Buying a Timeshare in South Beach – Is it A Good Real Estate Investment?

We hadn’t even checked into our little boutique hotel on Ocean Drive in Miami’s South Beach when Danny was greeting us with promises of VIP passes to the Mansion, reserved chairs, tent and towels at Nikki Beach, $100 in gas, a free meal and more… if we would spend 60 minutes listening to the Crescent Hotel’s Timeshare deal.

Crescent Beach Hotel in Miami South Beach

Crescent Beach Hotel in Miami South Beach

I’ve been trying to convince Julie to go a time share pitch for a few years. We took a tour in Maui of the Westin Timeshares but didn’t go through the salespitch. It’s not that I am looking to buy a timeshare, but I like to hear about the deals (and, I love free stuff). Julie reluctantly agreed to sit through the spiel.

We barely managed to get checked into the hotel, and we were getting ushered up to the fourth floor to begin. We walk into what used to be a hotel room, and are offered the choice between two of the empty tables at the back. The room was buzzing with conversation as there were 8 other tables of couples listening as salesmen gave them their best pitches.

No less than 90 minutes later, we’d walked Justin, our 22 year old salesman, through our extensive travels over the past two years, and he’d repeatedly explained that, with the amount we spend on travel, we would have saved SO MUCH money if we’d known about this deal before! He emphasized that this was an investment because when we would sell the property later we would get more than our money back. He also slipped in the fact that we could “game” the system by renting our property out at peak times if we weren’t going to use it, and, when we did travel, it would be free! Careful to always show us the low amounts when referring to what each week would cost in terms of timeshare points (I will get to that in a sec), and to tell us the higher end of what we’d be spending otherwise he painted a very powerful picture of what life would be like once we were the proud owners of an Ocean Drive, state protected, timeshare at the Crescent Hotel. If we went to certain places like Costa Rica, in fact, we could have 12 weeks of hotels paid for each year.

He even told us that Donald Trump tried to buy the land in front of the hotel but no go… the view of the ocean will always be there…it’s protected.

Who wouldn't want a timeshare on South Beach? It's GORGEOUS here!

At this point, we knew the general structure of the deal, but we still didn’t know the price. Here’s how it works:

  • Annually you get 7,800 points,
  • The points accumulate and rollover, so unused points just roll into the following year,
  • You can break them up and use them for 4 days or 3 days instead of only week chunks,
  • Your friends and family can use your points so long as you make the booking,
  • Your points can be used directly at any of the Island One resorts (I think they had 25 resorts), or at any Interval Timeshare Company’s thousand+ locations around the world for a fee,
  • There are no black out periods, and because you’re buying at South Beach which is top tier you can more easily stay at other desirable locations around the world.

So for example, Justin showed us that 500 points would get us a week in Costa Rica. But, as we dug into it, we found out that 500 points was for what they called GREEN weeks, which basically means nobody in their right mind travels there during that period.

Realistically, we could probably get 2 weeks at places we’d want to stay during the time periods we’d want to stay there in, for the 7,800 points each year.

Definitely in their favour, Island One Resorts (the timeshare company behind the Crescent Hotel) has addressed many of the issues I’ve heard about timeshares in the past that cause people grief, including:

  • stuck to one specific week each year,
  • limited flexibility,
  • use it or lose it each year,
  • can’t transfer it to friends or family.

So, it doesn’t sound half bad. But, we still don’t know the price!

FINALLY, as we are getting close to two hours sitting at this little table, and Julie is about to pass out on the table from exhaustion and impatience, Justin tells us the numbers:

All this could be ours for $36,000.

And with their financing, at the appealing rate of 18% APR, your total cost for the purchase comes to $39,180 + $9,000 (required 25% downpayment) = $48,180.

In addition to that, your timeshare fees for maintenance, taxes and insurance are $963/year (total of $4,815). So your grand total for owning this time share for 5 years is:

$52,995 which works out to $10,599 per year.

Or, put another way, it’s the same as paying $757/night at a hotel of your choosing during a two week vacation each year for 5 years.

Even if you buy it with cash (no financing) and hold it for 15 years, you are still going to be paying the equivalent of $240/night each year for your two weeks of vacation.

And the worst part is that the Island One’s Locations are not of much interest to us. And the majority of Interval Properties (the partner company that you can pay $154 to transfer your points for use at their properties) are not in areas of cities we would stay in either. We ARE big travelers, but that also makes us pretty particular. We know we like to be within walking distance of the sites and highlights of places we visit. We don’t want to be outside of the city, or away from the beach. Justin tried to convince us that the amount we were saving was going to make a $5 cab ride to get to the things we wanted to see or do worth it… but we fail to see the value.

For $757/night… let’s face it…we can stay in some pretty swanky places RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE Of the action just about anywhere in the world.

But, wait, after we told poor Justin, and then his manager Lisa, we weren’t interested we had to meet one last person before we were  “released”. This guy sat down and actually told us that they didn’t want to lose out on our business… so they wanted to give us the opportunity to enjoy the resort further. To do that, they were prepared to hold the $36,000 price for us for two years, and they would give us 8,000 points to use… for the low price of $2,200! Hmm… definitely a better deal, but we’re still not interested.

And on top of all of this… the “free” gifts are pretty much useless. The hoops to get them or use them are so numerous and painful that I am sure 99% of the people never use them. After the long presentation, Julie smugly said to me “So, you promise we never have to do that again?”, and I said, “I promise I won’t drag you along. I’ll go on my own”. What can I say, I love hearing about “deals”!!!

