Tempted to Buy In? We Compare Six Places and Do the Math

Here’s a look at six of the top hotel-branded timeshare companies. We chose a representative property from each, looking at buy-in prices (here, they reflect the equivalent of at least a one-week stay annually in the smallest unit) and how each company allows exchanges, both in-house and outside the company. We also checked the companies out with the Better Business Bureau. We did cost-efficiency analyses on each property, and it’s good news for all the companies: Renting the units independently in 2007 would cost $259 to $1,406 more than the annual cost of owning the timeshare.

Our cost-efficiency formula is admittedly simplistic: Take how much you would have made by investing the amount of the buy-in cost in a certificate of deposit at 5 percent and put that toward the cost of renting the place in 2007; compare the end result with the annual timeshare maintenance fees to decide whether the timeshare makes financial sense.

Our methodology is intended only to give an indication of value. It supposes that you pay in full for the timeshare (most companies will arrange financing, but interest rates are high). Keep in mind that it’s almost impossible to lose money that’s invested in a certificate of deposit, whereas the value of the timeshare principal may decline. Maintenance fees will definitely go up, but hotel rents also will most likely increase.

Some additional caveats: Exchanges are based on availability, so don’t assume you’ll always get your first choice. When buying, pay attention to more complex details that we don’t cover here, such as how long you have to use or exchange your timeshare.

DISNEY’S SARATOGA SPRINGS RESORT & SPA

DISNEY’S SARATOGA SPRINGS RESORT & SPA

Walt Disney World Resort
Orlando, Fla.
407-827-1100

MINIMUM BUY-IN: $15,150 plus $200 closing costs and $618 annual maintenance fees/taxes.

WHAT THAT GETS YOU: 150 points, the equivalent of about 11 nights in a 355-square-foot studio villa with kitchenette during low-season “adventure” weeks (Jan. 1-31, Sept. 1-30 and Dec. 1-14). Reservations allowed 11 months in advance. No minimum-stay requirement.

EXCHANGING FOR ANOTHER DISNEY VACATION CLUB PROPERTY: Minimum number of points per night range between six (Disney’s Vero Beach Resort) and 12 (Disney’s Beach Club Villas and the Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge). Reservations allowed seven months in advance. Week can be broken up. No exchange fee.

EXCHANGING FOR OTHER DISNEY PROPERTIES: Minimum number of points varies. Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim, Calif., for example, starts at 23 points per night per room, and a three-night cruise to the Bahamas aboard the Disney Wonder starts at 67 points per person. Exchange fee: $75.

EXCHANGING FOR NON-DISNEY PROPERTIES: Various programs offered, including the “Concierge Collection,” 26 hotels throughout the United States and in London, and the “World Passport Collection,” through Interval International, which represents more than 500 resorts in 25 countries, or through Disney-owned Buena Vista Trading Co. Points required vary, from four points per night at Club Intrawest at Tremblant, Quebec, in spring and fall to 540 points per adult for a safari in Tanzania in December. Exchange fee: $75 to $95.

LEGALITIES: Deeded. Expires in 2054.

COST EFFICIENCY: Apply $768 CD investment earnings toward cost of booking 11 nights in a studio — $2,204 through Travelocity ($3,453 through Disney) — during low season (Sept. 9-16) = $1,436. Compare with $597 annual fees. Advantage: Timeshare by $839.

COMPANY’S BETTER BUSINESS BUREAU RATING: Satisfactory. One complaint received and resolved in past 36 months.

MARRIOTT’S GRANDE VISTA RESORT

MARRIOTT’S GRANDE VISTA RESORT

Avenida Vista
Orlando, Fla.
407-238-7676

MINIMUM BUY-IN: $19,500 plus $489 closing costs and $723 annual maintenance fees/taxes.

WHAT THAT GETS YOU: Seven nights in a 1,250-square-foot, two-bedroom villa with full kitchen during low (“gold”) season with floating weeks (starting Fridays, Saturdays or Sundays May 4-June 3 and Aug. 31-Dec. 23 in 2007). Reservations allowed 12 months in advance (13 months for multiple-week owners). Split weeks of four nights and three nights allowed. Can also split into one week in a studio and one week in a one-bedroom.

EXCHANGING FOR ANOTHER MARRIOTT VACATION CLUB PROPERTY: A gold week can be exchanged for a gold week in any other Marriott Vacation Club property. Within Marriott Vacation Club’s Florida Club (five resorts located throughout the state), reservations allowed six months in advance; no exchange fee; split weeks of four nights/three nights allowed. Outside Florida Club, reservations allowed 60 days to 12 months in advance; exchange fee of $89 through Interval International, plus $84 annual membership fee.

