Tips for Attending a Timeshare Presentation

By Bradley L. Jones

It is no secret to my friends and family that I own a timeshare. What might not be known is that for my first job out of college, I worked for a timeshare exchange company, Resorts Condominiums International (RCI). I worked for the DeHaans, who are credited with launching the timeshare exchange industry.

I have many conversations with people about timeshares and timeshare ownership. Most of those who I discuss this with have been approached to attend a timeshare presentation. Many people I know have wondered if the reality matches the hype. A few have bought, and one has bought multiple units. Simply put, it rarely does. Let me provide a few of my observations and some tips about timeshare presentations and the idea of timeshare ownership.

Timeshare Presentations

If you have attended a timeshare presentation, then you’ve experienced the high-pressure sales tactics that can be used. Timeshare salespeople make the reputation of used car salesmen look like kids play. You can say “no” over and over, but they will keep asking, plus they will pull other people into the sales pitch to also ask you to buy. The pressure to buy is intense.

Getting the Gifts

The pressure of timeshare presentations starts with gifts. If you stay at a resort or hotel associated with timeshares, you will likely be offered free gifts such as “hard to get” tickets, gift cards, “free” vacations, dinners, or cash. You also see these offers of gifts at mall kiosks, “half price ticket” booths in tourist towns, and other places. You might even get these offers over the phone should if you applied to a raffle to win a free car or vacation at your local mall, fair, or other location. The last resort I stayed at offered a $125 Visa gift card to attend a presentation. Regardless of how you come across it, most timeshare sales pitches begin with the offer of gifts.

Tip 1: Just say no, at least at first…

If you are staying at a resort or hotel that offers you a gift for a few minutes of your time, it is often best to say no the first offer. I’ve stayed at several resorts where the offer at check in was as much as half what the offer was a day or two later. A $75 Visa gift card can quickly become $125 by simply waiting a few days, or by asking if that is their best offer.

Note 1: It will be a high-pressure sales pitch

If you are offered gifts for a few minutes of your time, then you are undoubtably going to a sales pitch, and it will be high-pressure. You might be told that you are simply being asked for feedback on the resort, being given an update on resort changes, or being given an owner’s update. Regardless of the wording, if gifts are being offered, then you are being taken to a sales presentation.

Tip 2: Get the time commitment in writing

Sales presentations rarely last less than 90 minutes and almost always take longer than any amount of time you are quoted. One of the biggest complaints I’ve seen is that people feel held hostage at presentations. The reality is, if you don’t plan, you could be held hostage. As such, you need to mitigate any chance the resort can do that to you. To understand the extent that you can be held hostage, read reviews on a resort prior to attending any timeshare presentation.

I recently stayed at Westgate Smokey Mountains. There are a very large number of public reviews that indicate the promised 90-minute presentation went well over four hours and in some cases over five hours. Because many people are shuttled from other hotels for the presentation, they had no easy way to leave. Additionally, in the case of Westgate, like most resorts, they don’t give you your gifts until after they release you at the end. If you walk out before they release you, then you risk losing the gifts you were promised.

Get in writing how long you are expected to be there. More importantly, get in writing that the time starts at the time you are scheduled (and are there). It is not uncommon to keep you waiting when you arrive, and to also keep you waiting at other times. For example, if they are serving food, they will often consider the time you are eating as not a part of the presentation time – even though they will likely talk to you while you are eating.

Using Westgate Smokey Mountains as an example again, if you are staying on their property, they pick you up at your unit in a golf cart 15 minutes before your scheduled time to take you there. The driving tour to your scheduled time is packed with selling on their part. This is considered time spent getting to the pitch even though you are being sold the entire trip. The drive from your unit can include multiple stops to show you various aspects of the resort and the area.

If there are gifts, ask for them at the beginning of the presentation. At the resort where I own, they provide the gifts when you sign up for the presentation. You have them in advance and sign a waiver that says you’ll be charged for them if you don’t show up to the presentation. They also have in writing that you are committing to 90 minutes. They state that at 90 minutes, you can ask to leave, and they will honor it. This is not the norm for most resorts where I’ve stayed.

