Timeshare Pros and Cons
As with anything in life, buying a timeshare has its pros and cons. At RedWeek.com, we are in the timeshare business, so we obviously find value in timeshares. However, we are focused on consumer education and we do not want anyone to make a purchase without fully understanding both sides of the story. Timeshare ownership may not be best for your lifestyle. The material below may help you decide.
Long-term savings over hotels
The basic timeshare concept is simple: you pay a one time purchase fee that entitles you to a week every year (or sometimes every other year) at a resort. Instead of renting your vacations, you now own them. Due to the upfront costs, and the fact that the majority of timeshares do not appreciate like normal real estate, the cost savings is in future vacations.
Here's an example:$1,400
$42,000Your weekly cost for a hotel room*
Number of years of vacationing
Total cost in today's dollars**
** Before inflation
With a timeshare, let's assume you find a deal on RedWeek.com for $8,000 with an annual maintenance fee of $550. Your equation becomes:$550
$24,500Your annual maintenance fee
Years of vacationing
Total maintenance fees*
Upfront purchase price
Total cost in today's dollars**
** Before inflation
Using this calculation, you could pay as much as $25,500 upfront for a timeshare and break even with comparable hotel vacation costs. This is more like the high end new sales prices of timeshares sold today.
Most timeshare units have floor plans that closely resemble two bedroom, two bathroom condos or apartments, usually with an additional sleeper sofa in the living room. Timeshare unit sizes vary from studios to four bedrooms, allowing plenty of room for families.
Anyone who has been on a vacation with children or groups of friends can tell you that hotel accommodations are not ideal. There are some hotel chains that offer suites, but they are often difficult to find, and two or more bedrooms are hard to come-by. Adjoining hotel rooms are often much more expensive, and usually lack the living, dining, kitchen, and laundry amenities that make your vacation more convenient and affordable. In addition, timeshares come stocked with kitchen utensils, dishes, silverware, etc.. But, unlike your typical rental home, no need to pack sheets and towels.
Real property ownership
If you buy a "deeded" timeshare, you are buying real property. You can give it away, will it to your heirs, rent it, sell it, and so on. Not all timeshares are sold today with deeds. You will need to look carefully at the contract you are offered.
Ability to exchange
Exchange is consistently a top reason people buy into timeshare. When you own a timeshare, you have the ability to exchange for another resort. On RedWeek.com, you can exchange with our partner Dial An Exchange (DAE). You can also buy a membership with one or both of the more traditional exchange companies, Resort Condominiums International (RCI) and Interval International (II), if your resort has an affiliation. To be fair, this Pro also made our Cons list below.
Learn more about exchanging on RedWeek.com with DAE »
Americans are notorious for giving up vacation time. When you buy a timeshare, you're making a significant upfront investment and may be more motivated to take valuable time with your family annually. If you buy an annual fixed week, you are guaranteed that same week each year at a resort you are familiar with, and don't have the hassle of vacation planning year after year. It is a fact that timeshare owners are more likely to use their vacations than those who don't own. Again… a lifestyle decision to build memories with your family and friends.
If unexpected circumstances arise, or you simply cannot take your vacation one year, timeshares afford other options. You can bank your timeshare with one of the timeshare exchange companies (each of which require memberships to do so). Keep in mind there may be restrictions on how long you can push your vacation off before you lose your week altogether, and there are fees associated with doing so.
Your other option is to rent your timeshare on RedWeek and use your cash when you can take your vacation. Posting a rental price at or just above the cost of your maintenance fee will usually find you a renter quickly, and help you cut your losses for that year. Read more about the process of renting your timeshare.
Less maintenance than a vacation home
If you're trying to decide between purchasing a vacation home or a timeshare, there are some important characteristics of timesharing that you will want to consider:
- Pay only for the time you use. If you only plan to use a few weeks a year, why keep an expensive vacation home vacant during the time you're not there? Timeshare is most frequently sold in one week intervals, but there are more options now than ever before, like "fractionals," allowing you some flexibility if you prefer longer vacations.
- Lower upfront costs. While vacation homes can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, timeshares are much more reasonable. Many timeshares can be found on RedWeek.com for a few thousand dollars.
- Lower maintenance costs on an annual basis. With a timeshare, you are literally sharing time with other travelers. As such, the maintenance fees are also shared and obviously will be much less than keeping a vacation home year-round.
- Already decorated and furnished. Timeshares come fully furnished, saving you thousands of dollars on the furnishings and decor you would need to purchase for a vacation home. They typically come with appliances, both large and small (think toasters, coffee makers, blenders). They also have almost all of the cooking utensils, plates, glasses, cups, and silverware needed for a normal home-like vacation.
- Location flexibility. Unless your vacation home is an RV, you will get more location flexibility with a timeshare using exchange options.
- Resort facilities. With a timeshare resort, you have access to amenities you may not have otherwise been able to afford, such as gyms, pools, spas, on-site restaurants and bars, tennis courts, child care and activities, golf, and so on.
Reputation of unethical players and scams
Most of the major industry players value their brand's reputation more than the sale, and many have committed to standards of ethics in recent years. An organization to which we belong, ARDA (American Resort Development Association) includes most major timeshare businesses today and members subscribe to a set of consumer-friendly ethics rules. However, timeshare has an unfortunate reputation of being associated with hard sales pitches and sneaky sales techniques similar to the notoriety of used car sales. While these horror stories are few and far between these days, as with any industry, there occasionally still are unethical salespeople trying to do whatever it takes to bring home their commission. That is why it is important to do the homework you are doing right now.
