This question comes from Michael, who wants to know about renting Disney Vacation Club (DVC) points: “How does it work? When you rent points do you have to sign up for the DVC service? What other fees are there?”
David, renting points can save you a lot of money and it’s fairly easy, at least from the standpoint of the transaction itself. The most complicated issue is finding someone you trust to work with, but we’ll get to that later.
First, you don’t have to join DVC and there are no other fees. In fact, unlike other timeshare businesses where staying at their timeshare requires you to sit through a sales pitch, you’ll never be approached by Disney during your stay about joining DVC. Once you check in, Disney doesn’t treat you any differently than a regular DVC owner, so you’ll have access to Magical Express, the dining plan, Disney transportation, free parking and all the other benefits enjoyed by resort guests. You’ll even be greeted with a “welcome home” when you drive in the gate, something that may give you the warm fuzzies and make you think about buying DVC yourself.
Finding out how many points you need.
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 don’t have to worry about taxes). Points are higher on Fridays and Saturdays and during busier times of the year.
In general, I’ve found that renting points can get you a one-bedroom at most resorts for about the same cost as renting a standard room in a moderate resort (without discounts). Depending on the discounts available at the time, you’ll sometimes find that renting a DVC unit through Disney is actually cheaper than renting through an owner, but you’ll need about a 40% discount for this to be the case. The benefit of renting the same unit through Disney is that they have a much more favorable cancellation policy and you know who you’re renting from.
The cost per point is often in flux. DVC owners are smart. They know when Disney is offering discounts and they know when they need to adjust their prices. Prices are often higher farther out and at the better resorts during busier times of the year. Bay Lake Tower, as Disney’s newest DVC property, is more expensive than Saratoga Springs, for example, where you’ll almost always find availability. Boardwalk Villas during Food and Wine is nearly impossible to get, so expect to pay top price. And while it’s new and beautiful, the Villas at Animal Kingdom Lodge almost always have availability, possibly due to it’s location. While $10 per point is standard across the board, some owners advertise as low as $7 and as high as $13 per point. Points brokers usually charge $13 per point, even for less desirable resorts. Brokers often advertise last-minute rentals for around $7.
Having said this, I’ll be blunt: I’m not going to pay $13 per point for any resort unless I go through a broker. From what I’ve seen, owners who advertise on the higher end, say $12 and $13 a point, are much less likely to close a deal unless it’s for a really desirable time of year. My advice to you? Don’t pay that much unless you’re going at Christmas and want to stay at BLT or at Villas at Wilderness Lodge. And then, if you’re paying that much, go through a broker and save yourself some hassle.
One last thing about costs. If you’re willing to gamble, you can rent a guaranteed reservation close to your arrival date. Here’s how this works. A DVC member makes a reservation with the intention of going. At some point his plans change, but he is at the point where if he cancels, he’ll lose his points. His best bet is to rent out his points at a lower rate to someone who can travel on the spur of the moment. I’ve seen guaranteed reservations for as low as $5 per point, although $6 is more common. This situation works well if you have some flexibility and are open to trying different resorts. If you do this, you may want to consider having a backup reservation in case you don’t find a last minute rental.
Next, you’ll rent points.
There are two ways to rent points. 1) Directly through a DVC owner, and 2) through a points broker.
DVC owners rent out points for any number of reasons, as you can imagine. The result is beneficial to owner and renter alike and the vast majority of transactions go very smoothly. I don’t advise renting through Craigslist or Ebay; there’s just too much risk of fraud. My experience with owners looking to rent is from two places, the DVC boards at Disboards and Mouseowners, which is a website that specifically caters to all things DVC. There are other places out there but these seem to be the most active boards and the moderators, particularly at Disboards, are pretty quick to put a stop to outright high jinks. If possible, rent from posters with a high post count or who are long-term members.
Mouseowners has a very liberal policy for posting. Just post what you’re looking for, say a one-bedroom at Bay Lake Towers with your dates, and an owner will usually respond. They don’t have a problem with you “bumping” up your thread if necessary. You may also want to search for owners renting out points. Once you meet an owner who has the points you need and the price works for you, ask for references and if that checks out, you’ll draw up a contract and pay. Most private owners take bank checks or Paypal (with the 3% fee tacked on).
