I have been a member of Diamond Resorts International since 2003. Well thats not strictly true, I joined what was the Grand Vacation Club or GVC for short. Shortly after joining GVC it became Sunterra before Diamond Resorts International eventually purchased it.
With over 10 years experience of being a member I have to say I am overall very happy with my membership. There have been periods where family finances have been squeezed and I have wondered if it was the correct decision to buy into a timeshare organisation, especially as you are committed to pay the maintenance fees year on year.
For many the maintenance fees are a contentious issue however my father in law owns a caravan site in the Lake District and the fees are comparable. The added benefit to a caravan is that you have unlimited access to it throughout the year, with a points based timeshare system you are limited to what is available in the inventory. That said I feel like I visit a Diamond Resorts property as often as he visits his caravan in the Lake District. I try and make good use of three or four weekends in addition to the two or three full weeks I get. The limiting factor of course being the amount of time I can take off work with annual leave.
The main additional benefit Diamond Resorts has is that I can go abroad, this is not something that can be done with a static caravan. There is also the issue of a resale value. A quick look on eBay and you can pickup Diamond points for as little as a £1, but using my father in law as a comparison the reality of caravan ownership is very similar. After spending £25,000 on a static caravan the small print states that any caravan more than 10 years old is not allowed on the site. This means that the existing caravan needs to be traded in for a new one. The trade in value offered was just shy of £3000. I know £3000 is not a small amount but still a £22,000 reduction in value after 10 years, plus the site maintenance fees means that the caravan has cost him nearly £50,000 over a 10 year period.
The issue I feel is that Diamond Resorts make a rod for their own back with their sales presentation. Diamond Resorts are not the only ones guilty of this. I have been to other timeshare presentations and they seem to all use the same analogy. The analogy starts with the question what do you pay for a package holiday? They then take the figure per annum and times it by the next 20 years to give you a lifetime holiday spend. You are guaranteed to save money you are told because holidays go up with inflation. If you buy a timeshare at today’s prices then you holiday in 20 years time at today’s price.
This is a fair analogy however they seem to forget that holiday vacations are luxury items and when times are tough, like they have been for the last few years, you can decide to not go on holiday and save money. The maintenance fees are also never talked about at the presentations and this seems to be what annoys people the most. The maintenance fees are mentioned but kind of brushed over. The maintenance fees are not inflation proof and are subject to global factors. If a government in Spain gets into power and decides to triple worker wages, then as an owner you are liable for that increase. Points based timeshare ownership should be thought of the same as owning a property, if the roof caves in your are liable for the repair, if the fence needs repairing you are liable for the repair. As an owner of a house you need to pay what bills come in and this can vary year on year. Like owning a house the chances are the cost will go up each year and unlikely to ever come down.
Perhaps a better strategy would be to go after the people who buy caravans or holiday homes, rather than the people that look for cheap last minute holidays and convince them they will save money by purchasing a timeshare. The added benefit is that the quality of timeshare is better. I know this would result in less sales but more transparency would lead to happier owners in the long term. That’s my opinion anyway and the fellow owners I speak to in and around the swimming pool seem to echo that.
After signing up over 10 years ago now, I can honestly say I would have spent less money by going on a package holiday each year. Would the quality have been the same? Perhaps some of the time because package holidays can be hit and miss. What my Diamond Resorts membership does give me is piece of mind. The quality is always excellent wherever in the world I have been.