The Truth about Timeshares
Timeshares: Vacation Paradise?
Talk to us about "time share" vacation packages! Are they a good deal? Do they really follow through on all they appear to offer? I'd like to hear from people who've actually purchased and used them, as well.
Look Around for Deals on Timeshares
A few months ago my husband and I visited one of those "time share" sales pitches and thought it would be perfect for our family...then we saw the price. Over $8,000 and that was only for a week of vacation once every two years. After politely telling them no, we began to search the Internet. There are several sites (ebay is one of them) that offer auctions or listings of time-shares for sale by individuals. The cost is considerably less. For us, it was perfect. It was also our best deal ever. We paid $1 for the time-share and a $37.50 fee to transfer the title. Now that is a major savings!
Not Happy with Timeshares
If I could go back in time I would run out of the resort that I bought my timeshare from and I never would've signed those papers. I currently own a timeshare in Pocono Mountains, PA and I am paying $190.00 a month plus over $400 a year in maintenance fees for the privilege of staying for a week at a resort where all I get to enjoy is a villa. No food, entertainment or any other amenities are included. To boot if I do not want to stay exclusively in the Pocono resort and want to stay in another resort of this company I have to join a traveler's club. This is to the tune of $79 a year in order to "sell my week" and be able to use the voucher for another resort. This is the kicker on top of this I have to pay a $179 conversion fee.
The only good thing about the traveler's club is discounts in auto renting, airline discounts, and reduced hotel fees. Which trust me the discounts aren't all that great. So the way I figure it once I'm done paying for timeshare monthly costs, maintenance dues, traveler's club dues, conversion fees, food, entertainment and all these other wonderful little goodies that crop up, my timeshare adventure adds up to a $4000 dollar tab. All this for a timeshare vacation. To boot I am only allowed to redeem my week at this timeshare during a particular season.
So you see while you are in the timeshare sales office they will try to make it seem as if it is a wonderful package for you and your family. They will make it seem as if it is the deal of the century because of course it is. It is for them not for you or your pocketbook. When we went in there we were just married and in our early twenties. Let's just say we didn't have a lick of sense to our names because if not we would not be stuck in this mess for the next ten years.
The one thing you also have to look out for are the maintenance fees at our timeshare they keep going up. It started at around three hundred and something dollars and is now over 400 dollars. Add up the costs of a normal family vacation and then see if a timeshare will be cheaper and better. In the long run, chances are you'll see it's not.
Buying Timeshare Resale is the Secret
Timeshares are a great value but buy resale and not from the resort directly. I bought two weeks at a Florida resort for $3500 from an owner that could no longer use them. It would have cost me over $15,000 to buy from the developer. I've both stayed at the resort and traded the weeks for other vacations, and it was a great bargain.
There are two reasons to buy timeshares. If you like the resort and want to use it yourself for the week you buy, then buy what you like. If you are buying to trade your week for another resort or week through RCI or II which are the big timeshare exchange organizations, then buy in Orlando, Hawaii, or the California coast. Those resorts are always in demand for exchange.
An excellent source for learning the timeshare game and checking out resorts is www.tug2.net
Other Vacation Options Are Better Than Timeshares
I own a time share property and used to sell them. They are not a very good investment! Say for instance, you own a time-share on the coast. Well, hurricane season comes around and a hurricane wipes out most of the resort. Well, if the association that is ultimately the owner of the property, decides to rebuild, this could take 2 or more years, you will still have to pay all annual fees (these range from $250 on up) in addition to a loan (if applicable), during this time period. You will also be unable to bank it (banking is trading your week and time share for another destination or date through a company such as RCI). It is a better investment in the long run to invest the money you will spend on a time-share. You can select a fund that is right for you and your family that will allow you to make generous withdraws for your vacation time.
Timeshares Not Cheaper, But More Convenient
My husband and I have 3 children, ages 14, 16 and 18. We have time shared for about 10 years and love it. Is it dirt cheep? No. Is it cheaper and more fun than staying in motels and eating in restaurants? Yes. There isn't much fun staying in one motel room and eating in restaurants with 3 young kids.
When we arrived at our time-share, I would go grocery shopping and my husband would take the kids for a swim. I would generally buy easy to prepare food, but much cheaper and quicker than eating out. In the evening, we could put the kids to bed in their room and still have the rest of the apartment to ourselves.
We own 2 units, one in Stowe, VT and one in Virginia Beach. We always trade and have never even stayed in our own units. Our most exciting vacation was England. We stayed 3 weeks, 2 in time-shares, and 2 of our 5 flights were free due to frequent flyer miles.
The main thing to remember is to buy on the secondary market - do not buy from a developer. Buy from an owner or owner organization. The developer will be asking $15,000 for a unit that you will be able to buy for $5,000 three years later. Also, be mindful of the maintenance fees when you buy, they very substantially from resort to resort.
Many Things to Consider Before You Buy a Timeshare
I have a split or lockout unit time-share, which means the unit is really two separate one-bedroom apartments. So I have the option of using both for one week or exchanging for two one-bedroom units for 2 weeks. Which gives me two weeks of vacation for the price of one.
One thing to consider is if you are purchasing a timeshare to exchange and go all over the world, or to return every year to the same place? Unless you are want to go to the same place every year, avoid a beach area and the corresponding high maintenance fees. If you plan to exchange, Do purchase the highest level week. Colors are assigned based on desirability of time-of-year. For example, in Interval International, red is the high level. Some good locations are red all year and can only be exchanged if you own a red week somewhere else. Don't be frustrated by owning anything less. There are now programs for a number of days and points, too. So determine whether you want a week or more at a time or several trips of a few days each. I would suggest considering purchasing from an owner for a better deal.
Be very sure you are purchasing to own, as you would any other property, with the right to leave it to someone in your will. Some still try to sell for 20 or 40 years, or some other time period, and aren't real free to divulge that info. But my most important advice is not to believe anything a time-share salesman tells you. They are trying to make a sale so be careful to check everything out. Check it out for yourself. Or buy from an owner. There are web sites for owners selling their timeshares, or check your local newspaper ads.
If you are going to exchange, can you commit to a specified week for a vacation a year in advance? That is about the only way you're going to get a good exchange. I have thoroughly enjoyed owning a timeshare and have had some wonderful vacations all over the place that I would never have had otherwise. Just do your homework and know the questions to ask and what you want before you sign and pay.
Updated August 2013
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