ever say yes?
Probably not. Sometimes you might, but not often.
And, as I just indicated above, there are plenty of Realtors, estate agents, who advertise weeks cheap because their owners don't want to keep them and they try to get something rather than have them taken away because they missed the maintenance payments.
Should I have bought 4 weeks?
I'm answering this question here for you to see if you think you would answer the same way, and still answer the question the same way for years after you became an owner.
4 weeks looked just right for us, and it is if we exchange our 4 weeks for 2 weeks in a resort so fabulous we would not get in any other way and it is exactly what we want that year. And we keep going back to Grandview in Las Vegas with South Point next door which we feel is absolutely brilliant and we won't ever tire of living in our huge apartment.
I have had to do my research to learn what is worthwhile. We have used RCI to stay in Thailand, Malaysia, India and Sri Lanka as well as Virginia, Arizona, New Mexico and Chicago - as well as several times in Las Vegas, twice in Orlando and once in Miami.
But the truth is we could have paid about the same through booking.com or a similar website, without spending our timeshare weeks, when we holidayed outside of Las Vegas, Orlando, Miami, and Virginia. You only need timeshare to get the biggest and best apartments in these four areas.
The world is NOT available for us exchanging our timeshare if we want reasonable value. The USA is very available with close to 1,000 resorts to choose from. But with 250 of them in the Orlando area we lose a lot of that choice because it is limited to how many times we want to go to Orlando.
There might be 30 or 40 destinations we would like to go to but we could exhaust most of those in under 10 years, probably.
Because we own timeshare we have to go to the USA many times to get good value. We love it and it isn't too hard. But it is very different to the sales pitch.
Who bought without any regret?
We spoke to a couple once who had bought an alternative week in just a studio apartment. That means their week was only every other year. It could be worth 5 ETPs (compared to the 68 ETPs we get for our 4 weeks in full apartments) on an annual basis and not enough to exchange every year, so they were looking to buy more. If I saw them today I would say be happy with your half a studio annually, because it allows you to join RCI and that gives you the same access I have, with 10 or 12 times your portfolio, to all the Extra Holiday Weeks to choose from and book bigger apartments compared to hotels.
I don't want to say who, but one dance couple some of you know have owned 4 consecutive weeks in the Canaries for many years. They own over Christmas and New Year and they took their growing family away for the same 4 weeks every year. Now all their children have families of their own and the grandparents holiday for the same 4 weeks each year and different grandchildren and their parents come and join them one after the other throughout.
They never exchange. They don't belong to RCI. They pay no additional fees. They don't want choice or to travel anywhere else. It works for them.
Sally and I enjoy our timeshare, but with far fewer exciting places to exchange to than we were led to believe it's value is waning for us.
Two final points. If you do buy, your 2 hours will stretch to 4 hours in the sales centre. You have to sign in front of their lawyer. If you do buy, local laws give you a cooling off period. You can buy a stamp, envelope and paper and write to the address in the documents to get the money you paid back. But while they will return every penny, you will lose foreign exchange rate commissions both ways and cancelling might still cost you £400 at your bank.