How Terrible are Timeshares?
They’re Actually Worth Less than Zero

Hilton’s “Grand Vacation Club” (HGVC) foreclosed on us and took all our money, even though we were fully paid up according to the contract. They refused to provide an executive review, which we asked for many, many times.

Instead they took more than $58,000 from us, and we have nothing to show for it.

First things first, though: Hilton’s “Garden Vacation Club” or other, do not buy a Timeshare: it’s a never-ending money pit you will likely regret.

“Less than Zero?” Prove It!

My pleasure! I do that on this page: Timeshare Value.

Don’t Ever Buy a Timeshare: Our Story

We were solicited by HGVC when we were on the road, on our way home from an out-of-state road trip. I called Hilton Reservations to book a room for that night as my husband was driving — it was already late (around 11:00 pm), and after making the reservation the agent asked if I would be OK with her transferring me to a special offer.

I put the call on speaker so my husband could listen too. The “offer” was so detailed and convoluted that we said no — we were too tired to even understand it. The salesman then immediately pitched a backup offer of several days at a resort in any of a few different cities (he suggested Las Vegas since we said we went there).

There was a fee to pay right then and there, but he said it would be refunded in full if we attended a presentation while at the resort. I agreed to this offer. We were told the presentation and associated activities would take about an hour, and we were not in any obligation to buy anything as a result of the presentation. Why there’s absolutely no risk! You get your money back! And you get a free stay at a nice resort!

We didn’t have any prior experience with timeshare presentations, had no idea of any of the costs or financial obligations involved, or that obligations made under any contract would be “in perpetuity” — even financially encumbering to our heirs.

We did go to that hotel and appeared on time at the appointment for the presentation. After watching a video with other guests we were offered snacks and assigned to a salesman to answer our questions.

We liked the salesman: he was very personable, but we were disturbed by several things: it took much too long, yet he glossed over a lot of the details. Dinnertime came and went, yet only light snacks were offered. My husband is hypoglycemic, and it was obvious he was losing energy. We were feeling pressured.

The other thing that disturbed us was he and/or his “tag team” partner ran credit reports on us without telling or asking us first, let alone getting our permission. That increased the feeling of pressure, and such a tactic is illegal.

We do not believe it was a “soft pull” but a full report — he showed it to us. Experian says that “Anytime you apply for an account, such as a credit card, loan, apartment or utility service, your application itself grants permission for the business you are applying with to access your credit report as part of their approval process.” But we had not applied for any credit at this point, and the salesman changed the subject when we asked about it.

Upon the salesman’s urging, we outlined how we used hotels, mostly for business travel and business-related conferences — both conferences that we attend, as well as two conferences per year that we host ourselves. He asked for estimates of the costs we pay for all that hotel use, which we provided. He wrote this all down on paper so he and we could see it all in one place.

For all of the hotel use we outlined, the salesman recommended that we purchase “at least” 14,000 timeshare “points,” which would also get us special “elite” benefits, which would cover most of our hotel use over each year. For the purchase we would receive the points to do that every year. For any expenses not covered by those points over the first couple of years, as well as for us to take a vacation, he would provide “bonus points.”

We explained that our biggest hotel expense was when we put on our twice-yearly two-day conferences. We asked if we could hold such conferences at HGVC resorts, booking rooms for attendees with our points and then roll the room rate into their conference fee, to help pay the costs of membership and maybe even make a profit. Absolutely, he replied: we are always welcome to book rooms for others as we are “owners” of the property, he said, even if we were not staying there at the same time.

By this time several hours had passed, and even the offered snacks were gone.

The salesman and his “tag team” partner kept going back and forth, switching off to ask questions. During the time one was switching out for the other and we were alone, my husband leaned over and whispered to me, “If it’s more than $10,000, we need to say no.” I agreed.

When the price was finally revealed to us, the salesman could see our shock, and carefully outlined how it was actually a “great deal” considering how much we spent on hotels each year, and that in the long run we would save a lot of money. We later learned that is absolutely not true.

