Revisiting The Disney Vacation Club

The Disney Vacation Club and How It Works

Forward: We purchased a membership in DVC back in 2009 and the truth is our experience is somewhat unique. Generally there are three options for acquiring DVC memberships; you can purchase “points” directly from Walt Disney, you can buy someone else’s points (usually through a broker) or you can inherit them*.

Approaching The Magic Kingdom at dusk

In 2008 the American real estate market collapsed, devastating the value in virtually everyones home or investment properties. DVC didn’t escape the blood bath as people rushed to recover the cash value out of their vacation points for a number of reasons. One was because they had bought DVC using a loan and they needed out. We took advantage of the situation buying points in 2009 at almost half the normal resale price. There was so much selling going on that even Disney couldn’t keep up their option of “first refusal”.

Soon Disney took steps to devalue the resale points. A couple of years after our purchase in an attempt to make resale points less appealing, Disney changed the rules. Starting in 2012 resale points were no longer eligible for any of the add-on benefits like the parties. Fortunately our points were grandfathered in.

Jumping forward to 2022 we decided to sell our DVC membership for a number of reasons**! Listing with a DVC broker we priced our points at the low end of the price range and within a couple of months we had an offer. We still sold for 182% of our purchase price. Buying our 170 points directly from Disney today would cost $34,000. Annual dues now run a little over $1,000 per year.

We know a number of friends that have other vacation time shares and most are very unhappy with the value they have received along with the increasing costs. For the past thirteen years (2020 was out because of Covid) we have spent between one and two weeks per year at Disney properties for a total net cost to us of just over $4,000. Not a bad deal at all.


History

In 1991 Disney created a time share property known as the Disney Vacation Club Resort. It opened on December 20, 1991 at Walt Disney World after Disney had registered its time share plan. It was renamed Disney’s Old Key West Resort in January, 1996.

On March 30, 1993 Disney Vacation Development unveiled plans for a 440-unit time-share resort 95 miles south-east of Walt Disney World in Florida. Ground breaking was on July 28, 1994 at the Disney’s Vero Beach Resort with opening on October 1, 1995. After the Vacation Club Resort at Vero Beach, Florida, Disney would then open Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort five months later on March 1, 1996.

Epcot Flower and Garden Show

DVC had a major impact on how “time share resorts” operated. A number of the major corporate operators changed their rules to be more in line with DVC and often laws were adopted in many states governing time shares. Often a time share was sold as an open ended contract where buyers could be locked into ownership forever. There were often little limits on the growth of management fees and assessments.

Properties

From 1996 on the character of the Disney Vacation Club (DVC) changed and the addition of resort properties exploded. Today the DVC is based on a point system and a “home resort” that includes the following resorts:

Disney Land Resort

  • The Villas at Disneyland

Disney World Resorts

  • Bay Lake Tower
  • Animal Kingdom Villas
  • Beach Club Villas
  • BoardWalk Villas
  • Polynesian Villas & Bungalows
  • The Villas at Grand Floridian
  • The Villas Reflections – Lakeside Lodge
  • Boulder Ridge Villas
  • Copper Creek Villas and Cabins
  • Exclusively DVC Resorts
  • Old Key West Resort
  • Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa
  • Riviera Resort

Off Property Resorts

  • Vero Beach Resort Florida
  • Hilton Head Island Resort, South Carolina
  • Aulani Hawaii

How The Club Works

The DVC is based on buying points and not a specific date of use. Once you buy the points you are free to use them to make reservations at any of the resorts and you can make bookings seven months in advance or eleven months for your “home resort***”. The number of points for a night vary by resort and by season but range from a low of around 20 points per night usually for a single room accommodation to above 70 points. The membership in the DVC is also not open ended and will an expiration date that varies by the home resort (usually 40 to 50 years). When you buy a membership you are actually buying a specific “home resort”. Each year there is an assessment against the membership based on your home resort to cover operating costs, maintenance and taxes and varies on the home resort selected (on average the fee seems to run between $5 and $8 per point).

Unlike many time share resorts there is an active resale market in DVC points that allows you to recover a sizable percentage of the original cost should you want out and sell. Disney does retain a right of first refusal on all resales and they have been known to use it in order to protect the value of the systems points. That just means that Disney has the right to step in and buy your points.

Most of the resorts have a selection of accommodations available from a studio (similar to a standard hotel room) to two and three bedroom apartments. The point cost represents the size, location (view) and season (summer tends to be high as well as Christmas while January is often the lowest).

Additional DVC Perks

Being a DVC member does come with some additional benefits. Members usually get a 10% discount at restaurants and shops at Disney World and there are discount offers at times on park tickets along with a number of special events. Starting around the Disney World 25th Anniversary they began to offer free members parties after the parks close including the water parks. It was planned to be a special anniversary year program but it was so popular that they continued it year after year. In 2018 for example there were five parties (each theme park and one water park) that included live entertainment, free food and most rides were open. The parties usually start when the parks close and go to Midnight or 1:00 AM. If you are considering buying a resale membership, Disney has begun to restrict some benefits to resale memberships purchased after specific dates. You should check and make sure you understand the new terms of use before you buy.

Buying Disney Vacation Club In 2023

If you are looking to buy a considerable number of points there is a work around that can save you some money. Currently the minimum point purchase from Disney is 75 points with points costing $200 each. That means a minimum buy-in of $15,000. If you pick your favorite resort for your direct from Disney purchase of 75 points and pick a less expensive resort for buying resale you end up with the best deal possible. For example, 175 points could be $27,000 for a savings of $8,000.

As of January 2023 all DVC resorts at Walt Disney World Resort have the same direct price but a range of prices for the resale market. Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas direct from Disney are $200 per point but about $134 at resale. Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort direct from Disney is $200 per point and about $127 resale. Disney’s Old Key West Resort is $200 per point direct from Disney and about $120 resale.

*If you or a relative own points and have the intention of leaving them to their family in a will you need to be aware of an issue. Disney considerers inheriting points to be the same as selling so your heirs will not get the add-on benefits. To avoid that relatives can be added to a membership now and will retain those benefits when one of the family “owners” die.

**One of our reasons for deciding to sell was the increasing difficulty finding the reservations we want. It seems that the more DVC rooms they add the tighter the availability becomes, which strikes us as odd. Over the years we have made family reservations at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort in September. It’s a favorite of our grandchildren and we celebrate birthdays there, but in 2021 we couldn’t get two rooms for the same date and had to stagger the dates in the reservation. In 2022 we couldn’t get any reservations at all the day our opportunity opened. We are also very fond of Animal Kingdom Resort and were in the habit of going often for just one or two nights with short notice – it’s been almost impossible to get spur of the moment reservations over the past few years.

**The second reason is the added issues with getting into the parks (reservations required and park hopping is impossible) and the terrible changes in the “fast pass” concept. Now it’s the Genie or Genie+ and it’s all linked to a cellphone app. The system now has a premium price and doesn’t seem to deliver any benefit.

*** When you go to buy your DVC membership you must first select a “home resort”. If you are buying directly from Disney the cost is the same per point (in 2022 tat is $200 per point) for each resort. In buying as a resale each resort has a different price depending on the popularity. After you own a resort the annual fees are calculated based on each resorts costs. Your “home resort” also allows you to make reservations at eleven months before your needed date instead of seven months for all other resorts.

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