Keep in mind that II now charges a double lockoff fee if you are exchanging into a larger unit.
Used to be that an owner would split their 2BR into a 1BR+Studio, deposit both and try to exchange into, say, Waiohai which only has 2BR.
So many people gamed the system that II is charging extra for such a thing.
Bottom line is that while buying a low MF property for the purpose of exchanging up every year is great in theory, but the rules are always changing. That method will definitely not be sustainable going forward.
Back when I was doing that, we owned a Platinum Desert Springs Villas II. It had annual MF of about $1000. At the time it was considered to be a pretty powerful trader.
We then bought a Silver Willow Ridge, with MF of only about $570. This one commands ZERO power. For the DSV II, we always reserved President's week to increase the power.
Trades we got:
DSV II (2BR) --> Ko Olina (2 BR) in July (got trade 7 months out)
DSV II (1BR) --> Maui Ocean Club (1 BR) in July (got trade 5 months out)
DSV II (St) --> Maui Ocean Club (St) in July (got trade 3 months out)
Willow (2BR) --> Ko Olina (1 BR) in July (got trade 3 months out)
Willow (St) --> Ko Olina (St) in July (during Flexchange)
DSV II (1BR) --> Kauai Beach Club (1BR) in July (got trade 6 months out)
DSV II (St) --> Kona Coast Resort II (1BR) in July (got trade 6 months out)
If I stopped by just showing you the above exchanges (which LOOK GREAT), I'd be doing what a slimy salesperson does. Not telling you the rest of the story...
1. Trading into Hawaii in the summer is extremely difficult. All of the above requests were done as far in advance as II would allow.
The first few were "Request First", but as time went on, we Deposited our weeks, so they were "Deposit First" (which supposedly increases trading power).
2. Some of these trades we done by me waking at 5AM PST every day to get onto the site to see newly released inventory that was snatched up within 2 minutes. I snagged Maui that way. But it was an incredible PITA.
3. With the exception of Kona Coast, all of our requests were Marriott --> Marriott exchanges. Those have higher priority than Marriot --> non-Marriott. This means if you were looking to trade into non-Marriotts your results may be worse.
4. While waiting for all of these trades, we had to deal with frequent calls from II saying we were asking for unrealistic exchanges, or telling us they had this (really crappy) property to trade for if we wanted. So many false alarms when II would call.
5. One "perk" II has is that they offer you Accommodation Certificates when you deposit your week before a certain time. These are very restricted. Don't expect to see any HI availability, and no peak time availability anywhere else. They are basically a slightly cheaper version of Getaways, except they have an expiration date. We have about 6 expired ACs that we never found a use for.
5. MOST IMPORTANTLY - This is not showing all of the exchanges that we did NOT get. Only about 4 years are shown above. One year we stayed on Big Island, Maui, and Oahu simply because our exchanges forced us to island hop. That cost us a ton of money. Once you accept a trade, you can't give it back. So think about the arrival day for a two week stay somewhere. Let's say the first week you get has a Saturday arrival. Now you are waiting for a trade into the next week and all they have is a Friday arrival. That means you have two reservations overlapping. So now you get to change your airline return day or get a hotel room for a night. Exchanging is NOT a good way to get consecutive weeks. When you make a request, it will be for a bunch of different possible resorts. Ranging from most desirable to "well, I guess if we had to". When they call you and say they have the least desirable available, what do you do? Accept it and wonder if a better one would have come along? Or do you reject it and roll the dice? We had several years where we simply did not get any exchange offers and had to rent last minute. So what did we do with the weeks we deposited and couldn't exchange? Well, once you reach Flexchange time, your deposited week has pretty much ZERO power relative to anyone else's, because during Flex anything that is available can be pulled by anything (and the pickings are slim). Sure, you can pay to extend the deposit. It will still have ZERO power regardless of what you paid for the MF. You can't rent it anymore because you turned it over to II and they gave it to someone. I think I used one or two of those zero power weeks to trade to Orlando in the off season (easiest thing in the world to trade into). So I traded a week with $500 MF + an exchange fee for a week at a place I could have stayed at for $350 on a Getaway. Kinda sucks. But they don't tell you about that scenario in the sales pitch.
Look, I've been EXACTLY where you are now, asking the exact same questions. You can probably still search and find the threads I started. Almost same title as yours. Everyone told me the same reality I'm telling you. I didn't listen. I wish I had. But I sincerely wish you luck in what you choose.
We own at our dream destination. If we want to go elsewhere, we rent it out for a profit and rent into the place we want to go. We get to vacation on OUR terms, not II's