In the last couple of years, brokers who rent out Disney Vacation Club points have begun popping up all over the place. Briefly, Disney Vacation Club is Disney’s answer to the timeshare market: Owners buy points and then use those points for visits. When owners can’t use their points, Disney allows them to give them away or rent them out. Owners who don’t want to hassle with renters often choose points brokers. What points brokers offer across the board is pretty standard: You send the points broker your request and he matches you up with an owner and then does all the legwork for you.
Points brokers exist in a gray area as far as Disney is concerned. Let me say outright that what they’re doing is perfectly legal: There are no laws stopping individuals from acting as brokers between renters and owners. And Disney wants to allow owners the freedom to rent or give away their points as they please, a benefit which is very important. But Disney has, in recent years, taken steps to stop commercial renters and by extension, points brokers. One way they’ve done this is to limit the number of associates to four that you can have on your DVC contract. What this means is that only those four individuals may make reservations on that contract. The way points brokers get around it is that they don’t deal with Disney at all, just individual owners, so Disney is never aware of the transaction.
There are several advantages to using a broker: One, you have recourse through the broker if your owner flips out and cancels your reservation. To me, this is the main advantage of using a broker. Two, the broker has a relationship with the owner and he has, presumably, verified that the owner is an actual DVC owner. And three, the broker takes care of all the messier aspects of travel, like arranging your transportation (which he’ll do by going through the owner, since the owner is the only one who can do this) and making your dining reservations.
As noted above, the broker does not have access to your reservation. He’ll go through the owner for everything, so that means if the owner is slow to respond to emails, it’s a non-issue for you. It also means that Disney isn’t aware of the broker’s involvement, just the owner and the renter, so you won’t go to Disney if you have any complaints. Think of the broker as a silent partner in this transaction. You’ll never talk to the owner and your messages and concerns will all be delivered by the broker to him. This is what you’re paying $2 to $3 more per point for. On a 200 point reservation, that’s a nice sum of cash.
Conversely, if you rent directly from an owner you’ll need to verify that your owner owns DVC, which you can do through the Orange County website. You’ll need to ask for recommendations. And you’ll need to set up a solid contract (there are excellent examples available here) which will allow you some recourse in the event your owner does not hold up his end of the agreement. When it comes time to arrange Magical Express or add the dining plan, you’ll need to contact your owner. And finally, you’ll have to make your own dining reservations.
At first glance, it probably looks like working with a broker is a great deal, right? Except that verifying ownership, making arrangements with the owner for transportation, and making your own dining reservations takes a couple of hours, tops. There’s no advantage, for example, in having your broker make your dining reservations unless you have absolutely no desire to do them yourself; he has no more of an “in” than anyone else and he may not even be inclined to get up at 6:00 am at 180-days to do them. So it’s really an issue of whether or not paying an extra $2 to $3 per point more is worth the convenience of not having to take care of these things.
As I said earlier, the main advantage of using a points broker is having recourse against a bad owner. Plenty of things can go wrong when you rent DVC points; that’s why it’s cheaper than going through Disney directly. For example, take the extremely rare occasion where a DVC owner rents points but hasn’t paid his yearly maintenance fees. When that renter shows up to check-in, he won’t be allowed to do so until the owner–or someone–pays those fees. A call to your points broker can solve this type of problem easily and without dipping into your wallet. A broker, especially an established one who wants to maintain his good reputation, can save your vacation from going terribly wrong.
At the same time, this type of scenario is extremely unusual. Hundreds of owners rent out their points every year with zero complaints. The more common problem results when a renter has to cancel his vacation. The problem with renting DVC points is that once you’ve made the reservation, you’re locked in, not just to the sale but often to the exact date as well. Most brokers offer no recourse in those situations. Some owners will try to find a solution, particularly if you’ve addressed this issue in your contract. I recently had to move a DVC points rental and the owner was fantastic about changing the dates. I literally asked him the night before and my reservation was changed by noon the next day. If possible, talk to the owner about this type of scenario before you sign the contract.
What I’m going to write here won’t be very popular with some people, but I don’t like using points brokers to rent DVC points. For one, despite the fact that it may feel like a more secure transaction, brokers don’t give you any more protection in the event of cancellation than using an owner directly. Both individual owners and brokers can sell you insurance if you have to cancel, but you’ll pay a steep price for it.
Further, there’s the danger that unscrupulous brokers will partner up with equally unscrupulous owners to “buy up” certain popular weeks, such as Christmas. Availability for those weeks at DVC extremely scarce. You’d be hard-pressed to find a two-bedroom at Bay Lake Tower for a popular holiday week, even at the 7-month mark. There’s nothing to stop someone from making a reservation and sitting on it until closer to the travel date, and then renting it out for an exorbitant price. This type of practice hurts owners, particularly those renting at the 7-month mark (the point at which a DVC owner can rent at resorts that are not her “home” resort). Notice I said “unscrupulous brokers.” The vast majority of brokers are honest. But it does happen and I’ve seen it myself.
Finally, and perhaps more importantly, points brokers drive up the cost of renting DVC points. Most brokers charge between $12 – $13 per point. Your paying for the convenience of using their services and for those who want that, it’s worth the money. On average, they pay the owner $10 per point. Lately I’ve seen individual owners selling their points for the same amount as brokers. Now honestly, if the only price available for my resort is $13 from a private owner or $13 from a broker, you can bet I’m going through a broker. Better, yet, if there’s a discount I’m going to go through Disney directly because the cancellation policies are so much more friendly. Ultimately, if you’re going to take a risk, and anytime you rent points that’s exactly what you’re doing, that risk should be considerably cheaper than renting from Disney directly. Otherwise, it’s not worth it.