Buying direct from the developer does have its benefits, not the least of which is the lack of hassle you might encounter when trying to buy a timeshare unit on the resale market. As with used cars, used furniture, or used anything, there are good sellers and bad sellers out there in the world with top-notch products and hideous lemons alike. Timeshares are no different. When you are making what very well may be a purchase worth $10,000 or even more, you want to know that there will be no hidden problems that suddenly materialize after your paperwork is signed and you have taken ownership rights.
Other benefits of buying direct from the developer also tend to fall into the peace of mind category — which is important when considering a purchase that you will use for the next decade or longer. Legal rights are certainly a major factor, as are timeshare unit condition and customer support services.
Your legal right to a rescission period, or a cooling-off period, is perhaps the greatest incentive you have for purchasing a timeshare unit directly from the developer. Rescission periods, to put it in basic terms, allow you at least a few days to change your mind and get all of your money back after signing a contract. The length of rescission periods varies from state to state, but they are usually at least three days long. When buying a timeshare unit on the resale market, you will not always be entitled to a cooling-off period. Sometimes, yes — if you are working with a reputable resale broker, for instance, who provides one
While rescission periods vary from state to state, you almost always are entitled to them when buying a timeshare unit from a developer within the United States. However, when buying a unit overseas, the law may not allow you time to change your mind. Some Caribbean islands, for instance, offer no legal protections at all for cooling-off time.
Before you purchase your unit, determine what the rescission rights are in the state where the resort is located (details on that can be found in Chapter 7). You want to know not just how many days you have to change your mind, but what steps you must take and what paperwork you must fill out within that time period.
If possible, download rescission forms from the Web site of the real estate commission that governs the property where your timeshare unit is located. Having the forms organized and ready to go in case a problem is discovered will be key to your exercising this important right.
Also check with your credit-card company. Some Visa and MasterCard users are entitled to ten-day cooling-off periods after purchasing a timeshare unit — a nice benefit, especially if you are buying in a place where there is no legal rescission period.
If you are among the people who prefer new cars to used ones, new homes to lived-in dwellings, and the like, then for you another important benefit of buying a timeshare straight from the developer is the fact that you can often get a unit that is part of a new construction phase.
There is no doubt about it: Buying straight from the developer can greatly increase your chance of getting a timeshare unit that is in sparkling new condition — and that is sometimes one of the last remaining units at the timeshare resort of your choice. Often, this is because the units are not even yet built during the initial sales period (more on that later in this chapter). Sometimes, you can literally be the first person ever to stay in a timeshare unit, meaning everything will be as crisp and clean as it can possibly be. At the very least, your first week of usage can come during the unit's first year of existence, when wear and tear will be minimal.
The other benefit to buying a new-construction unit from a developer is that it is sometimes the only way to get the week you want for your timeshare use. Plenty of resale units may be available, say, for the low seasons when demand is minimal, but you may need to vacation each year during a peak week, such as between Christmas and New Year's Day. Often, buying directly from the developer is the only way to ensure you get the actual week you want, if you have limited flexibility in that area.
Developers such as Disney, Hilton, Hyatt, Marriott, and Starwood are backed by something very important: a name and reputation that you already know. You don't often hear anyone refer to these conglomerates as fly-by-night-operations, which is important considering that your timeshare purchase is a long-term investment that you are going to want to rely on for the next decade or more. Brand-name developers come with backup in the form of financial stability, ingrained service standards, and more. Those are things you will not always find if you buy a timeshare on the resale market instead of from a developer.
Does buying a timeshare from a brand-name developer entitle me to special loyalty rewards programs?
Yes — almost always. Developers such as Disney, Hilton, Hyatt, and Marriott typically allow their timeshare owners to take advantage of special deals at their hotels and with their loyalty program partner companies.
Another benefit of buying your timeshare directly from a brand-name developer is that you often will be entitled to full use of the developer's loyalty program. With Marriott Vacation Ownership, for instance, you can trade your weeks in for points that can then be used in the Marriott Rewards system. Some of the things you can get with those points include hotel room bookings, hotel room upgrades, airline tickets, cruise-ship vacations, golf lessons, spa certificates, theater tickets, theme park admission tickets, shopping vouchers, and more.
The Hyatt Vacation Club, too, allows you to convert the timeshare unit of your choice into Hyatt Vacation Club points that are good for stays at other Hyatt timeshare destinations, hotel room bookings, and more. In addition, your membership in the Hyatt Vacation Club allows you access to members-only rates on airfares, car rentals, and cruise-ship vacations. You also will be automatically enrolled in Hyatt's Gold Passport program, which rewards frequent guests with complimentary benefits.
Hilton Grand Vacation Club timeshare owners also get similar benefits, including the ability to exchange timeshare use for Hilton HHonors points. Those HHonors points are good for things such as hotel stays, getaways to additional Hilton timeshare resorts, airline and train tickets, car rentals, cruise-ship vacations, theme-park admission tickets, gift certificates to stores such as Sharper Image, and more. You can also use the HHonors Reward Exchange program to convert frequent-flyer points from airlines such as American and Virgin Atlantic into additional HHonors points should you come up a bit short for the reward you are hoping to receive.
Timeshare owners in the Starwood Vacation Ownership program receive similar benefits as those explained in the previous few paragraphs, including the ability to use timeshare points for hotel stays at participating Westin, Sheraton, Four Points by Sheraton, St. Regis, The Luxury Collection, and W Hotels. Points also can be used for rewards such as car rentals, airline tickets, and the like.
You can use the resale market to try to get a better price for a brand-name timeshare unit, but that price rarely includes access to the developer's loyalty programs and other benefits. Buying directly from a brand-name developer will ensure you receive all the benefits that come from doing business with a brand-name company.
Disney Vacation Club members receive many of the same benefits as explained in the previous few paragraphs. With Disney, though, members also are entitled to loyalty program benefits in keeping with Mickey Mouse style, such as discounts on annual passes to the Walt Disney World and Disneyland theme parks, exclusive events such as theme-park attraction previews and private Disney Cruise Line sailings, and member publications that show you behind-the-scenes goings-on at the Disney theme parks and resorts.
Possible Bonus Time
Sometimes when you buy a timeshare from the developer, you will be entitled to purchase bonus time later on at your home resort, or at another resort that is specified by the exchange company. Bonus time does not affect the timeshare unit usage that you already own; instead, it allows you to purchase additional vacation time — often at a substantially reduced rate. You can get bonus time when buying on the resale market, depending on your resort and exchange company, but when you buy from a developer, your chances tend to be greater.
How does bonus time work? The general public may be paying upward of $150 per night for a one-bedroom unit that you, with your bonus time option, can get for less than $50. You sometimes will have to commit to a full weekend, or two nights, but that is still a pretty great deal if you want to make a long-weekend getaway. If your timeshare resort is close to your home, you can even use bonus time as additional housing for out-of-town guests.
Bonus time is not a standard part of timeshare-unit purchase agreements, and therefore may not be offered with the unit you are buying. Be sure to ask about this option if you think you may want to use it, and get the associated fees and wait-list rules in writing from your resort or exchange company before you sign anything.
If bonus time is offered with your timeshare unit, you should not have to pay for the bonus time in advance. Instead, it should be available on a first-come, first-served basis throughout the year.