“DUTY OF HONESTY: Whether acting as a principal or an agent, a [real estate] licensee has a duty to all parties not to be deceitful, fraudulent or dishonest. Deceit is the act of intentionally or recklessly giving a false impression or statement, so that another person will rely on it. It includes any conviction involving bad faith, dishonesty, a lack of integrity, or moral turpitude. Dishonesty is the act of not telling the truth. In other words, the licensee must at all times be honest.” … “A corollary to the duty to be honest is the duty to speak the whole truth and not be misleading by silence. Generally, mere silence is not a misrepresentation unless there is a duty to speak. Licensees have such a duty.” Source: Nevada Real Estate Division: Nevada Law & Reference Guide. The latest edition still appears to be June 2014, as that is what is on the state site as I write this for the web site. It was thus certainly in effect in March 2019. We believe the salesman lied multiple times — and not knowing any better we relied on those lies.

We made it clear we did not have the cash to do this. The salesman explained that was common, and HGVC would self-finance a mortgage for us to pay the cost over time. He promised us that the existence of this loan would not be reported to any credit agency, and repeated this several times over the course of the evening.

In addition, the salesman said it was a regular mortgage and repeatedly mentioned we would “even get a 1098 form” for the IRS, clearly indicating that the interest paid would be deductible on our taxes like any other mortgage. Even by the next April we had not received such a form in the mail, nor — even though HGVC emails frequently — notified that such a form is available and how to get it.) Yet it is not a regular mortgage, not tax-deductible, and we are sure the salesman knew that. Sounds deceitful to us.

We asked the salesman several times if we could sell the contract if it didn’t work out for us. His answer was that we “won’t want to!” or “Why would you?” since once it’s paid off, we will continue to get the points every year, and that’s where the real benefit lies: we’d never have to pay for hotels again! He emphasized that point over and over: as “owners” we would never have to pay out of pocket for hotels again. And if we didn’t want to use the points in any year, we could let friends and family use them, and “even leave your property in your will to your children or grandchildren.”

By then — around five hours into the process — we were completely exhausted and out of energy from hunger. The salesman promised the paperwork would take “just a few minutes” to prepare, and we could sign and go get dinner. We reluctantly agreed, and he had us quickly sign some papers and initial others.

Yet we were absolutely not done at that point. We then had to go to another person to prepare a LOT more paperwork for us to sign, but he promised to “go as fast as he can.” We were so exhausted and hungry we could not possibly understand what it all was, and certainly didn’t have the energy to read through them all.

The stack of papers to sign was around an inch thick, not counting hundreds and hundreds of pages of “guide books” and other materials piled on top of that paperwork — so much that they had to give us a giant canvas bag with extra-strong handles to carry it all, AND a “USB” storage device with hundreds and hundreds of other pages, which we had no opportunity to review.

It was a completely overwhelming dump of paper and detail that we had no capacity to understand at that point. This was or “should have been” obvious, especially as my husband repeatedly complained that he was terribly hungry — which complaints were repeatedly answered with “we’re almost done,” even though there was no “almost done” about it: in total we were there for nearly seven hours, and we told the salesman we hadn’t had a chance to eat at all that day before we started at 2:30 with the promise we’d be out of there by 3:30!

He absolutely rushed us through the papers: sign here, initial there, sign again this other place — without explaining any of it, or pointing out several things that it was critical for us to know before signing.

Had we had our wits about us, we absolutely would not have agreed to the purchase, not to mention it was more than ten times my husband’s “no more than $10,000” limit, AND there was an exorbitant interest rate (12-1/2 percent) on the mortgage — more than four times our home mortgage rate.

The details that added cost upon cost were saved until the end, after we were starting to agree in principle to the salesman’s heavy handed sales tactics, taking advantage of our exhaustion. This included things like that high interest rate. That there were “HOA dues” to pay each year, plus our “share” of the real estate taxes. That there was an exorbitant fee even just to reserve a stay at the properties we “own,” and an exorbitant fee to convert our resort “points” to Hilton Honors points for our supposedly “free” stays at regular Hilton hotels.