Tip 3: Read reviews for the resort

I mentioned in Tip 2 that many of the reviews for Westgate Smokey Mountains indicated that the presentation lasted more than 4 hours. If you are going to attend a timeshare presentation, read online reviews to see what others have experienced. This help you understand not only what people received, but also what issues they saw – such as being held captive for hours beyond what they expected. If your offer includes free nights at a vacation destination, you can learn about hidden fees or the quality of the vacation.

If you decide to purchase a unit (see my article on the value of a timeshare), then you can often find what people were offered and the pricing. You can see the approach taken to the sales presentation and more. Reading reviews can save you time and money.

Tip 4: Don’t believe what they say

Timeshare salespeople will tell you they don’t lie. At the last presentation I attended (at Westgate Smokey Mountains), I told the salesperson that he had blatantly lied to me, and that I didn’t appreciate it. I was asked to come do a quick 20-minute survey on how well he had served us during the week. He was our concierge person, so this was to help him. I had said I’d be willing to do that, but that I did not want a sales presentation, and did not want to be sold to. I said I didn’t want the sales presentation several times to the point that earlier in the week my wife indicated I was on the edge of being obnoxious about it.

It was quickly realized the survey was a full-court press for selling Westgate with all the normal tricks of the trade. I indicated to the salesperson that he had blatantly lied. He was selling, the person he had pulled over to present numbers for buying a timeshare unit was selling, and that this is exactly what I said I didn’t want. It was what he said he wouldn’t do. His response was, “I don’t consider this selling. I consider it the offer of an opportunity.” My response was that I value my words and my integrity, and that he no integrity and was a blatant liar. This didn’t faze him. Rather he and the additional salesperson that had been brought to present numbers, both focused on making sure others in the room were not hearing our conversation.

Tip 5: Ask their buy-back price

If something is worth a lot and is going to grow in value, the people tend to hold onto it. If a timeshare is going to be worth a lot, and is going to grow in value, then the company should have no problem buying it back from you at the price you paid. Right?

If you paid $25,000 for a unit today, then in 10 years, they should be willing to buy it back at $25,000 because it is going to be worth so much more. Ask about their buy-back program. You’ll likely be greeted with a blank stare. They won’t buy it back. In fact, if you search the internet, you’ll find that people are trying to simply dump their timeshares to get out of the annual maintenance fees. This should be a huge red flag as to the value of a timeshare.

In a recent presentation at the resort I own, the salesperson tried to get me to make a change to my ownership. I stated that I wouldn’t make the change. He indicated that my “old school” type of ownership was something they were moving away from. I own what is considered a specific week at the resort that can be used at any time and not a certain number of “points”. When I indicated I had no interest in changing, he stated that Marriott is willing to wait. More specifically, he said that Marriott will eventually get my unit back because I’ll either die and not leave it to someone, go bankrupt, or simply want to give it back to get out of the annual fees. If a resort believes they can get units back through these actions, then there is no need for them to buy them back.

Going forward, I plan to record future “owner update” meetings at my home resort as a result of this statement.

Tip 6: Don’t be fooled by the math

One week for $26,000 is the same price as 1 week every two years for $13,000. This might sound obvious, but when you are sitting in a high-pressured sales presentation, this is a way the salesperson will cut the cost to try to get you to buy. In the high-pressure sale, this might sound like a better deal. In fact, the offer of the week every other year for $14,500 might sounds like a better deal than the $25,000 offer, but clearly it is not.

Tip 7: The first offer is never the best.

Just as with the gifts that are offered for attending a sales presentation, the initial cost of a unit or for points is never the best. In most sales presentations, when you say no, better deals will be offered. In many cases, after the salesperson releases you, a new person (such as a “manager”) will meet with you to say they can actually get you a better deal. I’ve been told given a price that was the lowest that anyone could offer, only to have a different person provide a lower number right after. The longer you say no, the lower the price can be.

Tip 8: Exchanging isn’t as easy as they indicate – Buying to solely exchange is a mistake

One of the biggest selling points used to get you to buy a timeshare is the promise of being able to exchange to exotic places. You want to go to the Caribbean or Hawaii? By their unit and exchange! They tell you it is easy, and you can go all over the world.

