Trip Coach: May 8, 2007

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Lisa Ann Schreier, author of 'Surviving a Timeshare Presentation,' answered your questions about time-shares.

Lisa Ann Schreier was a time-share salesperson and manager in Orlando for six years. For more on the topic, read her article Confessions Of ... A Time-Share Salesperson.

Lisa Ann Schreier: Hi. Thanks so much for joining me here today and for the great questions...let's get started!

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Bakersfield, CA: Which company offers the best time-share for a family?

Thank you.

Sherri

Lisa Ann Schreier: Hard to say really. I stay away from using the word "best" because I don't really think it exists. I'd advise you to first figure out if you want to return to a home resort more often, or trade to different places more often.

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Jacksonville, Illinois: WE have a time-share in Branson, Missouri that we do not use. Our children do not want it. How do we dispose of it without paying a fee up front to a company that does not help except take the money?

Thank you in advance for taking my question.

Lisa Ann Schreier: First of all, never pay upfront to list a time-share with a company that is going to claim to sell it. I would first advise you to renting out your time-share in Branson and make some money for a few years. Then, you can sell your time-share through word-of-mouth, or even online, and even if you take a "loss" on the time-share, you will have made money by renting it for a few years!

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Succasunna, NJ: I "inherited" a week of time-share after my mother's passing; in the four years i've had it, I have yet to get any request i've submitted; it doesn't seem worth the yearly fees at this point. How difficult is it to sell/get rid of it? I own an rci redweek in new mexico, but it is unlikely i'll ever go there; my family enjoys the beach more. but we've requested colorado, north carolina, south carolina all to no avail at this point. It's been very frustrating.

Lisa Ann Schreier: Hmmm...its hard to understand why you haven't been able to trade or exchange this time-share without having more knowledge of exactly what you own. If your home resort is still on RCI Weeks, there is a way of maximizing your trading potential for not a lot of money. And since you inherited the week, it may be useful to look into this. If you would like, e-mail me and I can help you through this. New Mexico should not be a difficult resort to trade. :-)

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Sierra Vista, AZ: Tell me what time-share program you think is best. And also, how do you get these sign up bonuses I hear people taking about?

Lisa Ann Schreier: I get asked this a lot! There is no time-share program that is best for everyone. What is best for you may be a total waste of money for me. Never let a salesperson talk you into something that is not for you. For instance, if you are in Hilton Head you will be told that Hilton Head is "best" and it may not be for you. It is best to get a time-share consultant on your side...again, if you e-mail me, I'll be able to point you in the right direction.

Sign up bonuses or incentives are quite commonplace whenever you purchase on the day of your "visit" to the time-share itself. Don't confuse bonuses or incentives as a legitimate reason to purchase though! There are plenty of bonuses for people who own time-share that don't require another purchase.

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Sarasota, Florida: Are there any reliable companies who can sell my time-share without a large initial upfront fee?

Lisa Ann Schreier: There is a publication out of New Jersey called "TimeSharing Today." I am not part of that publication at all, but they have a very large subscriber base and many clients have told me that advertising their time-share for rent or for sale there has proven to be quite good. There will be an advertising fee of course, but don't get that confused with a "listing" fee, which more often than not is throwing money out the window.

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San Antonio, Texas: How do you ensure that maintenance fees won't skyrocket? I'm not worried about the chost of a time-share so much as the fees that can go up.

Lisa Ann Schreier: Great question. Maintenance fees SHOULD go up every now and then, or else the value of your property will soon be going down. You want to ask what the fees are today, what they were 1 or 2 years ago and what they were 5 or 6 years ago to get an idea. Also, you want to know what, if any, the "cap" is...can the resort raise the fees at will with no cap? Also, you want to make certain that you will be a member of the HOA (Homeowners Association) and that you have an active vote in what goes on at the resort.

If you are not getting full answers to your questions about the fees, don't buy at that particular resort. Resorts should be very open about the history of their fees.

If you do purchase, stay active in what goes on at the resort!

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Brackney, PA: On the basis of dollars per square foot that they collect over the 52 weeks per year that they sell the fractional ownership, time-share developers are getting at least 10 times what it would cost to build an identical hotel/condo. Then come the annual maintenance fees, taxes, etc.. I've never seen a time-share that you couldn't duplicate for much less money by simply paying the nightly rate, and having the total freedom to stay wherever you want, at any time of the year. What am I missing?