Our After-the-Fact Conclusions

Since this purchase, we have done research into our rights under various federal consumer protection laws, and have realized several things:

1) AT NO TIME during this entire process did the salesman, his “tag team” partner, the closer, or anyone else tell us we had a “right of recision” to void the contract, which we now understand in Nevada ends at midnight FIVE DAYS after such a contract is signed. My husband woke up in a sweat at around 2:00 a.m. the night of our purchase, waking me up to say we had made a terrible mistake. Had we known there was a form buried in the inch-thick stack of paper that would completely reverse the purchase we made, we absolutely would have used that right the next day after we were rested and fed.

This omission is in violation of law, specifically the State of Nevada’s demand of licensees that “THE PROSPECTIVE PURCHASER MUST BE PROVIDED A HARD COPY OF THIS NOTICE OF CANCELLATION AT THE TIME OF SIGNING.” Burying it in a stack of paper is hardly “providing” it for our notice.

Further, “The Laws and Regulations of the Nevada Real Estate Division require that you as a prospective purchaser or lessee be afforded an opportunity to read the Public Offering Statement (POS) for this time-share plan before executing a contract to purchase or lease a time-share interest or before any money or other consideration toward purchase or lease of a time-share interest is accepted from you.”

It was not called out for our attention, but rather just another thing to sign and zoom off to the next form to sign.

2) We only discovered after foreclosure that the State of Nevada requires disclosure to us “in at least 12-point bold type on a separate page and numbered 18. (a)” that “A time share is for personal use and is not an investment for a profit or tax advantage.” Yet we were clear that we were buying intending to use it in pursuit of profit-making business. There is a massive contradiction there! But they brushed right past it.

3) In hindsight we believe it was clear, or should have been clear, to the HGVC real estate-licensed professionals on the team — the salesman, his partner, the paperwork closer, and perhaps others — that we were exhausted and unable to fully comprehend what we were getting into. Whether this was purposeful or not, we believe this to be in violation of law.

4) Despite their DUTY OF HONESTY, we were lied to again and again about how long the process would take, and it was made clear to us that should we leave before completion, we would not be able to get the benefits and bonuses offered. In fact, the salesman and/or his partner or supervisor(s) should have suggested we take a break and come back the next day. We believe this is an example of fraud, deceit, and/or intentional misrepresentation, a felony according to Nevada Revised Statutes Chapter 645.

5) The HGVC purchase has no market value whatever, and in fact many “owners” are even unsuccessful at attempts to give them away. We believe the non-disclosure of this fact is fraud, deceit, and/or intentional misrepresentation, a felony according to Nevada Revised Statutes Chapter 645

6) We were lied to that we could “rent out” or otherwise profit from our purchase. We believe the assurance that we could is fraud, deceit, and/or intentional misrepresentation, a felony according to Nevada Revised Statutes Chapter 645.

7) We were lied to that we could allow friends or family to use our timeshare, even if we were not present. This is apparently not true and thus we believe it is fraud, deceit, and/or intentional misrepresentation, a felony according to Nevada Revised Statutes Chapter 645.

8) We were shown hand-written details about the value of our purchase that were not true. We believe this created an atmosphere of fraud, deceit, and/or intentional misrepresentation.

9) We were assured that our points could be used for non-resort hotel stays, airline fares, non-HGVC resorts, cruises, and other benefits without being told that the resulting cost of using such points use would be significantly higher than simply purchasing such benefits with cash, and in fact told repeatedly we should “never use cash” for any travel again. This is an unfair and discriminatory tactic completely against our interests, and thus we believe it constitutes fraud, deceit, and/or intentional misrepresentation, a felony according to Nevada Revised Statutes Chapter 645.

10) We were told that purchasing at Elara specifically would bring us lower ongoing costs, but we needed to hurry because such inventory “could be gone” at any moment, because there are many other sales teams at many different resorts at various points in the sales process at that very time. We believe that it is untrue there was any shortage of inventory, as the salesman has called me several times since March 2019 to try to get us to purchase more units there. We believe therefore this pressure tactic constitutes fraud, deceit, and/or intentional misrepresentation, a felony according to Nevada Revised Statutes Chapter 645.