Before walking into a situation where you know there will be a pitch, educate yourself on timeshare and go into it with an understanding of the pros and cons and what makes financial sense for your family's lifestyle. Research the resort and management company to be aware of any outstanding complaints. If you end up changing your mind after the purchase, most states have "rescission period" laws that allow you to cancel the sale within two or three days.
Although there are timeshare plans that afford more flexibility than others, some people feel nothing is quite as flexible as being able to decide when and where you go each year, in the more traditional methods of travel planning. If you want a holiday week, you may not be able to trade your timeshare for it, because there are many timeshare owners hoping for the same week. You also may not be able to decide last minute that you want to use your timeshare in a certain location.
If you buy a floating week timeshare, you will have more flexibility in when you use the timeshare, but availability is given on a first-come, first-served basis. So, planning farther in advance serves you better.
Ability to exchange
Though exchange is an attractive reason for purchasing a timeshare, your "trading power" and the trade opportunities available to you, will depend on what you buy.
There is also a cost consideration here - if you're buying a timeshare for exchange ability, you'll want to pay close attention to these as well. Most exchange companies have annual membership fees + exchange fees involved when you actually do the exchange. There might also be fees for allowing someone else to use your unit.
When you pay an upfront fee for something that is most valuable in the long-run, your money is tied up. You are not able to invest that money in other areas, and you are contractually obligated to pay maintenance fees for as long as you own it, so there is no quick way to get your money if you need it. Additionally, if you use financing, you will be paying interest, which needs to be worked in to your calculations when figuring your purchase price and cost versus benefit.
Timeshares do not appreciate
While most timeshares can be considered deeded real estate, it is important to remember that a timeshare should not be considered a money-making investment. If you bought a timeshare directly from a resort developer, about 50 percent of the price you paid went to their marketing costs in selling it to you - costs such as the salesperson's commission, the mailers, phone calls, prizes, sales booths, and other activities that went into getting you to buy. Remember, they spent this money on people who did not buy, too. Rather than thinking of a timeshare as a real estate investment, it is better to think of it as a purchase such as a car that may likely depreciate in value.
May be difficult to resell
As we have said, the value in timesharing is in the long term. Once you've paid the upfront fee, if you can afford the yearly maintenance and actually use your timeshare, you are better off holding on to it. RedWeek.com is proud of its high success rates, but we cannot promise that there always will be a buyer wanting to purchase what you have to offer, so selling timeshares on the resale market sometimes can be difficult.
In addition, some developers include clauses into timeshare purchase contracts that may restrict your ability to sell on you own - requiring they get right of first refusal, commissions on your sales price even if they do not sell it for you, and so on. Before purchasing a timeshare from a developer, be sure to ask about their resale policies.
Maintenance fees and special assessments
Maintenance fees cover the grounds and housekeeping services, utilities, insurance, on-site management, keeping facilities and appliances up and running, applicable real estate taxes, replacing broken items, and reserves for major improvement projects such as remodeling, new roofs, and so on. They vary greatly based on resort location, unit size, and amenities. They are assessed and paid annually, so therefore are an important part of the value equation when considering a timeshare purchase. Unfortunately, it is often difficult to factor them in, since they are not a constant. Because the cost of goods and services goes up every year, and resorts may change management companies, maintenance fees have been known to increase up to 4 percent in a single year. A well-managed resort needs to spend money to retain the value of your purchase.
The maintenance fee is very likely to be lower than what you spend on a hotel room. However, if you are worried about the fee, consider taking simple precautions before you buy. Ask to see what the maintenance fees have been in past years so you can make an educated guess about what the increases might be, based on historical data. Ask the seller whether the management company has capped the amount by which the maintenance fee can increase annually.
Assessment fees happen in special cases where something at the resort needs to be fixed, and the cost exceeds the maintenance fee reserves. These may be a new roof, repair from major storms (which insurance usually covers), and so on. You should also check with the seller to see if the contract will contain provisions protecting you from surprise assessment fees.
If you have never been to a timeshare resort, take advantage of some of the fantastic deals on RedWeek.com and rent a timeshare week first. This will give you the opportunity to get a feel for the type of accommodations and help you determine whether a timeshare purchase is for you. While you're at the resort, speak with owners about their experiences. Be sure to also read our Buy a Timeshare article for more information on options available, and then check out timeshare resale deals on RedWeek.com. Sometimes due to personal circumstances for owners, resales can be priced for as little as the cost of a one-week rental! In addition, some timeshare owners and developers will credit the rental price towards a purchase, if you decide to buy after your stay. Make sure to ask whether this is an option.
Most of all, be sure to enjoy your vacation. To buy or not is totally up to you. New good deals occur on RedWeek.com all of the time. Making an informed purchase decision will serve you and your family best.
There are extraordinary values in timeshare resales today due to decades of problems in the ability to market them by the owners. The Internet, and RedWeek in particular, has changed this. But there is a larger supply today making this largely a buyer's market.
New timeshares are being built with increasingly upscale furnishings and amenities. You will see huge, successful brand names getting totally involved with this market… like Marriott, Starwood, Hyatt, and Disney. There are good reasons that over $10 billion in timeshares are sold every year. If you buy, you are joining a very happy bunch of vacationers.
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