Timeshare Tips: Buying a Vacation Property
If you like the thought of owning a slice of paradise, it might be worthwhile to consider a timeshare. These are vacation properties that you share with others and can enjoy for a specific period of time — often one week each year. Timeshare ownership can be an appealing opportunity, but the purchase does come with a few complexities. Read on for some timeshare tips.
Understand the Options
Timeshares come in different forms. In a "deeded" timeshare, people personally own a fraction of a specific, often high-end unit. If they purchase one week per year, for instance, they own 1/52 of the property; others own the rest.
There are also "right to use" arrangements. With these, owners buy the ability to access a unit for a period of time, but the developer owns the property. These contracts often have an expiration date.
There are also a number of resort companies that put their own spin on the concept of shared vacation ownership by offering "vacation club" memberships that run on a points system.
Timeshare programs generally allow owners to participate in an exchange system to spend their allotted time in a place that is different from their "home" property. Take the time to weigh the pros and cons of each type and make sure that, whatever option you choose, it fits your lifestyle and budget.
Consider Your Calendar
Owners can often choose between a fixed week or a floating week. With the fixed option, owners visit the property at the same time each year. Having that guarantee can reduce the stress of planning and is advantageous during peak vacation times when accommodations may be hard to find otherwise.
With floating weeks, owners reserve a stay during a designated time period, rather than a specific week. This is optimal for those who need flexibility about timing, but as there could be competition among owners for a particular time slot, it does require planning in advance.
Calculate the Costs
In 2018, the average sales price per timeshare interval was $22,180, according to the American Resort Development Association (ARDA). However, many factors can affect the price, including a unit's size and location. Owners also typically pay annual maintenance fees, which averaged $980 in 2017, according to ARDA. In addition, timeshare owners often encounter fees for exchanges, and they may need to pay property taxes, as well.
One way to significantly reduce the cost of a timeshare is to buy a "resale" from owners who want to sell. You can contact a licensed resale broker who specializes in timeshares or find online listings from sellers on sites like the Timeshare Users Group or RedWeek.
Be Realistic About Selling
If you do buy a timeshare and have initial regrets, you can usually cancel the contract within a short window of time.
Beyond that, offloading a timeshare can be difficult, and those who do commonly sell it for less than they bought it for. Some owners become so desperate to be unshackled from maintenance fees that they're willing to practically give away their interest. An assortment of timeshares are on sale for $1 or less in the Bargain Basement ads of the Timeshare Users Group, for example.
Unfortunately, scammers often prey on people who want to sell their timeshares. They may ask for an upfront fee to connect sellers with a buyer, but then never actually deliver an interested party. Make sure to do your research and watch out for any red flags, like the upfront fee.
Resist the Impulse Buy
Many people are talked into buying a timeshare during high-pressure sales presentations they attend while on vacation.
Like any big purchase, especially one that can be hard to sell, it's worth taking the time to read the contract. You should also determine how much it would cost you to stay in similar accommodations if you simply rented them yourself. Also, compare financing choices. Many developers who sell timeshares will offer to finance at a higher interest rate than you could attain at your bank for a personal loan.
Notably, both ARDA and the Federal Trade Commission say you shouldn't think of timeshares as investments. For a good return, measure them instead in terms of family fun.