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RCI Exchange Fees to Increase Again Beginning December 4

Westgate Smoky Mountains Resort to Reopen to Guests in Phases

The Westgate Smoky Mountains Resort in Gatlinburg was heavily damaged by the devastating wildfires that swept through the region. Seventy buildings on the property (652 out of 1,004 timeshare condos) were destroyed, but the majority of the amenities and common areas remained standing. Cleanup started almost immediately, and as a result- the timeshare resort has now partially reopened to guests. As of this date, fifty of the timeshare condos have already been reopened- with another 200 scheduled to begin accepting guests this weekend. A third phase of the reopening is scheduled for March when another hundred condo will be added to the available inventory.
Reconstruction of the remainder of the resort is expected to take place over the next two years.

Westgate timeshare owners impacted by the reduced occupancy are being allowed to exchange their scheduled reservations to other Westgate properties. The exchange fees normally required for this are being waived.

Westgate officials have stated that no special assessment is expected to be levied against owners for the needed repairs.

Shuttered Timeshare Resort- Harbor Hill in Massachusetts- What Happens Next?

A small timeshare resort complex located in Provincetown, Massachusetts is tentatively scheduled to be auctioned in a sealed-bid process ending in February. Trustees for the timeshare regime filed for bankruptcy protection in 2014, claiming that the resort was victimized and left economically nonviable due to years of theft and financial fraud allegedly perpetrated by the resort manager, Donna Zoppi.

The Trustees claimed that state and federal taxes were collected from timeshare owners by the resort manager, but were never paid- creating an overdue tax bill of more than a half a million dollars. Also, maintenance funds were allegedly siphoned away from the property- leaving the complex without proper funding for needed repairs and replacements. Claims that proper business records were not kept by resort employees, that deeds were not properly executed or filed, and that overall ownership records and financial reports could not be found- were determined to have made it impossible for the resort to be saved.

A new article states that the bankruptcy trustee is now attempting to void the current timeshare intervals and obtain approval to sell the entire property via auction to a single entity. The hope is that this process will create the best opportunity for individual timeshare owners to make some type of financial recovery.  However- the current plan does hinge upon a successful vote where at least 80% of owners agree to dissolve the timeshare regime.

Based on the claims made during the bankruptcy proceeding that proper ownership records were not kept, this would seem to be an almost impossible task. Hopefully, the current Trustees will be able to locate and identify enough timeshare owners to get the required consensus. If not, the legal process to condemn and demolish the property could take many years.  A shuttered and abandoned property near Orlando, formerly the Colony Plaza Hotel, took more than eight years before the deteriorating structure was finally torn down. The residents of Provincetown don't want to relive that nightmare!

Tree Tops Resort of Gatlinburg Damaged by Wild Fires

A local news station is reporting that the Tree Tops Resort in Gatlinburg has suffered catastrophic damage from the wild fires tearing through the Great Smoky Mountains.

No official release has been issued by resort personnel, but it appears that multiple buildings on the property have been completely destroyed.  The resort featured one- and two-bedroom condos, as well as cottage style units. There were also numerous amenities including several outdoor pools, and indoor pool complex, indoor racquetball court, putting green, fitness center, and playground.  

No updates have been obtained concerning the sister property, Oakmont Resort. 

What is Vacation Ownership and Time-Sharing?

Vacation ownership is the shared ownership of a resort property for a specified period of time. In simple terms, it is an advance purchase of your future vacation accommodations. Resort villas are traditionally larger and more deluxe than simple hotel rooms. Condominium-style timeshare villas normally are fully equipped with spacious kitchens, generous living areas, and ample room for family or friends. Timeshare units range from studio villas up to four bedroom vacation homes.

If you vacation consistently, timeshare ownership makes sense! Rather than purchase a full-ownership home or condo in a leisure destination such as the beach or mountains that you can only use for a few weeks each year, timesharing will allow you to purchase only the amount of time that you need. It also divides the cost of property management and upkeep among all the fractional owners. This type of shared ownership system can give you the luxury and privilege of the resort lifestyle in an affordable and obtainable ownership package!