The reality is not as simple as that. You can only go to places where people have also given up their units to exchange. If you want to go to Branson, Missouri in the winter or to some of the second-tier resorts in Orlando, Florida, then exchanging can work. If you want to go to a popular destination during Spring Break, then you will need a lot of pre-planning and a lot of luck to get a good unit at a good location. In fact, you should check to see when you can get your unit at your own resort. If you buy a flexible week, you might be restricted as to when you can use it even at your own resort.

Tip 9: Understand the true cost of a timeshare

When attending a sales pitch for a timeshare, one of the key selling points is locking in the cost of your future vacations. There are a lot of costs associated to a timeshare that include the upfront cost, the maintenance fees, property taxes, and other annual fees. If you are interested in exchanging, then there can also be exchange subscription fees and exchange fees as well as insurance and other optional fees. I outline the overall cost factors in the article, “The Value of a Timeshare”. While buying a timeshare can lock in part of your vacation costs, the cost of owning that timeshare and using it will increase.

Tip 10: Ask to see a maintenance fee invoice for the current year

In addition to the purchase price, you will be required to pay annual fees. These are fees that increase each year. You should ask to see an invoice for the current year for the unit size you are considering. This invoice should show both the maintenance fees as well as property taxes and any other costs. For a standard two-bedroom unit, these fees are likely to be between $700 and $1200 annually.

Tip 11: Ask for the specific rate increases for the last 5 years on maintenance fees

The maintenance fees mentioned in the previous tip tend to increase each year. While a timeshare salesman will talk about locking in the price of a vacation, the reality is, the price you pay will increase each year because the maintenance, property tax, and other fees will increase. Ask for the specific rate increases for the last five years for the unit being offered. This will give you an idea of what to expect going forward with the rates.

Tip 12: Ask about special assessments

A special assessment is an extra fee charged for large or unexpected costs associated to a timeshare. This can include damage not covered by insurance, replacement of features such as roofs and siding, or modernization costs. These fees can be hundreds to thousands of dollars in addition to your normal fees. These are not common but can happen every ten or fifteen years.

Tip 13: Make sure you know when the week / points you buy will work (red time)

For most resorts, demand changes throughout the year. For example, demand for a unit in the mountains of Colorado is going to be highest during the summer and ski seasons. During the spring and fall when skiing is over, but it isn’t warm enough to enjoy the outdoors, the resort is less desirable. If you buy during this less desirable time, then you might not be able to use the resort at other times of the year when it is more desirable. You need to know when you can use your unit and if there are fees for using it at a different time.

Tip 14: Ask about availability during peak times

If you have kids – or will have kids – then your travel is often restricted to Spring Break, Summer, and key holidays. As mentioned in the previous tip, you’ll want to make sure you have flexibility to use the unit at any time. More importantly, you’ll want to know how likely you are to get the unit during high-demand times. As an example, I’ve been unable to use my home resort during spring break due to lack of units.

Tip 15: Don’t buy a unit from a timeshare salesman

If you attend a timeshare presentation, the best tip is, don’t buy from the resort. If you don’t vacation for a week every year, then you don’t want to pay for a unit every year. If you add up the numbers, you will find that you might be better off to rent the room rather than own. While the cost will go up every year, the net average is likely to be lower if you plan.

If you know someone that belongs to a timeshare exchange company, then befriend them. They can often rent units that can be transferred via a guest certificate. These getaway rentals are often cheaper than the maintenance fees let alone cheaper than the upfront costs plus the maintenance fees.

Tip 16: If buying to go to all-inclusive areas, consider additional costs

Many resorts in Mexico, Hawaii, the Caribbean and other locations include all-inclusive fees. If you are looking to exchange into a resort with all-inclusive fees, then it is recommended that you see what the cost to rent the resort is without going through timeshare exchange. Often you can find packaged deals that are cheaper than the upcharge for the all-inclusive fees you’d pay through an exchange company.

Tip 17: Look at the cars in the employee parking lot

This might sound odd, but if attending a sales presentation for timeshares, review the cars in the parking lot next to the sales building. Specifically, look for the employee parking. The vehicles near the sales presentation area will likely be the cars of the salespeople. If these are high-valued cars, then this implies that the resort is making a lot of money selling the timeshares. The nicer the cars, the more pressure you should expect in the timeshare presentation. It’s not uncommon for me to see BMWs, Lexus, and other high-end car models in the lot for the salespeople.

