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[2008] SDKath's guide to 5* platinum [merged]

SDKath

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SDKath’s Guide to getting from 0 to 5* for Less

(Please note that the Staroptions required for Elite status changed after the original article was written, and the numbers below are current as of March 13, 2012. When other numbers are mentioned in the text, please refer to the numbers directly below this statement. If they change again, I will promptly update the figures below, to minimize confusion. ;) DeniseM Moderator]

3 Star Elite = Interval ownership equivalent to at least 159,000 StarOptions

4 Star Elite = Interval ownership equivalent to at least 359,000 StarOptions

5 Star Elite = Interval ownership equivalent to at least 649,000 StarOptions

There are many different reasons to purchase (so many) TSs. One person’s goal is not necessarily another’s. Have a clear goal in mind before “investing” time and money. And don’t forget the impact of MFs on your plan, which will have to be paid year after year, long after the “deals” are made. To remain 5*, you cannot dip below 559,000 SOs, so your MFs will always be high (about $5000-$8000/year).
Here are a few reasons to become 5*:
1) I have a lot of free time and can vacation relatively easily. In this case, purchase where you want to go. This will eliminate the uncertainty of trading (via SVN or II) and will guarantee your happiness in case the system changes (or is devalued) in the future.​
2) I want to travel the world, I like the StarPoint system. Many folks here on TUG say this is a bad reason to go after 5* but I completely disagree. Using SPs to travel via the vast Starwood hotel network is a fantastic opportunity. You can stay as many days as you want, unlike the 7 day fix with TSing. You will be upgraded MOST of the time (no guarantees anymore) and some world class hotels are at your fingertip year after year. Europe is also well represented and going to Europe on US$ is not cheap these days! Plus, for every 20,000 SPs, you get 25,000 frequent flier miles. And as 5*, your SP conversion gets an automatic 10% bonus. That’s a great deal! In this case, get to 5* with the cheapest resorts possible (like me) and then convert to SPs or SOs. Look at the chart in the owner’s sticky of the current developer prices. It has the SPs listed. Some Orlando units come with very few SPs so try avoid those if this is your goal. I use the rule of thumb that about 20,000 SPs is one night of stay in a nice hotel. Some are more, some are less, but this is a good estimate.​
3) I want to rent most of my units and travel only occasionally. In this case, purchase at the highest demand rental locations. This includes prime ski weeks, Hawaii, St John and Harborside. Avoid Orlando as most weeks don’t even rent for their MFs. SBP rents well in the summer. The desert properties and PGA rent well in the spring, especially during spring training or a golf tournament (the Cubs train in Phoenix and the Mets by the PGA!).​
4) I want lots of StarOptions to use via SVN. Since an SO is an SO is an SO, purchase anyplace cheap with low MFs. Don’t buy a nice, expensive-view Hawaii property because your 148,100 SOs will be the same as my el cheapo Orlando units but with twice the MFs.​

So here is my step by step guide based on the many TUG posts I read and my personal experience completing this whole process just recently. Use the choices above to select the properties that interest you to make this plan meet your own needs.