EXCHANGING FOR OTHER VACATION CLUBS: Through Interval. Exchange fee of $135 domestic, $149 international. Also, $84 annual membership fee.

EXCHANGING FOR MARRIOTT REWARD POINTS: Minimum buy-in equal to 90,000 reward points; hotel rooms cost 7,500 to 35,000 points per night depending on category. Exchange for points is allowed every other year. LEGALITIES: Deeded in perpetuity.

COST EFFICIENCY: Apply $999 CD investment earnings toward $2,071 cost of booking independently (low season, May 5-12) = $1,072. Compare with $723 annual fees. Advantage: Timeshare by $349.

COMPANY’S BETTER BUSINESS BUREAU RATING: Unsatisfactory. Twenty-five complaints received in past 36 months, 21 resolved or company made “every effort to resolve.”

SHERATON VISTANA VILLAGES

SHERATON VISTANA VILLAGES

International Drive
Orlando, Fla.
407-238-5000

MINIMUM BUY-IN: $13,900 plus $395 closing costs and $321 annual maintenance fees/taxes.

WHAT THAT GETS YOU: 37,000 StarOption points, the equivalent of seven nights in a one-bedroom, 584-square-foot villa with kitchenette during weeks Jan. 6-Feb. 10, May 4-June 3, Aug. 3-Sep. 23 or Nov. 30-Dec. 15. Reservations allowed 12 months in advance. Weeks can be broken up within 90 days of arrival only (no fee).

EXCHANGING FOR ANOTHER STARWOOD VACATION CLUB PROPERTY: 37,000 points will reserve a one-bedroom for one week at Harborside Resort at Atlantis in the Bahamas, for example, or a one-bedroom mid-season at Sheraton Mountain Vista in Avon, Colo. Reservations allowed eight months in advance. Split week or daily reservations accepted up to 90 days in advance of arrival only. No exchange fees.

EXCHANGING FOR OTHER VACATION CLUBS: Through Interval. Exchange fee of $135 for domestic resorts, $149 for international.

EXCHANGING FOR STARWOOD STARPOINTS: One-bedroom deluxe villa for a week is equal to 15,000 Starpoints, which would buy you, for example, anywhere from two to seven nights at a Starwood hotel. Can be converted every other year, except for owners of multiple weeks, who can convert every year. Fee is $99.

LEGALITIES: Deeded in perpetuity.

COST EFFICIENCY: Apply $715 CD investment earnings toward cost of booking independently — $1,891 through Travelocity.com ($2,118 through Sheraton) — during low season (Jan. 6-13) = $1,176. Compare with $321 annual fees. Advantage: Timeshare by $855.

COMPANY’S BETTER BUSINESS BUREAU RATING: Satisfactory. Thirty-three complaints received in past 36 months. All either resolved, or company “made every effort to resolve.”

WYNDHAM BONNET CREEK RESORT

WYNDHAM BONNET CREEK RESORT

(formerly Fairfield Orlando at Bonnet Creek)
Via Encinas
Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
407-238-3500

MINIMUM BUY-IN: $13,500, plus $325 closing costs and $415 annual maintenance fees/taxes.

WHAT THAT GETS YOU: 84,000 FairShare Plus points, or seven nights in a 902-square-foot, one-bedroom villa with full kitchen during the off season (April 15-May 20; Sept. 9-Oct. 7; Oct. 28-Dec.23). Week can be broken up. Reservations allowed 13 months in advance.

EXCHANGING FOR ANOTHER WYNDHAM VACATION CLUB PROPERTY: 84,000 FairShare Plus points would, for example, cover a week in a one-bedroom unit in high season at Wyndham Branson (Mo.), or five nights in a two-bedroom in high season at Wyndham Sedona (Ariz.). Weeks can be broken up. Reservations allowed 10 months in advance. No exchange fee.

EXCHANGING FOR OTHER VACATION CLUBS: Through RCI, which represents more than 3,700 resorts in about 100 countries; 84,000 FairShare Plus points gets you about nine nights in a studio-size unit in red season, RCI’s high-season weeks. Exchange fee of $149 domestic, $189 international.

EXCHANGING FOR WYNDHAM BYREQUEST POINTS: Permitted at five Wyndham hotels in St. Thomas; Costa Mesa, Calif.; New Orleans; and two properties in Atlanta. 84,000 points would cover a two-night stay at the Wyndham Midtown Atlanta, for example.