Final Thoughts

Timeshare presentations are high-pressure events. It is easy to get caught up in the promises being presented, especially if you are on vacation. The value of a timeshare is easiest to understand when you look at the resale value. In most cases, there will either be no resale value, or it will be extremely low. Clearly, a timeshare is an expense and is never an investment.

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The Ranking of the Fishers and HSE High Schools

HSE LogoHSE Schools (HSE) are stated to be among the best, so it is with interest that you should want to know how the two HSE district high schools ranked within the Indianapolis area according to US News & World Report!

Both schools made the list, but neither was at the top. In fact, the top spot on the list went to Zionsville Community High School, which was ranked second within Indiana overall. Neither school made the second or third place on the list either. Second went to HSE’s biggest rival, Carmel High School, which placed fourth for the state. Third was taken by a smaller school, Herron High School, which placed fifth in the state.

So where did HSE’s two high schools land? It was no surprise to me that Fishers High School (FHS) landed ahead of Hamilton Southeastern High School (HHS). Fishers High School was fifth in the Indianapolis area and eighth overall in Indiana. Hamilton Southeastern High School landed sixth in the Indianapolis area and just squeaked into the top ten in the state in the 10th spot.

While both schools made top 10 in the state, neither made top 100 nor top 500 in the country. In fact, Fishers High School ranked 632 in the country and Hamilton Southeastern High School was well below that at number 826.

I’ve created a chart that lets you compare a lot of the data that was reported on the two high schools and have included Carmel and Zionsville comparisons:

FHSHHSCarmelZionsville
National Rank632826305244
Indiana Rank
81042
Indianapolis Area Rank5621
Student-Teacher Ratio22:122:118:121:1
Enrollment 3250311850001928
Took at least 1 AP Exam59%63%58%78%
Passed at least 1 AP Exam40%40%50%68%
Math Proficiency64%64%71%66%
Reading Proficiency83%81%86%85%
State Testing Performance98.4%97.1%99.7%
98.7%
Graduation Rate97%97%98%97%
College Readiness45.245.851.970.6
Free Lunch Program12%8%6%3%
Reduced Lunch Program5%4%2%2%
Gender Distribution (Female)
51%49%49%49%
Minority Enrollment27%25%24%14%
STEM High School Rank237

While it is often said that the Hamilton Southeastern district high schools are the best in the areas, the data clearly presents a different picture if you based your opinion on performance. While the scores for the high schools are great, Carmel and Zionsville have proven that improvements can be made.

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Note that the Hamilton Southeastern Schools District (HSE) has two high schools. One is called Fishers High School (FHS) and the other is called Hamilton Southeastern High School or HSE High School (HHS). The sharing of the district name with a school can be confusing!

Support Me – Even Though I’m Not Here…

This week an issue came up more than once , so I thought it worth writing about. Many things that I believe are obvious, clearly aren’t for many other people. One such issue is the expectation to gain support for something when you don’t bother to show up.

If you are running for a position, or if you are asking people to do something for you, then it would be expected that you would be present when asking or when decisions are being made. Surprisingly, there were two incidents that people failed to show.

The Goat Incident…

At a City Council meeting, a local school asked for approval to have goats at the school. When the issue came before the city council, nobody from the school that could answer questions about the goats attended. Due to concerns including the potential of goat stampedes, the city council ended up discussing and finally delaying a decision.

At the June city council meeting, talks about the goat request from the school were addressed again. The difference this time was that a representative from the school attended and was able to answer questions. After the meeting a city council member commented that the thing that made the difference for the voting was the fact that a person from the school attended. Clearly, if the school was expecting to get support from the city council, they needed to be represented at the city council meeting.

The Board Meeting Incident…

This past month, a member of the HSE School Board resigned. The existing school board members get to determine who will fill the position for the rest of the term. Twenty-four people applied to be considered for the open position.

Because it was stated that the school board would determine the replacement, you’d expect these 24 candidates to do what they could to influence the board members. There was only one school board meeting between the application deadline and the time the decision would be made.