1) Get some cash to play with. You will need about $25,000 that you can spend right away. The best is to apply for the Starwood Am Ex card and seek our sellers and closing companies that take it. That way you get your free SPs too. Then pay back the card right away if possible.​
2) Look for resale units that are worth 148,100 SOs. You will need to purchase 2 at least. This is key because when you “retro” a unit, you need to spend $20,000 with Starwood each time. You don’t want to retro a 81,000 SO resale because you still end up having to spend the same $20,000. Might as well get the biggest bang for the buck. Suggestions for these include:​
  • a. SMV ski week (good to rent too) , worth 148,100 SOs.
  • b. Lakeside Terrace ski week (also good rental). These are 129,800 SOs but cost less to buy
  • c. WMH platinum week 2BR LO, worth 148,100 SOs
  • d. SDO “true platinum” week worth 148,100 SOs (very hard to find)
3) Buy 2 of these resale units and close on them. You need to have them recorded and in your name with Starwood before you can do anything else. This takes about 2-3 months so prior planning is important. Starwood cannot retro anything for you until your name is on the unit! Also, per the newest rules, only 1 retro week per purchase. Even if you spend $120,000 on an OFD WKORV property, they will only retro 1 unit with the purchase. You CAN retro an EY week with an EOY purchase from Starwood as long as it's over $20,000.​
4) Optional, extra savings step: Look for a couple of resale units to “upgrade.” This means you buy a unit inexpensively on resale and Starwood gives you credit for the original purchase price (the price paid by original owner to Starwood). The units you choose for upgrading have to be in locations that Starwood is actively selling AND have reasonable resales so the choices are limited. Try to find units that are selling cheap now but were really pricy when first bought. My PGA 2BR non-LO cost me $500 on ebay but got me $15,000 credit toward a purchase! Options include:​
  • a. SBP, which is still actively selling in Palmetto phase
  • b. PGA, which allows upgrade to Cascades, it’s sister resort
  • c. Some limited WKORV and WKORVN inventory still available
  • d. SVV, which can upgrade to the non-M new phases of SVV (the M phases are sold out)
  • e. Note that St John takes about a year to close so I would avoid this unit as an upgrade.
  • f. Lagunamar cannot be upgraded last I heard due to Mexico ownership rules

Now here is the trick. The price between your resale unit that you are upgrading and the new purchase from Starwood has to have a price difference of $8000 in Orlando and $10,000 elsewhere. So if you got $15,000 credit for your PGA resale, the unit you buy from Starwood has to cost $25,000 at least to make it work. Look at the owner sticky with the current developer prices to help figure out which units would meet this criteria. For example, if I bought a PGA 2BR LO Platinum on resale ($19,000 original sales price and credit given to me), I would not have been able to upgrade it at all because the price difference would not have been big enough. I would recommend making an Excel spreadsheet of the different scenarios.

How do you find out what the original purchase price was? You can ask the seller (and hope he is honest) OR you can work with a good Starwood salesperson who is helping you with your journey to 5*land. They can look up the prices by unit number and the week it is deeded.

These upgrade units also have to be closed and in your name before you can do any upgrading. The resale units above are usually cheap ($500-$3000ish), thankfully. But it can save you substantial amounts of money. In the example above, my PGA saved me $14,500!
5) Now you are ready to go to Starwood and make your purchases. You need to be armed with your plan and your resale weeks, recorded with Starwood in your name:​
  • a. Your 148,100 retro units (2 of them at least)
  • b. Your “upgrade units (1-2 of them) if you chose to use this extra savings step

You should have already preselected the units you want to buy from Starwood (since your “upgrade” predetermines how you will be getting the credit). So you call up your friendly rep and offer to buy the new units and you are done. They will retro your resale units and upgrade your units at the same time! This process is a bit of work but can result in substantial savings.

6) A little known secret is that if you are close to getting 5*, you can have “phantom” SOs for free. Up to 30,000 SOs will be given to you to get you to your goal. Many people are just short of 559,000 SOs so this is a nice little deal to know about!​
7) Another little known secret is that you can upgrade one unit multiple times and retro multiple units at the same time. For example, you can purchase a lower season SBP on resale and upgrade it through Starwood current sales phase 2BR LO (and retro a 148,100 unit at the same time). Then, you can upgrade the current purchase (2BR LO SBP) to a 3BR LO at SBP (and retro ANOTHER 148,100 unit at the same time)! This can also be done at SVV, which also has 3BRs for sale, but be careful because inventory is not always readily available.​
8) A word of caution about retroing Hawaii and Caribbean properties: it appears that you have to spend $40,000 in Starwood purchases to retro one of these units, not $20,000. So be careful with the numbers. I would contact Starwood directly to get the latest rules on this.​

