Thursday, March 18, 2010

Disney's Second Best Kept Secret: Renting DVC Points.


If you've been in a Disney park, you've seen the signs touting Disney Vacation Club (DVC) as "Disney's Best Kept Secret."   DVC is Disney's version of a timeshare right on Disney property (without the typical "hard sell" you get at most timeshares.  It's Disney. They won't bother you).  Owners buy into a specific resort, known as their "home" resort, allowing them to book up to eleven months in advance. They can also book rooms at other resorts in the DVC family at seven months out.  Owners don't have assigned weeks, but rather they buy a number of points, so they can break up their yearly allotment of points for shorter stays or use them all at once.  Most DVC contracts sold by Disney start at around 160 points; some owners have hundreds of points.

DVC resorts are attached to certain Disney deluxe level resorts, including the Wilderness Lodge, Animal  Kingdom Lodge, Bay Lake Towers at the Contempoary Resort, and the Boardwalk, to name a few.  They start as small as a studio and go up to a roomy, three-bedroom villa. All of them have balconies or patios and  full kitchens; all but the studios have a washer and dryer.  Since space comes at a premium on Disney property,  renting points is one way to enjoy some extra room without breaking the bank.

A one-bedroom unit at Boardwalk Villas.
Image Copyright Walt Disney Company
Many people aren't aware that you don't have to be an owner to stay at a DVC resort.  In fact, it's probably one of Disney's best kept secrets.  If you're not a DVC owner and want to stay at a DVC resort, you have three options:  One, you can rent a room directly from Disney, as they hold back a certain percentage of rooms to be rented out on a cash basis.  Two, you can rent points privately from a DVC owner.  Or three, perhaps the least common choice, you can rent from a "broker" who matches you with an owner who, in turn, will make your reservation through Disney.  All three options have their pros and cons.

 Renting through Disney is perhaps the most expensive choice, but unlike renting from an individual owner or broker, you don't have to pay the entire amount right away and it's as risk-free as they come.  It's also the easiest, particularly with regard to cancellations.  Recent discounts, between 40 and 45 percent, have been so good that the gap between renting through Disney and renting points is becoming smaller.  For example, right now Disney is running a 40% discount on certain DVC properties through mid-August (there are some black-out dates around holidays).  Under this code, a standard view studio at Kidani Village runs $230 (including taxes; it's $380 without the discount).  You'd pay $140 a night if you rented points through an owner, assuming you paid $10 a point.  Renting points is a big savings, but you have to decide it the risk is worth it.

Renting through an individual owner can be very cost effective.  Familiarize yourself with the point charts before you start shopping around for a rental.  You can find point charts and other important information about DVC over at Mouseowners, a website devoted to DVC.  The point system is simple and basically works like this:  You check the chart and see that a week in a one-bedroom standard view villa during adventure (low) season at the Villas at Animal Kingdom rents for 169 points.  The same type of room in an extremely popular resort such as Bay Lake Towers goes for 201 points.  At $10 a point, your entire transaction for Animal Kingdom would be $1690.  You can still use Magical Express and the dining plan, but you'll have to have the owner arrange these thins for you.  Most owners will tell you that they'll make these  arrangements for you. 

Resorts vary in location, theme, amenities and room size, so shop around to find one that's right for you.  I like the Disboards resort board or the DVC  board for this type of information, but you can also find great information from resort fansites (links to follow).  If you have a specific resort in mind, start looking for a rental at around the 11-month mark.  Christmas will fill up quickly, as will rentals during special events.  If you're flexible about where you want to stay you can wait a little longer, but I don't recommend looking under four months out unless you're specifically waiting for a bargain and don't mind where you're staying.

Most owners rent for around $10-11 per point, but this varies somewhat depending on the time of year and how badly the owner wants to rent.  One trend I've noticed on DVC rental boards is owners starting out at around $13 a point and gradually reducing their prices, so don't be afraid to negotiate.  If you don't mind gambling a bit and want to save some money, you can try renting at a couple of months out from when you want to go.  Usually you'll find listings by owners who have to cancel and need to get rid of their points in a hurry.  I've seen listings in this case as low as $6, but these are normally not the most popular resorts.  If you choose to wait for a point "sale," make sure you have a back-up reservation somewhere (that you'll cancel once you get a better deal) or you run the risk of not finding anything.  This is especially true during busier times of the year when entire resorts fill up months in advance.

Most owners have a no-refund policy due to the difficulty of cancelling DVC reservations, although you may be able to transfer your reservation, depending on the owner. Make sure you've read and understood every element of your contract. If being able to cancel your reservation is important to you, you may try to negotiate something with the owner.  This is the biggest risk of renting points.

The most active and helpful sites on the  internet for renting points are the DVC boards at  Disboards and on Mouseowners.  Before you post, make sure you read the posting guidelines at the top of the forum so that you know what is acceptable.  If you're not a member of these boards you'll have to register to post (and in some cases to view the forum). Some boards will not allow you to receive private messages until you have a certain number of posts.  Since you'll need to be able to receive PMs so that owners can communicate with you, you may have to register and post for a short time on other forums first.

