Thanks to Weak Yen, Japanese Timeshare Owners In Hawaii are Screwed

Thanks to Weak Yen, Japanese Timeshare Owners In Hawaii are Screwed

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Hawaii - timeshare problems
Picture: Canva
The weak yen means many Japanese people can't easily travel abroad. That's left those who bought timeshares in Hawaii losing money, as they now hold expensive contracts they can neither use nor sell.

The weak yen in Japan has made it more expensive for Japanese citizens to travel abroad. That’s impacting popular tourist destinations like Hawaii, long a favorite of Japanese travelers. It’s especially hitting Japanese people who bought into expensive timeshare schemes and now can’t use their purchases.

He bought a dream and is ready to sell it

Picture: まちゃー / PIXTA(ピクスタ)

An Osaka male, 72, purchased the property rights to a hotel room in Waikiki, Hawaii for a one-week per year timeshare at the price of about 5 million yen (currently USD $31,800) in 2011.

He was shopping at a mall when he was invited to a hotel’s presentation for its timeshare offerings, which “inspired a dream” he says. His long love for Hawaii factored in, of course. However, the exchange rate of a strong yen was a big motivator, too. At the time, one US dollar was 75 yen.

The timeshare let him travel with his family to Hawaii about 10 times and use membership points on trips in Japan.

His travel days came to a halt in 2020 when the pandemic sent the world into lockdown. Japan was among the last to reopen its borders to foreign visitors and ease restrictions. Despite this, its tourism industry has made a remarkable comeback today.

Still, with travel returning to normal, he can’t travel due to a severe illness that’s taken a toll on his physical health.

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Although circumstances kept him away from enjoying his timeshare in Waikiki, he continued to pay the maintenance fee. That burden has increased due to a weak yen economy and inflation. Now, he pays over 300,000 yen (USD ) yearly for a room he no longer uses.

That’s why, he says, “I finally decided to sell it.”

Eager seller, no buyers

He’s ready to part with the timeshare. However, there’s one problem. No buyers are ready to take the room off his hands.

Japanese are uninterested in buying timeshares in Hawaii because the yen is too weak to afford. Americans are uninterested in Waikiki because the location is crammed with high-rise hotels, which is not the nature they came to see.

The man and his wife, 67, consulted their hotel, which said it “has no desk in charge” of selling timeshares. So, instead, the couple turned to a real estate agency in Hawaii, which was just as useless.

Their timeshare conundrum was just one of hundreds of similar complaints the agency has heard. “There are months during which only one property sells for every 100 on sale,” the agency said.

The man’s wife tells reporters, “I would sell it for just 100 USD. Although we made fun memories with the timeshare, it’s wearing us out to continuously pay for the maintenance fee as we live on a pension. I can’t believe how hard it is to sell it.”

Timeshares in Hawaii don’t sell in Japan now

Picture: まちゃー / PIXTA(ピクスタ)

Timeshares are available worldwide in major hotel chains like the Hilton, Marriott, and Disney.

In Hawaii, a property’s timeshare cost ranges between 2 million to 20 million yen ($12,700 to 127,186 USD). That’s cheaper than buying a vacation condo, according to the Kujira Club, a real estate agency specializing in timeshares and resells. The timeshare offers mainly comprise 1LDK or 2LDK rooms and are suitable for long-stay visitors.

Buying a timeshare means that users are exempt from paying accommodation fees, meaning they get more bang for their buck the longer they stay. Approximately 100,000 Japanese use timeshares in Hawaii. Many companies buy as a corporate body and use it as an employee benefit.

However, the Kujira Club says that it’s seen an explosion of inquiries from timeshare owners wanting to sell since the yen began to drop to unprecedented levels. The agency had to pause some of its mediation cases during months when it struggled to handle around 100 sales.  

“I’ve been in this industry for 24 years but never experienced anything like this,” CEO Nakayama Takashi, 57, says.

Maintenance fees are the killer

According to Nakayama, the main reasons driving his clients to sell are ageing and the burden of maintenance fees.

Although it depends on the grade and location of a timeshare, in Hilton’s case, the maintenance fee ranges between 300,000 and 400,000 yen ($1,907 to $2,543 USD). Inflation, which has caused land prices to rise 15 % with the yen compared to pre-pandemic years, has created a panic to sell and an aversion to buy.

That is why timeshares are selling for desperately low, as much as one-third of initial prices.

Still, the Kujira Club only sells tens of properties among the thousands of cases it handles. Some of its clients have been waiting for three years for buyers to come around.

“Although the accommodation fees for hotels in Hawaii are rising, the high-value timeshares aren’t selling at lowered prices. These properties would ideally sell for higher prices but if buyers can’t keep up, they’ll close. As the yen continues to be weak, the future is unpredictable,” Nakayama says.

Sources

ハワイのリゾート「タイムシェア」が売れない 頭を抱える日本人続出. 朝日新聞

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