The true prices of new timeshare units are a secret guarded more closely than a favorite poolside lounge chair on a sunny morning in the Caribbean. Resort developers are, after all, businesspeople, and they want to sell their timeshare units for as high a price as the marketplace will bear. Even brand-name developers such as Hilton, Hyatt, and Starwood refuse to publish the base rates for their timeshare units. You have to call one of their sales representatives — and give over a world of personal information — before you will be offered so much as a peek at a price.
Having said that, the most recent research by the American Resort Development Association shows that the average price for a week of new timeshare ownership (or the equivalent number of timeshare-usage points) is $15,789. The number is nonspecific in terms of the type of unit owned — one-bedroom, two-bedroom, etc. — nor is it specific in terms of the types of resorts where most of the new timeshare units were purchased.
Also mucking up the learning curve on true costs for new timeshares is that the $15,789 figure represents the cost of just the timeshare unit itself. It does not include the many extra fees that you read about in Chapter 2. The number also is an average, meaning there are brand-new timeshares selling for as little as $5,000 and as much as $50,000 or more.
While the number of timeshare owners in the United States is just shy of four million, those four million people own nearly six million shares of timeshare weeks — meaning that some people are investing an average of $30,000 or more in multiple weeks of timeshare vacation.
The resale market is its own can of worms when it comes to determining the cost of timeshare units. You can find everything from resale units that are selling well above that new-timeshare average price of $15,789 to resale units trading on eBay for literally a couple hundred dollars (plus closing costs). And again, those numbers do not include extra fees such as maintenance costs and exchange company memberships, meaning the cost being quoted — no matter what it is — is still less than the real price burden you will bear over time.
If you want to be sure that you are paying a fair price for a new timeshare unit, your best bet is to narrow your search down to a few resorts that you like the most and then ask for prices that you can compare side by side. Even better, if the resorts you like the best are all in the same geographic area, you can take a mini-vacation to that place and attend three private sales presentations — giving you the opportunity not only to compare the numbers on paper, but how you feel inside the units themselves.
You can take the same approach to your research if you are looking at comparing costs on the timeshare resale market, but — as you will learn in Chapter 10 — you will also have the benefit of Web sites where you can look to see what other people have paid for similar units in the same timeshare resorts. There is no “blue book” similar to the one you can purchase when trying to determine the appropriate cost for a used car, but there are enough consumer groups keeping track of resale prices that you will be able to make a decent assessment of how much you should be paying for a good number of resale timeshare units.
No matter whether you are trying to determine an appropriate cost on the new or resale market, all timeshare units are subject to key factors that drive their prices up or down. These include everything from the units themselves to where they are located and how nice other people have found them during previous vacations.