Being that these candidates were apply to be a part of the school board, you’d expect that all twenty-four would attend the next meeting. After all, what better way to solicit a vote that to attend a meeting with the people who would be making the decision. Attending the meeting would also be a chance to see some of the discussion and topics that the board was currently addressing.

Sadly, only about a half dozen, or roughly 25% of the candidates attended the board meeting in person. It seemed the other roughly 75% wanted to be voted into a position to attend future meetings even though they were unable to attend this one.

The school board announced at the meeting the four finalists for the position and asked them to stand. Only two of the four finalists stood. It is assumed the other two were unable to attend. They, like the other candidates not there, had hoped for support, even though they were not there. Of course, the two that were there had the opportunity to talk to existing board members and be seen by the administration.

The Lesson to be Learned….

For most of the school board candidates, it ended up not mattering that they didn’t show up, because they were not a part of the four finalists that the board announced. It will be interested to see at the next school board meeting if the candidate that is voted into the position is one of the two that did attend, or if the board supports a candidate even though they didn’t take the time to show up to a meeting.

From the city council meeting, the lesson to be learned is that if you want a request approved, then it is critically important that you have someone present to support your request. If you can’t take the time to show up to support your own request, then how can you expect others to support it?

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Will the Fishers Nickel Plate Trail Cost $108 Million?

$108 million is a lot of money, especially for roughly four and a half miles of asphalt trail. However, when you start adding underpasses with LED systems, buying land rights, building barriers to block buildings, adding statues and art structures, creating entertainment centers for teens, create access from side roads, build risen platforms for viewing planes or “getting engaged”, or do a variety of other ideas that have been suggested for the trail, then the costs start adding up.

The original cost of the trail within Fishers was $4.4 plus some additional costs for road crossings. A couple hundred thousand was also planned for track removal. This is the number that as of today is still posted on the Nickel Plate Trail FAQs.

Recently, the city released a study indicating the incremental cost of doing both a trail and tracks. Being that the tracks already exist, it is really should be a study about showing the incremental cost of adding a trial while keeping the tracks! While the city had time and money to pull together this comprehensive report, they have been unable up to this point to provide a similar plan to what the trail along is going to cost. Being that they have already approved a tax increase for the trail, it is worth wondering why a similar plan had not already been done for the trail alone.

Being that the plan for the trail alone has not been made public, and being that no such plan can be provided when requested, we are left speculating the cost on our own. It is clear based on the fact that the city has already indicated that the initial cost of the first of three phases will be over $10 million, that the $4.4 million online is bogus, even though the FAQs still list it.

If you look at the Nickel Plate master plan, you’ll see that the original estimate was complete fantasy. While the plan doesn’t necessarily state that the items it contains will ever be constructed, the fact that they are included implies they will be. In addition to what is in the plan, there are also other costs that have been overlooked, such as adding sidewalks from the side roads at 106th and at 131st to get to the trail. With creeks and other obstacles, these side sidewalks will come with high price tags as well.

Taking a look at the plans, here are a few high ticket items that will skyrocket the price:

  • At 96th Street, a raised sidewalk leading to a raised platform and bridge over 96th Street, which is a major intersection requiring serious bridge work.
  • The plan shows a visitor center as a connector to the trail as well. This doesn’t exist, so while it isn’t part of the trail, it will be an addition multi-million dollar cost to Fishers and the tax payers.
  • The road crossing at Hague near 96th Street is a relatively high traffic road, a standard crosswalk will be done instead of going over or under. However, the plan shows a crosswalk with “container gateways,” seating and place making, and LED lighting built into the ground for lighting. This along with the landscaping will create additional costs.
  • Trail nodes, shelters, pull off zones, and other special elements will be additional costs that go way above the asphalt.
  • The addition of restrooms, water for dogs, hang out areas, and features such as swings are also presented in the plan.
  • Just South of 106th is an Art Park by the Scale-Up Plaza and additional small park listing. This is all surrounded by the new Hub and Spoke and other buildings, so from the plan, these items seems less like a community part and more like a feature of the businesses in that area.
  • The initial $10 million might already account for the costs of the play ground and sensory garden between 106th and 116th as well as the trail plaza, underpass, underpass ramp, and trail commons area in the downtown area. One thing that is clear based on the plan is that the downtown section will be shadowed by buildings on both sides including at least 3 parking garages. The Cove, the LED lighting, the tiered seating, the cultural commons, and the sculptures and innovation coves will all need to be paid for.
  • In the Tech area of Fishers, there are plans shown for a boardwalk, outdoor working pavilions, hammocks (over water), umbrella power stations, a meet-up environment with tables and chairs, and a ‘beach’ area.
  • Further north, there are proposed recreation courts and a teen center. This teen hangout could include a multi-level building including game courts as well as an obstacle course.
  • An education center that includes a tree house and art wall.
  • nature centers that provide overlooks (although I’m not sure to what)
  • Parking lots along the trail.
  • Possible power and data WiFi hubs as well as lighting and power.
  • And so much more…