Being able to rent out your own points is one of the advantages of owning DVC.  Disney doesn't put limits on owners renting their points; they can do so every year if they wish.  Professonal brokers however, fall into something of a gray area.  Obviously, Disney isn't in love with the idea of brokers selling points for a variety of reasons.  Because of this, Disney recently limited the number of associates a member can have on his DVC membership to four, which means that only those four individuals can make reservations.  Since brokers can't make your reservation for you, they act as an intermediary between the renter and the owner.  Once the initial negotiations between the broker and the renter are completed, the broker finds a prospective owner and the owner makes the reservation in the renter's name.   The broker herself has no contact with Disney.  If you use a broker, your transaction is perfectly legitimate because the broker is something of an invisible partner in the whole process. 

Brokers tend to charge more per point than private owners to cover their services, which includes drawing up the contract, contacting the owners, explaining the obligations of both parties, and handling money matters.  One benefit of working with an established points broker is that they only deal with trustworthy sources, so you won't have to worry that someone is going to take your money and disappear.  They're also very good at matching renters with harder to get resorts.  For many people, the safety and ease of the transaction in exchange for paying a bit extra is worth it.  Brokers normally rent at about $13 a point with the owner receiving $10.  Most have a no-refund policy, so their cancellation policy is potentially the worst of the three options.  You may find individual brokers who are willing to transfer a reservation, but I am not aware of any.  You can purchase trip insurance from another source in the event that you need to cancel.

If you rent points from an individual, here are a few things to remember:
  •  Get references from past renters!
  • Verify with the Florida Comptroller's Office that this person is a DVC owner.  Scams are unusual, but it can happen.
  • Most DVC websites have blank contracts that you can use as a guideline.
  • Ensure that you fully understand the owner's cancellation policy.
  • Be wary of owners who advertise points on a website where they have only a few posts or post only occasionally. While it's not 100% guaranteed, posters with high post counts usually have a reputation they want to protect.  You can check out their prior posts and get a feel for who you're dealing with by clicking the information under their user name.
  • Consider buying trip insurance.
  • Do not rent from an owner on Craigslist or Ebay.  While there are undoubtedly legitimate deals, the potential for being scammed is too high.
  • Use credit cards, PayPal, or bank check. Don't use Western Union.
Good sources for those thinking of renting from DVC:

Disboards DVC Board.  Fast moving, very active board.  This board seems to be most well-moderated, but as in any points rental transaction, buyer  beward. Check out the owners and have a good contract.
Mouseowners. Lots of information for renters, including contract examples and floorplans of every style of DVC unit.
Animal Kingdom Lodge Fan Site.  Great site for checking out AKL and the villas.
AllEars.  Photos of all DVC resorts, inside and out.
Contemporary Resort fan site, including pages on Bay Lake Towers, Disney's newest DVC resort right next to the Magic Kingdom.

9 comments:

AJ said...

Great post. I've rented points several times from a wonderful person I met on DisBoards. The major concern for me the first time was that the owner can cancel the reservation at any time without notifying you, so if you send all $$ their way, there's always the danger that they'll cancel and you're out a ressie when you get there! I've heard of some "escrow" options out there and have always wanted to explore those. A bit of extra cost, but everyone is protected.

Again, incredible post about a very complex topic.

Chris said...

Thanks AJ. You make a very good poin about the cancellation issue. I've never heard of the escrow option, but it makes a lot of sense. Will look into it.

Anonymous said...

I just signed up to your blogs rss feed. Will you post more on this subject?

Chris said...

Anon, yes I'll definitely be writing more about this topic. Do you have any questions? I could turn it into a post if you like.

Thanks for reading.

Chris

Anonymous said...

I thought it was difficult for DVC members to cancel reservations. I thought that is why they usually state it is non-refundable because if I (the buyer)were to cancel the seller would have a difficult time canceling the reservation or re-selling, etc. I am in the process of possibly buying points from someone and want to make sure it is not a scam. I have gotten references - emails and will call the FL Comtroller's office as suggested - other recomendations?!! Thanks! Kerry

Christina Wood said...

Kerry, it is difficult to cancel the reservations. That's one of the reasons. The other issue is that their points are less valuable the close they get to expiring. So points they could have rented at $11 per point go down to $9 or less. So it isn't to their advantage to be too flexible about cancellations. Other than checking people out, there's not much more you can do--sounds like you're doing that! Good luck.

William said...

The Disney Vacation Club system works in a fashion where 7 days from rental owners points become useless because if a rental is pulled at that point it could only be used for rentals in the next 7 days (which is not possible because DVC is usually sold out 2-4 months out). Beyond 30 days out points are totally free for the owner to recoup without restriction.

I would only recommend dealing with owners who allow you to pay half up front and half 30-7 days before rental.

There are a few escrow and rental services which bring people together as well, find you the points, secure your nights, and escrow money from the owner. I run one of them at DVCreservations.com. We have had fantastic experiences with renters and owners and every one really benefits from the transaction because the renter gets a good deal and the owner gets needed funds to pay their dues each year which is a very large expense for them.

There is no problem with renting from an owner directly, just make sure to check references.

Hope that specific info helps! Article was fantastic Chris.

Dusten Nance said...

I am a new DVC owner and want to rent/transfer my points. Many of the services seem to have such a wide spread between what owners get and what the points are rented out for. It seems like somebody could setup a website to easily match people with points with a cleaner more efficient interface than the forums. People could easily find others through a FIFO or next-in-line process and handle the transaction themselves. I also see a huge market for travel agents to be point brokers for their customers, getting them huge discounts off CRO rack rates and still making money through maybe $1-$2 buy/use margin.

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One of the main benefits with a privately owned Villa is that you can set your meal times as you please. As they come with their own kitchen areas you can fit your meals into your day, rather than planning your day around set meal times.