Here is an example of a VERY CHEAP upgrade, similar to what I did (total cost around $50,000):
  • 1) Buy WMH platinum 2BR LO resale worth 148,100 SOs
  • 2) Buy SDO platinum 2BR LO resale worth 148,100 SOs
  • 3) Buy PGA resale and upgrade to Cascades 2BR LO, worth 81,000 SOs AND retro WMH
  • (OR buy SBP resale and upgrade to new phase SBP, worth 96,000 SOs while retroing WMH)
  • 4) Buy 2 Fountains (selling for cheap right now) for $12,500 each and get 152,000 SOs (76,000x2) AND retro SDO at same time.
Here is an example of a MORE EXPENSIVE but simpler route with 4x 148,100 SO units, no upgrades, cost about $95,000, with more “superstar” properties in your portfolio:
  • 1) Buy Kierland platinum 2BR LO resale worth 148,100 SOs
  • 2) Buy WMH platinum 2BR LO resale worth 148,100 SOs
  • 3) Buy Steamboat 2BR LO (or any other 148,100 SO unit) from Starwood at full price and retro WKV . Usually comes with lots of SP incentives.
  • 4) Buy Lagunamar 2BR LO (or any other 148,100 SO unit) and retro WMH. Again, you’ll get lots of incentive points for your Starwood purchase.

What if you already own some SOs from previous developer purchases? Look to see how many SOs you need to get to 5* (559,000). If it is less than 106,000 SOs, buy one of the Fountains weeks currently for sale for $12,500 and ask for the 30,000 phantom SOs. That right now is the cheapest way to add SOs via the developer. No retro will be allowed in this case (price under $20,000) but this is a great deal anyway for those last 100,000 SOs to get you to your goal.

Thank you to Barbra (pointsjunkie) and Maria (myip) for all of their wonderful advice and help in putting this guide together!
Katherine (SDKath)
 
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GrayFal

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You remember the old Seinfeld Episode - where Elaine has to decide who is 'sponge worthy' ? (okay, the kids won't remember or GET this :D )

I think this could be 'stickie' worthy :hysterical: !

Well DONE! :cheer:
 

SDKath

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Luv that episode. ;) Thanks!

Feel free to post comments and suggestions to what I wrote. I know DUKE for example recommended buying EOY units and retroing resales that way, which also saves a lot of money.

But let's not discuss the merits of 5* on this thread. That has been discussed a LOT recently in other threads. Thank you, Katherine
 
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DeniseM

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This will definitely be a sticky - well done, Kath!

And yes, let's stick to feedback on Kath's article, in this thread.
 

Ken555

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Great info! Nice job, Katherine! :)
 

nodge

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Nice work Katherine!

Given SVO's tendency to amend its rules now and then, would you recommend getting someone at SVO on-board early, even before one's first resale purchases, or do you think these rules will be around a while?

All hail The Queen of working the SVO system.

-nodge
 
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SDKath

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Thanks! I got my rep involved early on because I needed to have an idea what was still available for sale. For example, I originally wanted to upgrade to WKV with a resale unit. But they are no longer selling them and even when they do have a unit come back, they refuse to give an upgrade credit. I would not have known this without the help of a good sales rep. That said, she really couldn't make anything happen in writing until my resales closed completely. Yes, the rules change quickly, although I have a feeling with the economy changing, they are unlikely to make any major changes in the near future.
 

lprstn

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I am impressed...

Thanks for walking through the process, as I never understood how to maximize my Starwood with other Starwood properties. Talk about working the system to maximize your TS...

Coodoos....:cheer:
 

TUGBrian

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let me know if you wanna make this an advice article =)
 

Denise L

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Wow, great job!

