We let it pass rather quietly—ten years of successfully serving the timeshare resales and timeshare rentals needs of owners. A full decade of growing a business from a three-person start-up to become the leader in vacation ownership secondary market services.
We are tremendously proud of what we do because we know it impacts lives in very meaningful ways, opening the door to affordable travel accommodations for some vacationers while relieving other couples and families of vacation ownership they no longer enjoy.
In 2008, five years into our business, SellMyTimeshareNOW.com took on $8.5 million in investment capital from Edison Venture Fund, who then because a minority stockholder and our company’s sole institutional investor.
In 2012, Edison sold its equity interest as part of our company’s merger transaction with Vacation Innovations, LLC, a company founded by Scott Roberts and Chad Newbold. The strategic partnership created the world’s largest timeshare resale and vacation ownership marketing company.
Ten Years in Timeshare Resales and Timeshare Rentals
Along the way, we have added a diversity of vacation ownership services including:
By-owner timeshare services
Licensed timeshare real estate brokerage through realtors working on a commission basis
Secured resort rental bookings through Dial An Exchange
And timeshare services for resorts, developers, and homeowner’s associations (HOAs).
It’s been an amazing decade growing from three employees to several hundred company-wide; from limited services to a diversity of services, and from an unknown website, to a thriving dot.com. Over the years we’ve written over 2300 blog posts and shared some 15,000 tweets, as well as countless updates to Facebook, LinkedIn, and every other platform we could use to reach out and build relationships with clients, peers, and contacts who so often start as strangers and later become our valued friends.
The following article appears in the July/September issue of the NA Edition of Perspective Magazine. Written by Jason Tremblay, “Timeshare Resale Call to Action,” includes quotes and insights from Heather Guffin, president and CEO of the Association of Timeshare Recyclers and Mary Robeants, owner and partner of 52 Shares, Inc., a real estate brokerage specializing in timeshare resales. It is reprinted here in full with the permission of Perspective Magazine.
Timeshare Resale Call to Action
By Jason Tremblay
The resale challenge of timeshare has reached critical mass, and it involves everyone in vacation ownership. Industry wide, it is time to come together to solve the problem of timeshare resales. This call to action is not meant as a wake-up call. Instead, it is a last call to an industry with a problem that begs to be solved.
When major branded hospitality providers released first quarter earnings reports earlier this year, many showed increases in profits, year over year. On closer review, one realizes that the gains were primarily increases in profitability margins, and that actual sales to new buyers of timeshare were weak. Most of the timeshare sales recorded were owner upgrades or the sale of additional intervals or points to existing owners. At the recent ARDA regional meeting (Portsmouth, NH) Darla S. Zanini, executive vice president, ARDA International Foundation, reported that last year more than 60 percent of all timeshare sales were to existing owners.
The majority of today’s timeshare buyers are not a fresh market of consumers coming to the vacation ownership product. The fact that current owners are adding to their ownership says wonderful things about the consumer experience of being a timeshare owner. At the same time, it delivers an ominous message about the failure of the industry’s marketing outreach to connect with the vast untapped market of vacationers who won’t tolerate the current sales-by-resort-tour approach, or who believe timeshare is riddled with fraud, long- term costs, and offers no exit strategy when they no longer want to own it.
That ARDA has emphasized the need to market timeshare in new ways to Gen X and Gen Y buyers is important, yet it is not enough. Timeshare owners are a segment of the vacationing population that gets smaller by percentage each year, and this has nothing to do with a challenged economy or a tight lending market. Instead, it speaks to a crisis that is potentially a house of cards. How can it be a sustainable business model that the primary consumer of new timeshare is the individual who already owns timeshare? Doesn’t the shared ownership industry—like any industry with a healthy business model— need a steady flow of new consumers?
The value proposition of timeshare cannot include it being a life sentence that once purchased, the owner is destined to own forever. Resorts having the first right of refusal to buy back a timeshare for which an owner has a buyer and a solid offer is a sound business practice that helps keep timeshare resale values elevated. However, some management companies have taken this approach a step further.
