A one-bedroom unit at Boardwalk Villas.
Image Copyright Walt Disney CompanyMany 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.
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.