Lisa Ann Schreier: Interesting points you make. There are two separate issues here. The first one is correct...the developer of the resort is in fact making TONS of money. Just as the developer of the hotel is.

However, if you are spending money one way or another, you need to be concerned about what your money is getting you, not the developer or the owner.

Generally speaking, if you vacation 7 or more nights a year, spend more than $80 a night and plan on doing that for more than 7 years, you will save money with the time-share in the long run.

Bottom line is this...if you stay at hotels for 10 years and stop going on vacation you can't sell your hotel receipts. If you buy a time-share, use it for 10 years and sell it for half of what you paid for it, you will still win using time-share!

Hope this clears things up.

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Los Angeles, CA: Is it difficult for a purchaser of a time-share-vacation club property to get a mortgage loan on the purchase?

Lisa Ann Schreier: Yes, it can be difficult. Developers will almost always offer you in-house financing...at insane rates...typically more than 15.9%. A bank will generally NOT give you a mortgage for a time-share. Instead, where laws allow, I recommend using a home equity loan or a home equity line of credit.

If you do have to use the developer's financing, please make certain that it is "simple interest with no penalty for pre-payment" and pay it off sooner than the loan term.

The only advantage to developer's financing is that if you own a home, in most cases, the interest is tax-deductible.

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Denver, CO: Hi Lisa,

When in Mexico two years ago we bought what I'd call Time Share Lite - 10 coupons for lodging at any of RCI's properties.

I have since tried to book several different locations and they were all unavailable - and two of my certificates have now expired.

Do I have any recourse?

Thanks

D

Lisa Ann Schreier: Wow...sorry to hear, but no, you have no recourse. What you purchased was basically excess weeks of RCI inventory, but with no guarantee, because you don't own anything.

It is unfortunate that these "clubs" are still allowed to operate.

I will advise you to contact RCI directly and see if they can give you some advise for using these certificates...perhaps in off-season in less popular places.

Best of success!

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Los Angeles, CA: We didn't survive the time-share presentation and purchased one in San Diego. Surprise, surprise, we rarely use it. Any tips for how we can sell it?

Lisa Ann Schreier: Sorry to hear that you don't use it. San Diego should be an easy enough rental...there is high demand for that area, and not a lot of supply.

As with one of the other readers, I would suggest you rent it out for a few years, get some money, and then sell it, even for half of what you paid for it, through a legit process like "TimeSharing Today" out of New Jersey or even yourself.

Here's a hint...when you rent it out, stay away from the word "time-share" and call it a condo, villa, etc. You'll have much better success!

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Easton PA: Does it make any sense to buy a time-share nearby (in my case the Poconos) and hope to be able to trade for other areas? Of course I'm hoping to save money!

Lisa Ann Schreier: I would recommend purchasing in the Poconos only if you plan on using it there more. Nothing against the area, but the Poconos is what is referred to as a "regional destination" unlike a "world destination" such as Vegas, New York, Orlando, etc.

If you plan on using it there more, by all means get yourself a good deal at a resort that you like!

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Auburn, Maine: What do you know about Starwood Vacation properties? Is it a good investment?

Lisa Ann Schreier: Never purchase a time-share, Starwood or other, as an investment. It isn't. Rarely if ever do they appreciate in value. A time-share is merely an investment in your future vacations...an alternative to renting hotels or condos year after year.

Starwood is a very reputable company, with some great resorts around the world. Their prices are somewhat higher than the industry average however, as you are paying for the name brand.

You may want to consult with someone who has no ties to any time-share before you decide to purchase. If you e-mail me, I can direct you!

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New York, NY: what's the biggest mistake people make when deciding if time-share is right for them?

Lisa Ann Schreier: Great question. The biggest mistake people make is not being honest with themselves when talking about past vacation costs and future vacation plans.

Also, because of the often heavy-handed way some time-shares used to be, and in some cases still are, marketed and sold, many consumers who would benefit from the product are turned off and never see what the product can do for them.

Also, don't let the salsperson use the words "free, perfect, always and/or never! "

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New York City: what are your thoughts on time-share rentals, instead of purchases, as a vacation option, and how can I benefit?

Lisa Ann Schreier: time-share rentals will offer you better accommodations than most hotel rentals (unless you are talking really high end) but there is not really a difference. If you are a renter, than time-share is not for you...for most people, they see the benefits of ownership.

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Brklyn, NYC: what was something that surprised you when you were doing the research for your book?