At least one major player in vacation ownership is refusing to transfer ownership of a timeshare to any resale buyer who is on record as having toured that resort within the previous 12 months. In this scenario, an owner either finds a buyer himself or with the assistance of a timeshare reseller. The owner or transfer company initiates the title transfer and the resort then blocks the sale, but not because the resort wants to exercise its right of first refusal and buy back the timeshare, which would be a win-win for everyone. Instead, the resort blocks the sale because the prospective buyer has accepted a resort tour during the previous year and is being deemed as the resort’s prospect, rather than the owner’s buyer.
To look at this another way, imagine test- driving a car at a dealership and later deciding to buy a used car of the same model, only to be told you can’t because months ago you visited a dealership. This initiative gives rise to ethical and legal questions. More importantly, it crystallizes the marketing question, “Does the industry really benefit by presenting timeshare as a product with no way out and no resale value?”
As Heather Guffin, president and CEO of the Association of Timeshare Recyclers says, “Every product in the world has a secondary market: jewelry, art, vehicles, technology, traditional real estate, even shares of a publicly-traded company. In fact, the investment value of an industry as a whole is largely determined by the resale value that their products maintain. The industries that have worked together to increase the value of their products on the secondary market are those that are generally considered to be good investments.”
Guffin adds, “Developers who offer their prospective members solutions to the objections of no way to resell, no resale value, and rising maintenance fees will simply sell more. Consumers want these solutions; they have been asking for these solutions, and voicing their frustration with the lack of viable timeshare exit strategies for years. It is time to stop ignoring their needs and offer them exit solutions that work.”
The challenges of the timeshare secondary market are never just going to “go away,” even if many industry thought-leaders and decision- makers would like them to fade quietly into oblivion. Inevitably, the day arrives when the chickens come home to roost. That reality makes it incumbent upon us all to find a point of resolution. The time has come to convene an emergency summit, at which the timeshare industry as a whole agrees to check egos at the door, refrain from the finger pointing of resellers blaming developers and developers blaming resellers and pledge to work together to effect change and achieve resolution. ARDA board members gathering to discuss resale but excluding secondary market companies has yet to solve anything.
Mary Robeants, owner and partner of 52 Shares, Inc., a real estate brokerage specializing in timeshare resales, says, “We would be thrilled to participate in an industry summit to discuss win-win solutions that meet the needs of developers, owners and those of us in the resale industry. We’re confident that open and frank discussion can yield the answers that are needed to the challenges that currently exist with respect to the resale market and the ability of owners to find a robust and healthy market for their timeshare weeks.”
Robeants voices a sentiment that is universal among legitimate resale companies. Resale is not an enemy of timeshare—it is an inevitability. If developers and management companies do not like how resale companies operate, they can change things; in fact, both resellers and developers will probably have to make changes in the way they currently operate segments of their business. The industry has to work together toward solutions that appeal to owners, developers, management companies, HOAs and resellers. Educating owners about disreputable resellers is a job half done. Led by its professional associations, timeshare must also educate owners and prospective owners regarding reputable resale companies.
During this year’s ARDA World Convention, in a discussion that included Howard Nusbaum, president and CEO of ARDA; Jason Gamel, ARDA’s vice president of state government affairs; Scott Roberts, CEO of Vacation Innovations; and Jason Tremblay, founder of SellMyTimeshareNOW.com, an important idea surfaced —that of an ARDA-verified reseller program. Everyone agreed that launching a program in which timeshare resale companies voluntarily provide ARDA with verification of resale and rental offers and finalized transactions is imperative.
Third party audits of timeshare resale and rental results, archived and made available to the industry and the public through ARDA, would enable buyers and sellers to identify trustworthy resellers. Just as importantly, third party audits of resale and rental results would put to rest those nagging untruths that timeshares have no resale value, and that timeshare is a life sentence, with no way out.