11) We were told that we should purchase a higher level of “investment” (to “elite” status) in order to have more power in making reservations at HGVC properties, significantly increasing cost to us, yet even though we did purchase at that level, most times we tried we still could not make reservations, and we believe HGVC knew or should have known that it was difficult and often impossible to book desired locations, dates, and room types, even months in advance. We believe this constitutes fraud, deceit, and/or intentional misrepresentation, a felony according to Nevada Revised Statutes Chapter 645.

12) We were told by the salesman’s partner that the value of the “bonus” points the salesman was providing impacted the salesman’s income, and that he was being extremely generous. Whether this is true or not we believe it creates an atmosphere of pressure, fraud, deceit, and/or intentional misrepresentation.

13) Leaving such properties in our will — as suggested several times by the salesman — is not a benefit, it is a significant and unfair burden on the recipient. We believe this constitutes fraud, deceit, and/or intentional misrepresentation, a felony according to Nevada Revised Statutes Chapter 645.

14) It was very unlikely that we would “save a lot of money” in the “long run,” and we believe that suggesting we would is fraud, deceit, and/or intentional misrepresentation, a felony according to Nevada Revised Statutes Chapter 645.

15) We were notified later that HGVC has changed their policy regarding reporting HGVC mortgages to credit reporting agencies. This is in violation to a promise made repeatedly that this would not happen, which we believe constitutes deceit and/or misrepresentation.

16) Based on any of these factors alone, let alone the combination of factors outlined above, it is obvious that this contract was executed both under duress, and significantly contrary to several federal and state laws, which the licensed sales professionals absolutely did know or should have known about as a requirement of their licensing and ethical standards, and certainly should have followed.

17) We discovered the “family resort” atmosphere that HGVC offers is not a conducive atmosphere for business meetings — nor are there many with conference facilities that we could use on such premises that could accommodate such meetings. We believe the salesman did not give us an honest answer to our questions about this because he knew we would not go through with the purchase if he did. Resort timeshares are not suitable for business use. To assure us otherwise, we believe is fraud, deceit, and/or intentional misrepresentation, a felony according to Nevada Revised Statutes Chapter 645.

18) We still did try to book one of our conferences at a HGVC resort (“Marbrissa” in Carlsbad, Calif.), but despite being “elite” owners we could not reserve adequate rooms on our several proposed dates, despite trying to book many months in advance, and then trying and failing the same way at a number of different resort locations when that preferred location failed. This further supports our belief that the tactics used in the sales process were fraud, deceit, and/or intentional misrepresentation.

19) One can’t use resort points for overnights on business travel, such as the last-minute reservation we made that late night driving home. When we brought this up as an objection during the sales process, the salesman replied that was taken care of by our membership too: we could convert club points into regular “Hilton Honors” points and use them at will for “free” stays. What he didn’t say was that this is an absurdly expensive way to get “free” hotel rooms. This further supports that the tactics used in the sales process were fraud, deceit, and/or intentional misrepresentation.

20) We have learned that it is “against the rules” of HGVC to “sell” the benefits of our points to others, as we described and the salesman assured us was possible in order to give us a reason to buy. We believe this is a further example of fraud, deceit, and/or intentional misrepresentation, a felony according to Nevada Revised Statutes Chapter 645.

21) HGVC foreclosed on our property despite the fact that we were paid ahead, not delinquent, in our payments. How is this not a violation of law?

Based on these facts, as well as our conclusions after researching federal consumer protection laws, we believe HGVC clearly and significantly violated our rights in law, as well as took advantage of our obvious vulnerabilities at the time of purchase to ensnare us in an onerous obligation. Any of the several violations outlined herein are sufficient cause for termination of our contract and the return of our money; the several violations combined overwhelmingly support that.

Yet despite numerous messages to HGVC and Hilton Hotels & Resorts Inc. — by email, written letters, and letters sent by Registered Mail — asking for an executive review of the above facts, we were ignored or dismissed by underlings.

So again, do you believe you should ever buy any sort of vacation timeshare? Think about it.

Next: Timeshare Value: the Reality.