Lisa Ann Schreier: In writing my first book, I was surprised by the general silliness of the time-share salesperson and client...so much nonsense!

In doing the research for my second book, I was surprised by the tremendous range of vacation opportunities that time-shares offer.

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Portland,Oregon: Is it a good move to trade our time-share in Oregon to re-invest in another time-share in the Caribbean? Or...is it better to try to sell and re-purchase without any strings?

Thanks,T.

Lisa Ann Schreier: Not quite sure I undertand the question here...I don't know of a time-share in the Caribbean or elsewhere that will take your Oregon time-share as a trade-in. Perhaps if you want to e-mail me later, we can determine the best course of action for you.

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Bay Village Ohio: What is the best way to sell a time-share?

Lisa Ann Schreier: Best way of selling is to NOT pay anyone an upfront listing fee. Advertise by word of mouth or through a reputable company, magazine or even on line.

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Bernalillo NM: Are there any reasonable time-shares left in Hawaii?

Lisa Ann Schreier: Reasonable is a hard word to quantify! Hawaii is a very expensive place to purchase. You pay for the location, the amenities and the fact it is in Hawaii. However, if you choose to use it in Hawaii more than trade, you'll do well when you compare it to the also high prices of hotel rooms there.

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Jacksonville, Fl: I have a time-share that I have tried to sell throught various resale sites. I have tried to donate it and it did not meet their needs. How can I get rid of it, it is in Palm Coast, Fl., 2 bedroom, floating time-red, etc. Help!

Lisa Ann Schreier: Have you tried "Donate For A Cause?" They are a very reputatable company and will generally accept any time-share that is paid for.

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Sierra Vista, AZ: What's your opinion on WorldMark?

Lisa Ann Schreier: WorldMark has some terrific resorts...very high quality. However, as I've said before, there is no one time-share that qualifies as the "best" for everyone.

If you plan on using a WorldMark time-share more often than not either at the home resort, or within their own network, then this may be a good thing for you.

The most important question consumers should ask is how are they going to use the time-share?

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Somerset, NJ: Are there companies that will let you "rent" time share as oppose to buying one? Thanks in advance

Lisa Ann Schreier: Most time-share resorts do have a block of rooms that are available for rental. You can also usually find an owner that wishes to rent their time/space.

Renting a property can be a good way of finding out if you like to vacation in that style.

However, as I've said previously, I would not recommend renting time-shares long term, just as I would not recommend renting hotel rooms long term, because of the financial aspect.

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Lisa Ann Schreier: A few comments I'd like to make for consumers thinking about a time-share:

* don't let the salesperson control the process
* don't be afraid to ask questions
* don't go into a time-share presentation with a closed
mind
* be honest with yourself about your vacation costs and
habits, likes and dislikes

Also, understand that the industry is not going to let you know what the average price is. I will however...in 2006 the average price of a 2-bedroom time-share was about $16,000 with an average annual fee of about $550.

If the price is anything substantially higher or lower than that, you need to be asking more questions and keep your guard up.

For those owners of RCI week-based time-share that are having problems trading or exchanging for what they want...RCI does offer an alternative. For a relatively small amount of money, you can "upgrade" your week-based time-share and increase your trading potential.

E-mail me at lisa@time-shareinsights.com for more information.

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Sierra Vista, Arizona: Where can we go to reasearch benefits and costs of time shares without having to sit through the presentations. ie you said Starwood was on the more expensive side. Oh, and I don't see your email anywhere. Thank you!!

Lisa Ann Schreier: Sorry about that. My e-mail is lisa@time-shareinsights.com.

The industry is very bad about providing information about benefits and costs to consumers.

I will give you some tips however:

* if you like to vacation
* if you plan on continuing to vacation
* if you typically vacation 7 or more nights a year
* if your typical hotel/motel is costing you $70-$80 per
night or more
* if you place more emphasis on value than cost

You will benefit from time-share.

I do offer individual consulting to help people through these sometimes difficult decisions. All of my consulting is based on your individual needs, and I am not tied to any time-share, any type of time-share, any brand of time-share, etc.

Since the industry doesn't help people out with providing information and solutions, I have taken that upon myself!

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Lisa Ann Schreier: Thanks so much for all of the great questions. If anyone has any other questions, you can visit my webpage at www.time-shareinsights.com or e-mail me directly at lisa@time-shareinsights.com.

Have terrific vacations!

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