It wasn’t so long ago that there was no Internet. Today the Internet has made an old concept — that of timeshares — obsolete. Don’t fall for the sophisticated sales pitches to “own” your vacation when you stay at a resort.
Timeshares are usually associated with vacation resort destinations. You can own a specific annual week at the resort. Buyers are told that this way they get to “own” their vacation at their favorite spot for life. You lock in today’s price, and the seller will loan you the money. The timeshare will have an annual maintenance fee, which typically will increase over time and never ends, even after you’ve paid off the loan.
Many resort properties degrade in quality over time, especially after all the weeks are sold. But because you own your week there, you can’t move it someplace else.
Then a system of timeshare exchanging arose. Companies in this business will trade your week at your “home” resort for a week at another similar resort. You pay for being a member of the exchange, and you pay for what I call each exchange “match” — on top of what you pay for the timeshare.
The exchange companies allow you to “bank” your week. If you bank two weeks, for example, you can exchange for a two-week stay somewhere.
One problem with this system is that you still have to get wherever you are going to vacation. Many times the airfare is more expensive than buying a package deal with airfare and resort fees included. The exchange companies keep track of resort quality equivalency. If your home resort or the one you book turns out to be subpar, you’re stuck. You can’t check out and move to another place as you might with a hotel. And there’s no one to complain to. What appears to be a “front desk” is actually the marketing department ready to sell new timeshares and do check-ins on behalf of owners who have banked their week.
The system depends on new entrants. When you visit a timeshare resort, you invariably are asked to attend a timeshare presentation meant to try to upgrade your ownership, and you are shown the nicest accommodation. Contrast that to where you actually stay, inevitably in the back a long walk away or next to noisy construction, for example — and nicer rooms are not available.
A recent twist to timeshare ownership is a points system, where a day’s stay is equivalent to a certain number of points. Meant to accommodate people that only want to stay for a weekend instead of a week, point systems still limit you to staying at timeshare properties. Point systems seem to work better when associated with hotel chains which include resort properties. Still the cost of buying your vacation in advance will cost more and be less flexible than simply accumulating points using the hotel chain’s frequent user point system.
You can own a timeshare as a “deeded” property or as a “right to use.” Both are transferable–meaning, theoretically, you could sell what you own. In reality there is no secondary market. Take any timeshare you want and search for it online. You will find people literally giving away their ownership to get out from under their annual maintenance costs. With the Internet, you can locate stays at almost any timeshare property for about what the exchange company charges for a match.
Getting rid of a timeshare usually requires paying someone to take it off your hands. They resell it to another unsuspecting timeshare buyer. Don’t become one of these!