Is a timeshare a good deal? - FOX 35 News Orlando

Is a timeshare a good deal?

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

One afternoon, as timeshare executives and suppliers mill about in a hotel ballroom, bottles of grape juice chill on ice.

"Come tonight, there will be champagne," said Howard Nusbaum, president of the American Resort Development Association, the country's timeshare lobby.

Hard-hit by evaporation of credit and the recession, timeshare developers say they are bouncing back and have reason to celebrate.

"What a difference a few years makes," Nusbaum said to a large crowd at the association's annual trade show.

"We're back," he cheered.

The pep rally surely means summer vacationers are more likely this year to hear a stranger ask: "May we have 90 minutes of your time?"

Amy Gregory, a professor at the University of Central Florida Rosen College of Hospitality Management, said consumers can expect a less pressured, more straightforward sales presentation than in years past.

"It's not 'I'm going to slam the door and keep lowering the price until we get to what you're going to pay,'" she said.

Gregory attributed an increase in industry credibility to nationally recognized hotel brands such as Hilton and Marriott taking a greater stake in timeshare development.

"They absolutely brought credibility to it," she said. "There's price integrity now."

Still, trade secrets on display at the beachside trade show highlighted how the timeshare sell remains an emotional play – often while couples are on vacation.

Steve Pentland, whose company Generator Systems produces lush sales videos for timeshare developers, spoke bluntly about the need to get into prospective buyers' heads. 

"No one wakes up in the morning and says, ‘I'm going to go out and buy a timeshare,'" he said, standing in front of a bright orange booth with the word "psychology" printed on it.

And that's where critics raise a red flag.

"If any other industry tried to do something like this, they'd go to jail," said Stuart Vener, a real estate consultant who helps people get out of timeshares.

Vener warns would-be buyers that timeshares depreciate rapidly and can be worth very little in the resale market.

"If you get anything, it's a miracle," he said.

Where there are no nibbles, Vener says he resorts to offering a deed back to the developer or property manager. He says they refuse.

"They're telling people it's worth 15, 20, 30 thousand dollars, and I offer it to them for nothing. They don't want it back," he said.

Additionally, Vener says timeshare sellers gloss over required annual fees for maintenance and management. ARDA says they currently average $680 per two-bedroom unit per year. Assuming a condo unit is divided into 52 equal shares and the developer keeps one week (which is customary), the total amount collected for that one room totals nearly $35,000.

Vener says the industry makes pawns of people.

Personal finance guru Dave Ramsey goes farther.

"Timeshares are one of the biggest scams on the market today," he writes on his website.

ARDA's Nusbaum responded without hesitation.

"Although I respect Dave Ramsey, vacations are not financial investments," he said. "Whether you rent a traditional hotel room, or a beach house, or buy a timeshare."

Despite the deep difference of opinion of the value of timeshare, vendors at the ARDA conference were optimistic about the future.

"I hoping to gain some sales," said Jane Arason of Arason Enterprises.

Her firm manufactures unique fold-away beds called the Creden-ZzZ. Her sense is that the worst has passed and Arason will find buyers.

"It is coming back," she said.

 A few rows over, Orlando hotel soap and bathrobe distributor Phil Fry laments the rollercoaster of the past few years-- tongue in cheek.

"I won't say I want you to steal the robe so I can sell more, but it wouldn't hurt," he said.

On a more serious note, he says he's seeing encouraging signs that the timeshare world is rebounding.

"We're enjoying the ride back up," Fry said.

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