LEGALITIES: Deeded in perpetuity. COST EFFICIENCY: Apply $675 CD investment earnings toward cost of booking independently (units are not rented by Wyndham to general public, but owners typically rent their one-bedroom units to outsiders for about $1,400 a week during low season) = $725. Compare with $415 annual fees. Advantage: Timeshare by $310.

COMPANY’S BETTER BUSINESS BUREAU RATING: Unsatisfactory. Of 435 complaints received in past 36 months, 414 resolved, or company “made every effort to resolve.”

HILTON GRAND VACATIONS CLUB

HILTON GRAND VACATIONS CLUB

Arrezzo Way
Orlando, Fla.
407-465-2600

MINIMUM BUY-IN: $14,990 plus $595 closing costs and $450 annual maintenance fees/taxes.

WHAT THAT GETS YOU: 3,400 ClubPoints, the equivalent of seven nights in a 900-square-foot, one-bedroom unit with full kitchen during low (gold) season (Jan. 6-Feb. 3; April 21-June 9; Aug. 18-Oct. 27). Reservations permitted 12 months in advance. Week can be broken up.

EXCHANGING FOR ANOTHER HILTON VACATIONS CLUB PROPERTY: 3,400 ClubPoints is enough to rent a one-bedroom villa during gold season at any Hilton Vacations Club property. Can be broken into three-night-minimum increments. Transfer fees range from $49 to $69. Reservations allowed nine months in advance of checkout date.

EXCHANGING FOR OTHER VACATION CLUBS: Through RCI. Exchange fee of $164 for domestic resorts, $199 for international, plus $90 annual membership fee. Week can be broken into three-night minimums.

EXCHANGING FOR HILTON HHONORS POINTS: Minimum purchase is equal to 78,200 Hilton HHonors points. Can be turned into rewards points every year. One night hotel costs between 7,500 and 80,000 points, depending on category. Exchange fee of $69.

LEGALITIES: Deeded in perpetuity.

COST EFFICIENCY: Apply $779 CD earnings toward cost of $1,488 booking independently (Jan. 6-13) = $709. Compare with $450 annual fees. Advantage: Timeshare by $259.

COMPANY’S BETTER BUSINESS BUREAU RATING: Unsatisfactory. Sixteen complaints received in past 36 months, 13 resolved.

HYATT COCONUT PLANTATION

HYATT COCONUT PLANTATION

Coconut Point Resort Drive
Bonita Springs, Fla.
239-947-7300

MINIMUM BUY-IN: $15,000 plus $362 costs and $934 annual maintenance fees/taxes.

WHAT THAT GETS YOU: A two-bedroom interior unit with full kitchen for Week 37 (Sept. 15-22, 2007). Reservations can be made 18 months before purchased week. Owners can book the unit they own as late as six months before their purchased week. Ownership value automatically converts to Hyatt Gold Passport points if no reservation is received at least six months in advance.

EXCHANGING FOR ANOTHER HYATT VACATION CLUB PROPERTY: Minimum buy-in week (bronze, or low, season) is equivalent to 1,300 points, which can be traded for low-season weeks in most Hyatt vacation club properties — enough, for example, to get you into Lake Tahoe’s Hyatt High Sierra Lodge in spring or fall. Owners may trade in smaller increments (two, three or four days). Transfer fees are $39 for full week, $74 for split week. Owners also can split their two-bedroom, staying for one week in a studio and one week in a one-bedroom.

EXCHANGING FOR OTHER VACATION CLUBS: Through Interval International; minimum buy-in gets you a week in a two-bedroom during high season at a premium property. Exchange fees are $135 domestic, $149 international.

EXCHANGING FOR HYATT GOLD PASSPORT POINTS: Timeshare points can be turned into passport points every other year. A bronze week in a two-bedroom is equal to about 53,000 points. A night at a Hyatt hotel costs 5,000 to 15,000 points.

LEGALITIES: Deeded in perpetuity.

COST EFFICIENCY: Apply $768 CD earnings to cost of booking independently (week-long rentals are not usually available, but average nightly low-season rate is $444 or $3,108 for seven nights) = $2,340. Compare with $934 annual fees. Advantage: Timeshare by $1,406.

COMPANY’S BETTER BUSINESS BUREAU RATING: Not rated. No complaints filed in past 36 months.

PHOTO: Walt Disney Co., Marriott Vacation Club International, Starwood Hotels, Wyndham Vacation Ownership, Hilton Grand Vacations, Robert Starling


© 2006 The Washington Post Company