Ownership of a timeshare interval is very similar to ownership of a full access condominium except that your usage rights are limited to a certain period of time. The ownership can be conveyed to you by deed, or by a leasehold interest which is commonly referred to as a right-to-use ownership.

A deeded interest is owned much like a home. A legal conveyance document is filed in public records and protects your ownership rights. It is an ownership interest that can be sold, gifted, or transferred to your heirs. This is the most common form of vacation ownership in the United States. Examples of this ownership type are some Marriott Vacation Club, Hyatt Vacation Club, Hilton Grand Vacations Club, and Starwood Resorts ownerships.

A right-to-use interest, or leasehold, is common for vacation properties outside the United States, but this form of ownership is becoming increasingly popular with American developers and there are now numerous forms of this ownership type throughout the timeshare industry. In this type of of timeshare interest, the resort retains legal ownership of the property and gives you a leasehold or license to use the property for a specific term. Upon expiration of your lease, your vacation ownership will terminate and return back to the developer. Examples of this ownership are the Disney Vacation Club ownerships, The Royal Resorts in Mexico, and standard memberships with the WorldMark by Trendwest Vacation Club. The usage remaining on a leasehold interest is a primary factor in determining the value of these properties. With a right-to-use ownership, you should ensure the terms and conditions of the leasehold and usage are fully disclosed to you prior to making a decision to buy.

Using the services of a licensed resale broker can be vital in ensuring your are fully aware of any restrictions and limitations of the ownership you purchase. It is important to understand that vacation ownership is a commodity that is intended for personal enjoyment, and thus is not a traditional real estate investment.  Timeshares and vacation ownership do not normally appreciate over time. Because of this fact, buying a timeshare from the resale market can save you thousands of dollars! A resale specialist can provide you with helpful information about the different types of timeshare ownership available, and can assist you in making an informed decision of which property will be meet your needs and lifestyle.

Westgate Smoky Mountains Resort in Gatlinburg Damaged by Wildfire

Wildfires have erupted throughout the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and torn through parts of Gatlinburg, causing millions in damage to properties throughout the area. The CEO of Westgate Resorts, has confirmed that the Westgate Smoky Mountains Resort is one of the timeshares that has suffered significant fire damage. Luckily, staff was able to fully evacuate the property as reported winds of up to 70 mph caused the wildfire to spread incredibly fast. Videos posted on social media outlets show people driving to escape the blaze with flames covering both sides of the roadway.

According to a Westgate representative, the property was occupied by almost a thousand guests when the evacuation order was given by authorities. Within hours, the embers driven by the high winds caused the first building to catch fire. By the time the fires burned down, sixty-nine buildings on the property had suffered fire damage.

A message from CEO David Siegel posted on the developer's website promised to rebuild:

"As many of you are aware, a massive wildfire has spread through Great Smoky Mountains National Park and into our resort and the City of Gatlinburg. The local authorities have evacuated the surrounding area and we are still assessing the impact. Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort & Spa has sustained substantial damage and will be temporarily closed while we complete a full assessment. Fortunately, there are no reported injuries or casualties at our resorts.
The resort will be closed until further notice and we will post more information as it becomes available. All existing reservations are being automatically cancelled through the end of the year– you will be receiving an email confirmation of your cancellation in the near future. As we determine the extent of the damage in the next few days, we will review future reservations and what we will be able to accommodate both at this resort while we reconstruct and at our other resorts.
We understand a lot of our owners have lots of questions and we will do our best to answer them as quickly as possible. In order to ensure your vacations remain as uninterrupted as possible, we will be waiving the developer exchange fee for all of our other Westgate resorts and encourage you to make your bookings at our other properties while we finalize our reconstruction plans. We have the resources and are committed to rebuilding this resort making it better than ever.
Thank you,
David A. Siegel"