What's the Deal with Timeshares?

What's the Deal with Timeshares?

A timeshare offers regular access and partial ownership to a condo, resort, or vacation property. Resort rooms and timeshare units are usually situated at popular travel destinations, like mountains, beaches, or theme parks. If you are in the market for a vacation property, you can use this guide to help you make an informed decision on the best timeshare option for you.

What Is a Timeshare?

Timeshares are vacation properties that allow you to share the costs with other people while still having your time at the property guaranteed.

There are a few factors to consider when deciding to purchase a timeshare. These are the type of ownership (who will own the property and the way it will work to visit the timeshare), the type of contract, and its advantages and disadvantages.

Types of Timeshares

There are different types of timeshares. Some timeshares provide you with more flexibility; others are more cost-effective. And, then there are other less desirable options based on the contracts and the way they function.

The different types include:

  • Fixed week. A fixed week timeshare is a common type of timeshare ownership. It is usually deeded, and each year, you own the same week at a certain "home" resort. Having timeshare weeks make it simple for you to secure your desired travel week.
  • Floating weeks. With floating weeks, theoretically, you can book use of the resort or unit at any time throughout the year. Of course, this is subject to availability. But, a floating week timeshare does come with a major drawback. Many members have found themselves unable to book their time at the timeshare because of a lack of availability. Many resorts selling floating weeks contracts often reserve the best times for their employees or prioritize non-member bookings overpaying members.
  • Points-based timeshare. Points-based timeshares are also a popular type of timeshare. You're allotted a yearly apportionment of points you're able to trade for resorts within:
    • An exchange program like RCI/II
    • A brand's inventory
    • A brand's affiliate resorts

    You can sometimes exchange your points for other types of holiday products like airport transfers and flights.

    A specific time of year at a particular resort may have different point values for booking space with timeshare points.

    In theory, timeshare points provide you with more flexibility regarding where and when you take your trip. But, similar to floating weeks, it will not always work out well for you due to lack of availability.

  • Fractionals. A fractional timeshare is similar to a fixed week timeshare. The exception is that every owner's usage rights are usually for bigger blocks of time, like four to 12 weeks per year. A fractional timeshare is also usually extremely high-end and, in certain cases, might be a standalone condo or home instead of a resort suite.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Timeshares

A timeshare purchase is often an impulsive and emotional decision. There are both advantages and disadvantages to timeshares you need to consider before you buy.

Advantages of Timeshares

Some advantages of timeshares are:

  • Lower long-term vacation costs. Purchasing a timeshare is basically a way of buying your vacations and investing in them for the long-term instead of simply taking vacations and paying costly hotel rates each year.
  • Fun for family, friends, and groups. Many timeshares feature multiple bedrooms, making it possible for family members and friends to split a timeshare and plan a vacation together. This is particularly helpful for bigger families. Each year, their vacation reunion with family members and friends is pre-planned for a specific time, which makes it easier to see your loved ones regularly.
  • You have a built-in vacation each year. Timeshares offer you a hassle-free way of experiencing and enjoying your yearly vacation. You are already familiar with the timeshare and the amenities it includes, so you will not need to worry about what you will be doing once you get there. Also, because you use the timeshare during a specific time each year, you can plan your trip in advance.

Disadvantages of Timeshares

Some disadvantages of timeshares are:

  • Up-front investment. With timeshares, you are pre-paying long-term vacation costs upfront, instead of on an annual, as-taken, basis. That can mean a sizable investment on your part with uncertain usage of the timeshare down the road.
  • Timeshares can be hard to sell. Timeshares can be difficult to sell. Additionally, because there are so many timeshares on the market, they are often sold at steep discounts. So, you might be better off purchasing a used unit on the secondary market. There have been warnings by the Better Business Bureau too about timeshare reselling schemes, so keep that in mind.
  • There might be unexpected fees. Unexpected fees are unfortunately common with timeshares. While you can definitely expect to pay for taxes, utilities, and routine maintenance, other expenses like special assessment fees might pop up unexpectedly.

    These are fees that frequently cover things like:

    • Repairs to the property
    • Property upgrades
    • Other things the resort deems essential

Timeshares are often located close to a beach or a natural disaster-susceptible area, so you might be facing special assessment fees more frequently. For example, you might be expected to pay the repair bill for damage to your timeshare property from an unexpected hurricane.

As with any type of major purchase, the decision to invest in a timeshare requires careful thought and consideration. It will involve large up-front fees and considerable recurring costs. So, you will want to be sure all your questions are answered and take your time with your decision.