Consider this a plea to the stakeholders in ARDA to convene at an emergency resale summit, at which they invite the resale industry to participate and help collaborate and architect a meaningful solution.
Thank you Perspective Magazine for permission to reprint this article.
ATR is a a not-for-profit corporation whose mission is to find, create, and promote exit strategies that are designed to work for the timeshare industry as a whole.The ATR was built on the idea that the entire industry will more greatly benefit from working together to solve the issues of the timeshare product lifecycle.
Heather Guffin, President & CEO, The Association of Timeshare Recyclers says, “The ATR tries to maintain a one-industry approach to solving these challenging issues, especially that of exit strategies. It is important for industry leaders to take a step back from our respective positions for a moment and to really look at our industry as a whole, from the viewpoint of a consumer. Consumers today want flexibility and they don’t care whether that flexibility comes from the primary or the secondary markets…they don’t even know the difference. What consumers want are solutions. The truth is that primary market developers lose sales every day because most prospective new owners believe that timeshares are not flexible, a bad investment, and difficult to exit from. These are industry-wide objections that hurt both primary and secondary markets, and it is something that we must work together to solve.”
The approach of the ATR requires that everyone involved work with one another to create a viable and healthy secondary market. The ATR relies upon timeshare resellers, renters, and trade-in companies that work hard every day to recycle timeshares on the secondary market.
Timeshare Resale Leader Sends Cancer Survivor to Myrtle Beach
As Send Me On Vacation explains, they are: “Changing lives, one vacation at a time.” And as part of the timeshare resale, vacation ownership, and resort industries, we are excited to have the opportunity to be part of this important effort.
SellMyTimeshareNOW.com and VacationOwnership.com have proudly announced that they recently provided a week’s vacation for a female breast cancer survivor participating in the Send Me On Vacation program, which they help to sponsor.
Send Me On Vacation is a 501(c)(3) program that provides a complimentary weeklong vacation for women with breast cancer who have completed their treatments and need a place to rejuvenate and heal. Since the charity was first launched in 2010, over 18 cancer survivors have enjoyed vacations at timeshare resorts around the world.
According to Cathy Backus, VP of Business Development for ICE Gallery, who founded the non-profit charity, “After their treatments are completed, we believe the first step in recovery is to provide these survivors with the comfort of a well-deserved vacation. We are grateful for assistance from companies like SellMyTimeshareNOW.com and VacationOwnership.com that have helped make a difference in the lives of these women.”
Adds Jason Tremblay, Founder of SellMyTimeshareNOW.com and VacationOwnership.com, the timeshare industry’s leading resale brokerage and Internet advertising companies, “We have supported Send Me On Vacation since its inception and are proud to help provide accommodations in luxury timeshare accommodations for these cancer survivors.”
Taneta Blanden is a cancer survivor who enjoyed a timeshare holiday at the Schooner II Beach & Racquet Club in Myrtle Beach, S.C. through Send Me On Vacation. In December 2009, when she was 39, her world came to a crashing halt after she found a lump in her breast. During the following year, she says that her strength and faith were tested to their limits and her finances were in total ruin.
“Instead of taking my first trip on a cruise which I had saved for to celebrate my 40th birthday,” says Taneta, “I spent that year hoping to see another day. Today I’m in remission and I was able to see my kids graduate. I’m very thankful to all those who have been so kind to me. This year I was gifted a wonderful full week’s vacation to Myrtle Beach in a beautiful two-bedroom condo with travel and food expenses included. There was no way I would have been able to take a break like this and be able to relax and reflect on my life and the blessings I’ve received in being able to continue to see my loved ones.”
Hospitality professionals who would like to donate to the program should contact [email protected]. The Vacation Donation program allows for a donation of a vacation in exchange for charitable tax credit.
About SellMyTimeshareNOW.com and VacationOwnership.com LLC
With offices in Orlando, FL and Dover, NH, VacationOwnership.com LLC includes the brands SellMyTimeshareNOW.com, ResortRentals.com, Vacation Ownership Brokerage and Vacation Ownership Brokerage of NH.