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The pros and cons of timeshares

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Family playing on the beach

What’s the deal with timeshares?
Have you received an offer to enjoy a local resort for a three day weekend if you agree to a thirty minute sales presentation? That is an offer from a timeshare company hoping to sell you a lifetime of vacations. Timeshares are vacation plans where you buy the right to use a vacation property one week a year. Every year, you could vacation in the same unit during the same week for a price. In the last several years, the industry has changed to a “point” system to adapt to vacationers who want to visit a different place. You purchase points that can be used at any of the company’s resorts during the year.  The size of the unit, its location and time of year all determine how many points are needed for a vacation.

Timeshares can be a great way to vacation. But you really need to understand the pros and cons before you sit through a sales pitch. For full disclosure, my parents own several timeshares and it’s the only way my family vacationed while I was growing up. Several years ago, they gave me one of their timeshares they can no longer use. Although I did not make the initial purchase, I am now responsible for all the maintenance fees.

A free weekend. They are a great way to spend a “free weekend” at a resort when you agree to a three-hour sales pitch. Yes, literature says the sales meeting will only last thirty minutes, but be prepared to spend a better part of your day in a very high-pressure sales pitch. Usually you’re given a free dinner at a local restaurant for your time.

Convenience. When using your timeshare, all you need to do is show up. The resorts include all linens, towels, trash bags, and all the kitchen appliances you will need.

Flexibility. You can visit the same resort every year, or you can try different locations at different times each year. You have access to a full online catalog of resorts to choose from.

Activities. Most resorts have tons of activities, DVD libraries and video game tournaments to keep kids occupied. Some even offer babysitting services so the parents can enjoy a quiet dinner.

The cost. Timeshares can cost thousands of dollars. The sales pitch is very intense and extensive and they are counting on your defenses being down while you are enjoying your vacation.

Maintenance fees. In addition to the initial cost of the timeshare, you have to pay annual maintenance fees to use the property. These fees can cost over a thousand dollars a year. If you have time to do your research, you can probably rent a home, an Airbnb, or even stay in a hotel for the same amount of money as the annual fees alone.

The presentation. They promise it will only take 30 minutes. Three or four hours later, you still can’t get away from a very high-pressure sales pitch. They will pull out all the stops. Bad credit or no credit? No job and no source of income? Not a problem. The sales team does not care about your financial wellness. They don’t care about how much debt you currently have, or how much you have in savings, or how this purchase can impact your budget.  They only want the sale.

It’s yours for life. Timeshares are incredibly hard to resell, and if you are able to find a buyer, you typically won’t get the value back. Even after you’ve paid it off, you’re stuck with the annual fees that may never go away.

Maintenance fees. These fees will only increase over time. It may be a very slow creep of $1 per month over several years, or it may be drastic increase after a series of hurricanes devour the coastline. Either way, you need to budget for a yearly increase.

Should you buy?
With all the cons, why would people still buy a timeshare? Because we need time away from our busy lives, and timeshares make it easy. You’ve already paid for everything with your annual fee, so pick your destination, pick your week and you’re done. If you pay your maintenance fees monthly, you budget your vacation cost over twelve months. There’s no need for the extra research on how nice is the hotel, is it in a questionable part of town, or is it family friendly?

Would I ever buy another time share? No. I personally don’t feel they are worth the investment. But I also won’t sell the one I currently own. It has provided years of great memories and experiences for my family. 

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