When you add all of these items together along with the base cost of the tail, the number starts growing astronomically. The city has not committed to doing everything in the master plan; however, they did present the plan. As such, without serious disclaimers, an expectation is being set. Will it cost $108 million? I was told it by a city council member that it wouldn’t come close to $30 million. He implied it would be much less, but in seeing a plan without numbers, I’m wondering if he really meant it was going to go way over that amount!

My number of $108 million is pulled out of the air; however, it is more likely at this point than the published number from the city, which was the $4.4 million. At $108 million, that is about $1,100 per person or roughly $4,500 for a family of four. That’s a lot higher than the $170 cost originally implied for a family of four.

While grants could pay for some of this, that is unknown at this time. Without a budget and with the city showing they are willing to raise taxes to get what they want, it seems like the checkbook is open and a blank check has been signed.

You and I, the residents of Fishers, will be left to pay the tab when it comes due, starting with the increase in our upcoming property taxes. In reviewing my property taxes, it seems the only area where the rates increased were with the city. Unless something changes, I expect that increasing city taxes will become a trend.

Parting comment…
I would love to have this trail and all it offers. However, like all things I pay for, I want to know the cost up-front so I can compare it to other opportunities, such as adding sidewalks to some of our major streets, adding more SROs to our schools, fixing pot holes, or adding parks to other parts of the city. I’ve said it before, raising taxes and starting a project this big without having a budget or spending cap is fiscally irresponsible.

Is $108 million the estimated cost for the trial? The number is pulled out of the air, so it is highly doubtful. Having said that, it is much more likely to be $108 million than the number that has been posted in the Nickel Plate Trail FAQs.

The White River and Fishers

When it comes to the discussions of what is happening with the White River, there are lots of plans being created that stretch from the top of Hamilton County all the way to the bottom of Marion County. With Fishers being in the middle, you’d expect it to be included in the plans.

Fishers is included in the plan, with a lot of changes proposed that include a boat launch, two pedestrian bridges that cross the river, walking trails, and a lot of planned activity ideas. The issue, however, is that this would all be a part of Conner Prairie, and not likely public access. Conner Prairie has a map of their future plans that includes many features that tap into using the river. Once they have made their official public announcement, then I’ll be able to share a diagram showing many of their updates and the expected locations.

As a member of Conner Prairie, I find the bridge, trail, and other ideas to be great improvements; however, it would have been nice to see ideas for White River improvements applied throughout the other areas of Fishers. The Public level of access to the White River from Fishers is minimal, with primary access at 116th Street and South. Ironically, most of the Conner Prairie plans are in Carmel – the West side of the river.

The Fishers City Council is focused on the rail trail and the new park on Geist, but it would be nice to see additional focus put on the White River and the opportunities it offers. Right now, the primary access from Fishers is a boat launch at 116th Street, Heritage Park, and behind the Riverside schools. Adding access to the river at 146th Street would allow a person to canoe, float, or kayak down to 116th or even 96th Street. Additionally, adding easier access to the river at Heritage Park would make it easier to get in and out of the river. It would also open up tubing from 116th Street to Heritage Park.

Outside of Fishers, there are a lot of popular destinations on the river. I mentioned many of the parks in a previous post. The following image from the White River planning committee list many of the popular destinations. It would be great to see more added that are located in Fishers!