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Over the years, I’ve discussed the pros and cons of Disney Vacation Club membership. I’ve also evaluated resales purchase as a strategy for saving money on the upfront costs associated with joining the DVC club. A few weeks ago, the situation became a bit more fluid when The Walt Disney Company announced that they were changing some of the rules for DVC member benefits. Customers who purchase via the resales market are no longer eligible for the same rights and privileges as those who buy directly through Disney.

The rhetoric on this topic has heated up since the announcement. Some folks love the changes, while others resent that Disney altered the rules after the fact on what is essentially a real estate investment, the second time they’ve done so. Even those unaffected by the tweaking of DVC’s benefits rules hold strong opinions on the subject. Now seems like the perfect time to evaluate DVC membership under the new rules system. Here are four things you need to know about DVC in the era of different benefits for different members.

You get what you pay for

Image: Disney

The fundamental change in DVC’s structure involves resales purchase. Historically, a person who buys direct enjoys virtually the same entitlements as someone who gets a “used” contract. Think of the latter category in the same way as buying something off of eBay that is still in its original plastic wrap. You’re (presumably) paying less for the model, but you’re getting the same item in the same state. The only time this isn’t true is when the DVC points you purchase are already spent for the current year. Even then, you’ll acquire your points either the next year or, at worst, the one after that. When you buy DVC via resales, you purchase precisely the same product for a much cheaper price.

That’s the problem Disney has faced over the years. Since the product they sell is an ownership interest, they must follow the real estate laws of the land, and especially the ones in the states where they own/sell properties. As a potential buyer, why would you pay thousands of dollars more for the same product if other options exist? Only a fool seeking a parting from his own money would choose the more expensive option.

For this reason, the resales market has consistently undercut Disney’s direct sales of DVC membership. That’s the basis of the company’s recent announcement that two sets of rules are now in play. Customers who purchase through Disney receive the same entitlements such as store, annual pass, and restaurant discounts. These privileges are known as Membership Extras. The only way to gain access to them now is either as a grandfathered DVC owner prior to April of 2016 or to buy through Disney.

From this point forward, the discount resales purchases no longer qualify, which creates a sort of second class citizenry among DVC members. While real estate companies involved in the resales market pondered the value of Membership Extras, it’s fair to say that all other things being equal, every DVC owner would like to have them. Today, some members don’t, which has created a market inequality. Does this imbalance tip the scales toward direct DVC purchase? I will explore that in a later article with some DVC experts. What’s germane for now is that direct membership DOES have its privileges.

No, really. You get what you pay for.

Image: Disney

Still, all the irrefutable fact is that Disney Vacation Club membership offers tremendous value. At this point, DVC dominates the timeshare industry. It’s not specifically in numbers, sales, or occupancy rates where they’re a class above their competitors, although Disney excels in each of these areas. Instead, it’s in customer satisfaction.

Recent research suggests that Disney claims the finest timeshare resort in the world…and the next six as well. Yes, that sounds crazy. Yes, it’s absolutely true. Sharket.com is an established timeshare market research firm. They recently published a list of the top 25 timeshare resorts of 2015. They culled this list from more than 1,400 properties worldwide. Employing a metric they call the Saleability Score™, Sharket identified only eight resorts worthy of a perfect score under their grading. Seven of them are DVC properties. When you consider membership in the Disney Vacation Club, no stronger argument exists than this one.

Sharket identified the best global timeshare options based on their popularity as well as their value on the resale market. The site itself explains why they prioritize resale value in their metric. “A strong resale value tends to be the byproduct of a good timeshare program with a happy owner base. “

They add the following: “”Robust resale demand clearly points to a solid timeshare program.” says Bob Schmidt, Sharket’s Chief Data Officer. “It shows buyers still want to own at these resorts even when removed from the emotional aspects of purchasing directly from the developer.””

Image: Disney

The best timeshare property in the world according to Sharket is Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa. The other six DVC properties with perfect grades are (in alphabetical order): Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas, Disney’s Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Disney’s Beach Club Villas, Disney’s Boardwalk Villas, Disney’s Old Key West Resort, and The Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge. DVC claimed two additional spots in the top 25 with The Villas at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa and Disney’s Vero Beach Resort.

The math of this achievement is staggering. Out of the 13 DVC properties available, nine finished among the top 25 timeshares in the world. Disney left only 16 spots for everybody else. In case you’re wondering, the lone non-DVC timeshare to earn a perfect score was Hilton Head Grand Vacations Club Eagle’s Nest Beach Resort at Marco Island, Florida.

Also, what differentiated Saratoga Springs from the other DVC resorts was that it claimed more than 800 timeshares sold during the timeframe Sharket tracked. That’s more than the second and third best performers, Disney’s Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort and Disney’s Old Key West Resort, combined. In looking at the entire list, what’s clear is that DVC timeshares maintain their value in a way that no other such enterprise can match. As demonstrated through Sharket’s research, the median price of their timeshare resales obliterates the competition.

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