Here are 7 things you must know about Branson timeshares — before you buy

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Offline TimeshareTalk

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This week, the Better Business Bureau released a study on the timeshare industry that focused on Branson and its 30 timeshare resorts.

Because of a pattern of "deception, pressure and traps disguised as vacations," the president of Better Business Bureau's St. Louis office said the timeshare industry should do more to regulate itself — and protect Branson's reputation.

Branson Mayor Karen Best went a step further. She called for the state of Missouri to add more regulations on timeshares. Best also told the News-Leader she thinks timeshare salespeople should be "required to possess a real estate license."

If you or a family member are thinking about buying a timeshare, here are seven things to think about.

More: Better Business Bureau report: Branson timeshare industry 'deceiving consumers'

1. Owning a timeshare is a long-term commitment. Or a headache. "It's easier to get out of prison than a timeshare," Larry Rushing told reporters Tuesday. He and his wife, Gayle, live in Springfield. They bought into a Branson timeshare about 15 years ago and lost almost $5,000 trying to get out of it.

So why buy a timeshare at all?

"It's easy to see why people buy timeshares," said Melody Payne, a USA TODAY Network columnist, in a video on timeshares. "You went on a vacation and had a great time. The kids loved it. You loved it. So why not go there every year?"

But, Payne cautioned, don't expect to make money from your timeshare investment.

"Look at it this way," she said. "There was value in the time you spent there over the years."

Watch: About Timeshares

2. Want a timeshare? Check your options. It can't hurt to look at the secondary market before you buy. There's "a glut" of owners who want out of these things. That's according to "The Timeshare Crusader," Lisa Ann Schreier, who's been writing about the industry for 18 years from her home base in Florida. Like Branson, Florida has a ton of timeshares.

"You may save thousands buying on the resale market," the Better Business Bureau study said. "Be fully aware of what you are purchasing and from whom you are buying."

Get everything in writing, including what each side of the transaction is responsible for paying at closing. Read the contract. Ask the seller questions about the contract. Know the contract.

3. Know before you go. A few hours of comparison shopping could save you years of tangling with unwanted bills. Better Business Bureau suggests using local travel agents and online travel services to compare pricing. It might be cheaper to use them instead of committing to a timeshare. It's also possible that a short-term rental through something like Airbnb or VRBO is cheaper.

4. Watch your Google results. The Better Business Bureau reported that many travellers take to the internet to search for terms like "Branson vacation packages" before they go on a trip. Search results often include marketing companies offering packages with a discount for show tickets, meals, lodging or other perks — if you sit through a sales presentation. They're often billed as a 90-minute session. In practice, they can go on for three hours or longer.

More: Our Voice: Be informed to avoid business scams


Silvio Bower talks about buying a timeshare during a press conference to promote a Better Business Bureau study on the Missouri timeshare industry on Tuesday, July 24, 2018.
Nathan Papes/News-Leader
5. Resist pressure tactics from timeshare salespeople. The president of Better Business Bureau's office in St. Louis wouldn't go so far as to call the $9.6 billion national timeshare industry a "scam," but it's clear that timeshare resorts employ salespeople who do their best to get inside the heads of potential clients.

Silvio Bower, a Springfield man who said he's on the hook for about $580 per month across three timeshare bills, said Branson timeshare salespeople talked to him for hours, pitching "dreams," before he signed a contract he now regrets.

"That hit a nerve with me," Bower said, "especially with my wife, wanting to give her things I don't think I can. They said, 'We'll send you to Italy.'"

They've never made it to Italy, but their bills have doubled, Bower said.

One woman told the Better Business Bureau her elderly parents were subjected to a seven-hour sales pitch. They later forked over more than $10,000 on a timeshare.

"The industry is masterful at parting people from their money," Brian Rogers, with Timeshare Users Group, told the Better Business Bureau. "That goes for the legitimate side of the industry with the salespeople and those who operate as scammers on the other side."

Rogers also said, "They (probably) would never sell any units if they had to tell the truth during their sales presentations."

6. Act fast if you change your mind. If you buy a timeshare on vacation, don't wait until you get back home to actually read the contract.

And you need to read the contract: "The majority of people who purchase their first timeshare after sitting with a salesperson for three, four or five hours have no clear concept of what they’ve purchased," Schreier, the "Timeshare Crusader," said.

Missouri law provides for a five-day window to cancel the contract once it's signed. The law also makes it mandatory for the seller to give the buyer printed notice of the buyer's right to cancel. After those five days pass, you're stuck.

7. Want out of a timeshare? Do it yourself. The News-Leader has reported extensively on timeshare exit companies. One of them, Springfield-based Escape Resolutions, has a well-documented series of complaints alleging that the company has taken thousands of dollars from unsuspecting people, promising to get them out of timeshare contracts, then providing no services and playing the runaround game when upset customers try to call company headquarters. The News-Leader called Escape Resolutions multiple times on Tuesday, but nobody answered.

Instead of a timeshare exit company, the Better Business Bureau recommends contacting the property that sold the timeshare in the first place. Ask the property if there is a deed-back program available.

If that doesn't work, consider selling your timeshare on the secondary market — but know that it's a buyer's market. You'll probably have to make a deal. 

"Timeshare units can be found selling online for as little as $1, with the seller absorbing many of the closing costs in hopes of having someone else buy their stake," the Better Business Bureau said.