Timeshare or Time Bomb?

The following article is published online at The Resort Trades and will appear in an upcoming print edition of one of their timeshare publications. It is reprinted here with their permission.

Timeshare or Time Bomb?

by Jason Tremblay

Timeshare postcard companies and timeshare relief companies exist, and in some cases thrive, because the timeshare industry creates an environment that is ripe for them. It’s at ticking time bomb, that the industry is currently tossing from one hand to the other…

If you have been reading this this column, or you read The Timeshare Authority blog, you may recognize that our company, Sell My Timeshare NOW, LLC and our affiliated company, Timeshare Broker Services, LLC, deal with timeshares on the secondary market. We are not developers or a management company. Neither are we a postcard or relief company. We don’t cold call, mail postcards, or engage in disreputable or questionable business practices, but I am about to plunge headfirst into the discussion of companies that do and make some bold statements about the only real realistic way to effectively and permanently defuse the bomb.

Building the Timeshare Time Bomb

It’s Economics 101. A company is able to do business when it identifies a consumer need and then offers a means or method to fill that need. Along the way, the company must communicate its service or product to a sufficient segment of its target market. The business must also be able to deliver that service or product with a level of consistency that is satisfactory to both consumers and any regulatory agencies that monitor its practices, and do so at a price consumers are willing to pay.

Some of the businesses known as timeshare ‘postcard’ companies do exactly this. Although headline news regularly (and accurately) reminds us there are dishonest companies in this sector of the timeshare industry, other postcard or relief companies have strong business and consumer satisfaction ratings. Check them out with the Better Business Bureau; you will find a few postcard companies with A+ ratings. Why? Because there are some of these companies that tell clients they will take a timeshare off their hands and then they deliver on that promise.

With an aging population of existing timeshare owners, the need to resell timeshare is inevitable. Throw in aging timeshare properties, a struggling economy, and all the normal ups and downs in life including divorces, illnesses, relocations, and other life changes. Without intending to, you are assembling components which, when combined under pressure, could yield volatile results.

Nothing Lasts Forever

Inevitably the day comes that people want to part ways with their vacation ownership and they realize they can’t simply put their timeshare out with the trash. If they own a desirable property, and are realistic about its resale value, then they can likely resell it. In 2009, our company alone facilitated 61,743 offers to buy timeshare resales and 85,949 offers to rent timeshares, and we are not the only reputable timeshare reseller in business.

But suppose the timeshare owner’s resort looks as old and tired as perhaps the owner has come to feel himself? Or what if the owner can’t sort through all the negative timeshare media coverage and figure out which resale company to trust, or doesn’t want to invest the time it make take for a licensed timeshare broker to match his property with a buyer?

As long as developers and timeshare management companies fail to offer owners a viable way to get out of timeshare, postcard businesses will continue to bombard timeshare owners with offers of relief. Some owners will pay any price asked in order to get rid of their vacation ownership commitment. They see no other way out. The frustration and confusion they feel acts like a fuse for the bomb that is coming together.

What Do You Expect Your 95-Year-Old Timeshare Owner to Do?

Timeshare is supposed to represent the happy times. Developers sell timeshare because people believe it offers days shared with people they love; escapes from the daily grind; and a chance to recharge, relax, and heal their world-weary spirits. Timeshares are intended to expand horizons, indulge senses, and make leisure planning easier.

No one wants to see timeshare owner’s exit experiences consisting of paying out hard-earned money to be rid of a timeshare that they have already been paying mortgage payments and maintenance fees on for years. When this scenario becomes the reality, you have a product people start out loving and end up hating because its usability in their lives is gone, yet they have no idea how to get rid of it.

Happy Valentine’s Day, It’s a Postcard Promising You Relief from the Timeshare You Used to Love

Timeshare postcard or relief companies are aggressively ‘romancing’ timeshare owners. They are turning timeshare owners into former owners, right under the noses of HOAs and management companies. By positioning themselves to ‘rescue’ timeshare owners from their commitments, these companies are riding into town on skinny white horses, and in many cases, riding off into the sunset as a hero with a much better fed horse. When a timeshare owner receives enough postcards, valentines, or love letters from such companies, even those not looking to sell may come to believe that they should take the relief while it’s being offered.

The timeshare industry may not like the way these companies market themselves or go after prospects. No one who cares about the future of the industry can be pleased when the loudest timeshare marketing message heard is one that says, “Get out of this scam while you can!”

Disarm the Bomb

As an industry, we can complain about the relief companies. We can gripe to each other and make rules about who can join our club or show up at our meeting places. The louder we criticize, the more we reinforce the idea that ours is a mixed-up, problem-ridden industry, which the wise consumer should avoid. While we stand around chunking rocks at those ‘other’ companies, we are ostensibly setting the timer and engaging the bomb. If you stop and listen, you can almost hear the tick-tick-tick in the background.

Yet vacation ownership has always been an industry rich with visionaries, problem solvers, thought leaders and creative, entrepreneurial minds. When we come together as an industry in think tanks, advisory boards, and conference committees, we need to spend every second of those precious hours working out new ways to deal with timeshares that owners no longer want to own. Instead of standing back, allowing this bomb to go off in our faces, taking a great product and millions of satisfied timeshare owners with it, why don’t we disarm it before it blows?

When timeshare comes with defined exit options, not only will the bomb stop ticking, but the postcards will stop showing up in the mail. The companies the timeshare industry is working so hard to run off the playing field, will no longer even be in the game.

Relief companies dry up and go away the moment timeshare developers, management companies and homeowners associations offer better alternatives, eliminating the need to rescue, relieve, or bail out anyone. With no market of owners at the end of their rope, the environment ceases to support even the most persistent salespeople who might try to peddle the notion of overpriced, unnecessary relief. Regulating these businesses will be a non-issue; they will simply cease to exist and the menacing sound of tick-tick-tick will finally stop forever.