Disboards is a little more strict, but they also have many more owners and renters. I’ve also noticed that the owners there tend to have higher post counts than they do on Mouseowners, something that allows you to “get to know” the owner before you consider renting from them. I always check out a poster’s previous posts before I rent from someone. It’s not a guarantee, but a poster who’s formed relationships with his fellow DVC owners is more likely to want to safeguard that reputation. On Disboards, you’ll only be able to respond to the post of an owner who advertises points for rent, rather than putting up a post requesting to rent points. It’s really not a big deal, it just requires a bit more searching. If your concerned about posting rules, read the FAQs at the top of the page.
Being able to rent out your own points is one of the advantages of owning DVC and Disney doesn’t put limits on owners renting their points; they can do so every year if they wish. Professional 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. It’s a good system, but you’ll pay for the privilege, about $3 more a point.
For some people, it’s worth it to pay a few dollars more per point not to have to search for an owner and deal with the little stuff. A broker transaction generally goes pretty smoothly and if it doesn’t, it benefits the broker to fix the situation. Be aware that Brokers often have the harshest cancellation policies (no refund, no transfer), so while you’ll ostensibly have more protection from unscrupulous owners by using a broker, that’s where the protection ends. If you cancel, you’re out the entire amount. Most brokers can put you in touch with someone who can offer trip insurance, however.
Regardless of how you rent, the owner will have to arrange Magical Express and sign you up for the Dining Plan. Shortly after the owner makes the reservation in your name, she’ll give you your reservation number and you’ll be able to verify your reservation on the DVC reservation website. Make sure you use the DVC reservation verification, not the regular resort verification which won’t recognize your reservation and potentially cause needless worry. You’ll also need to verify the resort check in date and the resort you’ll be staying at. When you go to make your advanced dining reservations online, you’ll want to add that reservation number under “My Disney Vacation” so that you can make your ADRs at the 180 + 10 mark.
DVC owners can make reservations at their home resort at 11-months out. They can make reservations at all other DVC resorts at 7-months out. If you have your heart set on a specific resort, contact an owner of that resort prior to 11-months. This is particularly critical if you want to visit during the busier times of the year.
Once you find someone you want to rent from, you’ll discuss fees, cancellation policies and draw up a contract. You’ll also be doing your best to verify that your owner is trustworthy. Don’t be afraid to negotiate a lower rate than the owner advertised. If everything is agreeable, the owner will make a reservation in your name and verify with you that this happened (some owners will send a page snapshot, for example). In most cases, you’ll have 24-hours to send the entire amount due. Some owners ask for everything up front, by the way. In these cases, you’ll have to decide how much risk you’re willing to take.
Make sure that the owner puts everyone who’ll be staying in the unit on your reservation when he makes it. Since you can’t contact DVC member services directly, it can be difficult to add family members later. No less than two weeks before you arrive, have the owner make arrangements for Magical Express and the dining plan. You’ll pay for the dining plan when you check in, so no money needs to change hands between you and the owner at this point. Once you check in, the reservation is yours and you’ll be treated as if you made it yourself.
First, I just want to say that the vast majority of point rentals go very smoothly. I’ve only heard of a few transactions that went bad and I’m pretty involved in the DVC community. That’s not to say it doesn’t happen. One thorny issue that’s cropped up lately (admittedly, this is very rare) is how to deal with an owner who is in the process of bankruptcy when you’ve already renting points from him. If the court takes this asset, you’re pretty much out of luck. This is why knowing your owner is essential. Require references and check them out.
The benefit of going through a broker is that they know the owners they work with. Ideally, they’ve worked with these owners in the past. They’ve verified that they own DVC. They also pay the owner in installments, so there’s less chance that an owner could cancel your reservation at the last minute, leaving you without a place to stay and worse, taking your money in the process.
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 read and understand 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, for example, transferring your reservation to another renter for a small penalty. Cancellation is the biggest risk of renting points.
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.
Mouseowners. Lots of information for renters, including contract examples and floorplans of every style of DVC unit.
DVC by Request. Probably the most well-known points broker out there. Tons of good recommendations. The owner is active on both Mouseowners and the Disboards. Check out his last-minute specials newsletter for really good deals if your travel dates are flexible.
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.’
I also like The DVC Life, a blog devoted to all things DVC.
I hope this helps. Thanks for reading and for your question.
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