Kath,

Great job on the road to 5* Plat for life! It makes me want to find some money and try it, just to see if it works :D .
 

steve1000

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Katherine -

Great information!! Its a real eye-opener! I think many of us will want to consider these strategies further. Thanks so much!
 

ocdb8r

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So wait, a question about "upgrading." If I have a SBP (original phase 2bdrm) I want to upgrade to a 2br lock-off as well as a Vistana Cascades 2bdrm lock-off. Can my "upgrade" on SBP be used to re-qual Cascades and get both into SVN (even though I may only be spending $10K extra for the upgrade)?

C.
 

Bourne

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Katherine,

For a non SVO owner but a Starpoint and AA miles junkie, could you let me know how many Starpoints you are netting per year based on your personal example.
 

SDKath

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So wait, a question about "upgrading." If I have a SBP (original phase 2bdrm) I want to upgrade to a 2br lock-off as well as a Vistana Cascades 2bdrm lock-off. Can my "upgrade" on SBP be used to re-qual Cascades and get both into SVN (even though I may only be spending $10K extra for the upgrade)?

C.

If I have what you mean correct, then yes. You have a SBP original phase and will upgrade it to a SBP new phase 2BR LO purchase directly from Starwood. And at the same time you will retro your Cascades unit that you already own and purchased on resale? If that's the case, YES. No problem even though you are only spending $10,000 (the difference in the upgrade price) because the new SBP 2BR LO is more than $20,000. :)

Katherine
 

ocdb8r

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Wow, thanks so much SDKath. I always thought you had to SPEND $20K to retro a unit....I only have the SBP right now....off to find a resale week worth 148,100!
 

SDKath

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Katherine,

For a non SVO owner but a Starpoint and AA miles junkie, could you let me know how many Starpoints you are netting per year based on your personal example.

I have about 290,000 SPs each year (including the 10% bonus I just learned about -- thanks Duke) and MFs are about $5000 each year.

K
 

DeniseM

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OK - I'm Kath's Agent and all book, movie and record offers go through ME - understand? :hysterical:
 

steve1000

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4) Buy 2 Fountains (selling for cheap right now) for $12,500 each and get 152,000 SOs (76,000x2) AND retro SDO at same time.


Is the number of SOs correct? In looking at MyStar Central it appears that the SOs are either 81,000 for a 2 BR plat week or 67,100 for a 2 BR gold plus week. Which week is selling for $12,500?

Thanks.
 
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SDKath

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These are the newly "invited into SVN" Fountains units that are selling for $12,500 and the SOs are 76,000 each (2BR only, not LOs). By the way, if you want to really easily get to 5* and don't mind all Orlando weeks, just buy 7 1/2 of these units and you are there! That's 7 EY and one EOY unit. I think it's about $94,000 that way. The only problem is that you end up with all 2BR Orlando weeks. :doh: On the bright side, the MFs on these units are really nice and low (for now).

Or, buy 4 Fountains and retro a couple units at the same time. Again, cheap and quick but you need a couple resale units in your name to be able to retro them. Cost would be about $75,000ish this way.

K
 
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Henry M.

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Good post, Kath. Clear and concise. Thanks for taking the time to document all this.
 

Cathyb

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Kath: I believe when we stay in Starwood hotels (and other timeshare/hotels plans too), we don't pay all the high taxes/fees those hotels add to bills!! In London and Paris, we are talking mega-bucks!!!
 

pointsjunkie

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Kath: I believe when we stay in Starwood hotels (and other timeshare/hotels plans too), we don't pay all the high taxes/fees those hotels add to bills!! In London and Paris, we are talking mega-bucks!!!

that's if you pay with starpoints.
 

Gypsie

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Or, buy 4 Fountains and retro a couple units at the same time. Again, cheap and quick but you need a couple resale units in your name to be able to retro them. Cost would be about $75,000ish this way.

Does Starwood allow you to combine purchases (i.e., your multiple Fountains purchases) to reach the $20,000 minimum in order to requal your resale?

Thanks,
Gypsie
 
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