Have you bought a timeshare? Or have you thought about it? Ever tried to sell one?? Please tell me your experience…

Have you got a question about real estate investing? Please let us know!

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11 Comments

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11 responses to “Buying a Timeshare in South Beach – Is it A Good Real Estate Investment?

  1. anne

    We enjoyed a similar presentation in Oahu with Hilton. One more thing – selling strategy is based on appreciation which is not a guaranteed method of return on your investment.

  2. @anne – Did you really enjoy it? Were the “freebies” for that presentation at least worth your time? Dave is going to try and get the $100 gas card, but in order to get the $100 in gas this is what you have to do:

    Month 1 – buy $100 in gas, keep the receipts and mail them in to receive a $25 gift card

    Month 2 – buy $100 in gas, keep the receipts and mail them in to receive a $25 gift card

    Month 3 – buy $100 in gas, keep the receipts and mail them in to receive a $25 gift card

    Month 4 – buy $100 in gas, keep the receipts and mail them in to receive a $25 gift card

    AND it has to be done in consecutive months. So, if in Month 3 you don’t spend $100 or you forget to send in the receipts you can’t collect in Month 4. Great deal hey?

    Anyway – thanks for stopping in!

  3. don

    Great summary!! I’ve only ever sat through one time share pitch… it was very compelling but wasn’t for me. And, I never even did the actual per night math on it.

    I did it for the $100 restaurant gift certificate which was no strings attached. Oh, and it was a presentation with 20 other people sitting there with me listening to the speaker for 60 minutes and then an optional tour of the hotel afterwards.

    Found you through SU. Will be back.

  4. @Don – Thank you so much for stopping in! And yes, most of our friends have told us that their timeshare presentations were in a presentation style too… I think that would have been a bit easier to take! I know 60 minutes DEFINITELY would have been easier to take!!

  5. Thank you for this article. I’ve been highly suspicious of timeshare presentations from what I’ve heard about them through the years. Your experience has helped confirm it for me.

  6. @Middle Way – thanks for stopping in! I did a little bit of follow up on this same time share when I updated Dave’s blog post for submission to e-zine articles and found that this exact timeshare had a discounted resale price. This is an even further reason why it’s not a good deal.

    We got a free lunch out of it – but that is it.

    Here’s the revised article with the extra details if you’re interested: http://ezinearticles.com/?Buying-a-Timeshare-in-South-Beach—A-Real-Estate-Investors-Point-of-View&id=1784425

    Happy New Year!

  7. Smitha

    Nice and organized article.

    We sat through one of those in Vegas and it sucked! My husband is an MBA so he started doing similar math right away. For us, the lady asked us to come up with a price on what we’d think is worth it. So my DH came up with 5K. She got soo pissed off! Flared up at us and started selling it more and more. So were like ok tell us the real price. So she says something of the sort of 25K or something. SO we were like “Good to meet u. Goodbye”. But they wouldn’ let go. We were transfered to 2-3 other sales persons and finally they were like “how does $7,800 sound?” and my DH was like LOL. “That’s what I said to her in the first place. It’s not worth too much over 5K!!!”

    They gave us a buncha free tickets to a show with dinner. That show totally SUCKED. Plus we had to wake up at 7am (Trust me that’s hard to do in Vegas) to go to the presentation site.

    I’m contemplating timeshare in Miami’s South Beach though. Any thoughts on other companies who offer more flexiblity and good deals?

  8. @Smitha – What a story! And it makes me happy that we didn’t go to the time share presentation that Dave almost got us sucked into at Planet Hollywood! He had visions of free food and free shows – but thankfully we were meeting up with friends and I convinced him that it would really throw off our weekend!! Phew!! Looks like we dodged a bullet there!!

    As for South Beach – check on some of the resale sites. The prices are about 30% less than what they were selling this resorts for. The Hilton Hotel also had time shares in South Beach… once again look for resale offers. Do the math though – and make sure it’s a place you’re going to want to go to over and over. In other words, stay there first, then buy! Good luck and thanks for stopping in!

  9. Pingback: Top 8 Real Estate Articles of 2008 « Life as Real Estate Investors

  10. Sold timeshare in the early 1980s. Got a couple of weeks for about $1K each as a bonus. Used them (well early on my parents used them) to go all over the world. We used a week for a honeymoon in 1995. Still own one week which we use (maintenance fees around $500 plus exchange fees around $150) which adds up to less than $100/night. Gave the other week back to the resort after 22 years (lucky they took it). These are hugely illiquid! Frankly, it makes a nice little vacation in generally nice resorts. I have given the week away to friends, used it, parents used it alot, and lost some of the weeks over the 28 years of ownership. Have relatives (in their 60s now) that have three weeks in the Caribbean which they always go to. They love it and have a group of friends they see every year.

    Bottom line it is not an real estate investment no matter what the sales people say. It can be a useful way to have a vacation, but the prices they are selling for now seem to make even that uneconomical. If you are interested don’t buy over 1 week until you have experienced it and see if it works for you! If you can’t afford to buy it outright it is not for you. Just an opinion from someone who has seen both sides of it for almost 30 years!

  11. @shaferfinancial – Thank you so much for your comments! It’s very interesting to hear your point of view – both as someone who has had timeshares and as someone who sold them!

    I think you’re right – there was a time when they made sense for a family that vacations each year. They weren’t an investment, but they were a cheaper way to travel. Today, the prices they are asking are crazy, especially when it’s so easy to great travel deals through sites like expedia, hotwire and kayak!

    Thank you for stopping by and letting us know your side!

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