One of the most costly and least popular aspects of timeshare ownership is the constant stream of annual maintenance fees. These fees, which are supposed to be for maintaining a timeshare property and paying overhead expenses, spiral out of control for many timeshare owners and make continued ownership a financial disaster because, by design, they go on forever.
In their high-pressure sales presentations, timeshare companies will often minimize the impact of maintenance fees on the cost of a timeshare. They may even assert that you’ll save money paying maintenance fees compared to taking traditional vacations or buying a traditional vacation home. (Owners later find that this was an outrageous lie.)
Because maintenance fees can change so drastically between developers and timeshare units, both owners and non-owners often wonder about the actual amount of these fees. The American Resort Development Association (ARDA) has published its own figures on the average timeshare maintenance fees, and there are many angry reviews and testimonials elsewhere on the Internet.
In this article, we will look at the average annual maintenance fees across different kinds of timeshare/real estate/vacation club products, as well as what kinds of fees may fall into that category. We’ll also discuss how you can expect those fees to go up, considering historical inflation rates. Finally, if you are paying these fees and want to stop, we’ll talk about how Centerstone Group can help you get a legal, ethical exit from your timeshare.
Average timeshare maintenance fees vary widely between timeshare companies and resorts. They are usually calculated in a couple of different ways:
The total amount of fees for any given unit/point allocation is going to change based on the timeshare company, resort, and product you’ve bought. The timeshare industry has, however, made a well-documented attempt to estimate those fees through its trade group, ARDA. Those estimates, though, don’t reflect reality for many timeshare owners.
ARDA has published figures estimating the average timeshare maintenance fees across various companies. ARDA estimates that the average fees for a studio run $640 per year. A timeshare with three bedrooms or more is estimated to have an annual fee amount of $1,290.
ARDA then concluded that the average timeshare maintenance fees across the board are $1,000 per year. It based those numbers on the size of timeshare units, so it’s not clear exactly how these numbers translate over to a vacation club points system for a company like Marriott.
Keep in mind that these “average” numbers also include legacy timeshare owners who bought their units long ago and have more favorable contracts than the ones created today. Because new owners have higher fees across the board, they will likely be higher than the average amount estimated by ARDA.
In many cases, owners who have higher fees will be told by their timeshare companies that, if they just upgrade their membership, that will result in lower maintenance fees. This representation is almost always false, since the more you own, the more fees you pay. So if you are already paying more than average, there’s no real way to get those fees lower without getting rid of the timeshare.
The ARDA numbers give us some guidelines for what to expect with different kinds of timeshares, but they are vague enough that it’s not clear what maintenance fees cover in their examples. For example, in most cases, maintenance fees don’t just pay for property maintenance. They also pay the overhead costs for the resort, like keeping utilities on or getting additional resort personnel.
It doesn’t appear, though, that ARDA’s estimate is a number that represents the true figure a timeshare owner will pay in fees every year. There are several categories of fees that, while they may not be called “annual maintenance fees,” are just as real and likely to pop up.
For example, let’s say you are a Hilton Grand Vacation Club member who pays $1,230.66 in yearly maintenance fees. That’s already over ARDA’s $1,000 average. But you are also paying hundreds of dollars in other categories annually, like:
Those amounts, then, would bring your total annual obligation to $1,590.63, more than 50% above what ARDA says the annual maintenance fee amount should be. That estimate, then, is incomplete and not a good yardstick for what the average owner would be paying every year.
Part of the problem with a phrase like “average timeshare maintenance fees” is that it is vague. If you were an unscrupulous timeshare company that wanted to come up with a lower annual number, you can simply exclude certain fees from the calculation.
For example, owners are typically billed a line item every year for “maintenance fees” related to their timeshare contracts, but they are often charged more than that. This is because there are other fees related to the maintenance of the property that aren’t included in that line item.
A special assessment is a fee that a management company and/or homeowners’ association (HOA) imposes for certain events that the owners are expected to pay for. For example, let’s say that your resort in Orlando gets hit by a hurricane, and the roof is damaged. To fix the roof, the management association of the timeshare resort decides to assess a special fee to all unit owners just for the roof repair.
Though emergencies are a popular example for special assessments, that is not the only time they can be levied. Let’s say that, at several owners’ association meetings, there was an idea put forward to install a new infinity pool at the resort in addition to three other pools that the resort already has. When the resort decides to install that pool, it may levy a special assessment to get that project completed.
Special assessments can come up across a variety of contexts, and they can cost you hundreds or even thousands of dollars extra per year above and beyond what ARDA estimated.
In addition to upkeep, improvements, and overhead charges, timeshare owners are also often burdened with fees for memberships in exchange companies like Interval International or RCI. These companies are designed for timeshare owners to list and trade their units and/or points with other owners so that they can vacation at each others’ resorts.
Often, these exchange company memberships are mandatory for owners at certain timeshare companies. These mandatory memberships can add another $60 to $100 per year to your annual timeshare bill.
When you see these costs piling up, it’s natural to be a bit shocked. But even those don’t tell the whole story. You also have to keep in mind a historical, always-present economic force: inflation.
According to the U.S. Inflation Calculator, since 1913, the United States has experienced cumulative inflation of about 2,800%. In other words, something that would have cost only $500 at the beginning of the 20th century would cost nearly $15,000 now.
But you don’t even have to go that far back to see how badly inflation has hurt your bottom line. Let’s say that you purchased a timeshare in 1992 with $1,000 of maintenance fees. If the fee had stayed the same for 30 years and only adjusted for inflation (which is highly unlikely), your fee would now be more than twice that: $2,049.21.
Now, let’s consider what inflation would be on a $1,000 fee in the future. Assuming an average inflation rate of 2.5%, in five years your fee would have increased to at least $1,131 — an increase of over 10%. In 10 years, your fees go up to $1,280, an increase of nearly 30%. And in 15 years, the fees would have increased nearly 50% to $1,448.
Keep in mind that these figures assume a relatively low inflation rate of 2.5%. Consider also that, so far in 2022, the rate has been historically high at 8.5%. Therefore, the numbers calculated here may even be on the low end.
Finally, you should know that your fees will increase anyway regardless of the inflation rate. Timeshare companies raise their maintenance fees every year, and increased inflation will add costs on top of those fee increases.
Also, because your timeshare company likely holds the management contract for your timeshare resort, it directly profits from raising fees on owners. Thus, you can pretty much assume that the fees will rise faster than inflation just because the timeshare company wants to make more money off of its owners — greed will always outpace inflation.
If you’re tired of paying annual maintenance fees and special assessment fees and want out of your timeshare, Centerstone Group can help. Collectively, we have decades of experience in the timeshare industry. We can put that vast knowledge to work to get you out of your timeshare permanently, whether we use one of our proprietary pressure campaigns, or we get you legal assistance with one of our trusted timeshare attorneys and law firm partners.
We are an A-rated timeshare exit company accredited by the Better Business Bureau (BBB), and our reviews and testimonials will show you why. Contact us today for a free consultation and case evaluation.