So you just purchased a timeshare and are looking forward to endless trips to your favorite vacation spot that you were promised, right? Or maybe you've been a timeshare owner for years now but want to start traveling more this upcoming year?
Well, first things first, you must take the tagline "a lifetime of vacation time" with a grain of salt if it's coming from timeshare salespeople. This article should bring you back to reality and give you a better understanding of how often you can actually vacation with a typical timeshare each year.
Timeshares are vacation properties with a shared ownership model, meaning all owners have annual vacation access during the allotted time frame. Therefore, all timeshare property owners will get a specific amount of time to spend there -- usually in one to two-week increments --but this now varies with new systems in place. To fully understand how often a timeshare owner can use their unit, we must look at the different types of timeshares and their arrangement differences.
Not everybody's timeshare is the same. There are a couple of different forms of timeshare agreements and several other systems that determine an owner's length of stay at the unit. Timeshares gained popularity decades ago and began with owners having a specified week to use every year at their resort. As the industry progressed, new options, such as the points system, offered more flexibility with scheduling.
They are still often sold in increments of weeks, but typically just one or two, because finding more than that consecutively in the same unit is extremely rare. There is also the option of owning multiple timeshare units, but once we review the costs for just one, you may reconsider that idea. Resort developers have strict conditions on their timeshares, and although some new systems may offer more flexibility, restrictions will still apply. Sometimes the only option is whatever they sell on that particular day at the timeshare presentation.
Now let's go over the three most familiar timeshare traveler systems and how they differ in their use.
We'll begin with the longest-standing and most commonly sold timeshare unit, the fixed week system. Timeshare owners will have their vacation property and amenities for one specified week of the year. It will occur at the same resort and during the same week every year. A fixed-week timeshare provides security for your vacation trip, as you will not have to stress about booking or finding a place to visit. However, it does not offer flexibility, and seeing the same place over and over may not be ideal for everyone. Owners can look into a timeshare exchange company (i.e., Interval International, RCI) to trade their weeks, but usually, there are additional exchange fees for changing your timeshare week.
With a floating week timeshare, flexibility is the main selling point. Rather than the same week every year, you can select a new week each year to experience your vacations during different seasons. The main downside of this system is the competition for weeks during peak seasons such as summer and holidays, so it can be tricky to book the week(s) you want. That can be troublesome for those with set work schedules, as a unit may not be available during your vacation period of time; with more flexibility comes less security.
Points-based timeshares are a new addition to the timeshare industry. Instead of owning a set week every year, owners get a certain amount of points they can use as currency to purchase time to spend at resorts. Owners have many options with this one, as they can use their points across different resort locations with their resort company and not get constricted to just one week or one destination. However, more flexibility on scheduling and dates leads to more competition between owners, ultimately leading to more booking difficulty. Too often, timeshare owners have fewer points than they need or cannot spend the points they do have due to blackout dates.
Just as there are several different ways to use a timeshare, there are also a number of ways to own one. Today, there are several types of timeshare ownership agreements to be aware of. Each type has different methods of outlining who owns the property at hand and who is permissible to visit it on a regular basis. Alas, the agreements available for purchase may vary based on the resort brand and location.
Following is a brief overview of the most common types of timeshare ownership.
A deeded timeshare is a type of vacation real estate ownership in which a person or group owns a specific week or weeks of the year at a particular resort. As an owner, you can use the timeshare during that time but cannot use it outside of those weeks. Deeded timeshares have similar ownership aspects as any deeded real estate purchase does. The ownership agreement is often in perpetuity, and the owner can resell, rent, bequeath, or give the timeshare away.
Right-to-use timeshares give owners the right to use their timeshare property for a specified period each year, but they do not own the property outright. Instead, the resort company retains ownership and simply leases out the "right-to-use" the property to buyers. Therefore, it does not have the same ownership benefits as deeded timeshares. Leasehold timeshares are similar, but you actually own the property for a specified period of time, sometimes up to 99 years. When that time expires, ownership returns to the resort.
Biennial and triennial timeshares can be deeded or leased purchase arrangements where the owner instead only uses their timeshare every other year or every third year, respectively. This option may be favorable for those who want to save money on their vacations, as they will only have to pay maintenance fees for the years they use their timeshare.
Timeshares can be quite expensive, no matter what type you own or how often you use it. It is important to remember that this is a place you will only be able to visit once a year and most likely only for a week or two. The question that matters most is whether or not that is worth the price tag.
Before agreeing to purchase, you must know everything about the timeshare costs. Unfortunately, the resorts may distort this information, leaving many timeshare buyers to find out the actual cost of these vacation properties the hard way. With a substantially high initial purchase price, one may think that is all that would go into a timeshare purchase. Unfortunately, there are also several additional fees to consider.
Timeshares grow more and more expensive each year. The average cost for a timeshare interval as of 2022 was $24,140, according to the American Resort Development Association (ARDA). Prices vary greatly depending on the resort's location, the unit's size, and what other accommodations are included, so some could easily be twice this average. Due to such high initial costs, many timeshare companies offer financing. Alas, their interest rate figures tend to be just as high. Buyers often pay tens of thousands more in interest over their timeshare loan term.
It is understandable to assume that after paying such an outrageous upfront cost, most owners would think they can close their wallets. Consider that many timeshare salespeople tend to leave out any mention of additional fees or special assessments, and it is even more discernible. As you can probably guess, timeshare owners are sometimes shocked to learn they must also pay annual dues. According to ARDA, timeshare annual maintenance fees cost up to $1,000 per interval. While these fees may seem minimal initially, buyers should also be aware that they increase each year. The real dealbreaker is that owners must pay these fees every year whether they use the property or not.
So you are current on your timeshare mortgage payments and annual maintenance fees. However, plenty of other expenses remain to consider before planning that next trip. Buying a timeshare is simply pre-paying for your vacation lodging, and that's about it. Vacationing families still have to pay for their food, gas, flight tickets, entertainment, and other typical expenses for travelers. Adding up all of these additional vacation costs, on top of the timeshare expenses, it becomes apparent that there may be cheaper ways to vacation than with a timeshare.
The Federal Trade Commission warns against comparing timeshares to other real estate types because of the lack of ownership timeshares have. Instead, they are more comparable to other alternatives for vacation rentals. Timeshares are more similar to hotels, Airbnbs, and vacation clubs than traditional real estate. So why do people keep coming back to the timeshare industry?
Well, the salespeople of these timeshare companies are very good at coercing people into their sales pitch rooms and then pitching timeshare as the least expensive vacation option. While that could be the case initially, the fees associated with timeshares increase and can quickly become unbearable over an extended period. Not only that, but timeshare ownership usually means a lifetime agreement.
Here's the good news: if you haven't yet committed to a deeded timeshare, these other vacation options are less expensive and do not have nearly as many restrictions on booking and scheduling. Vacation ownership should not be limited to just a one-week timeshare and should not have constraints on location or dates.
When timeshare owners cannot book their resort property, they have to stay in a hotel room even though they have already paid for their timeshare. Why even have a timeshare if that happens to you? A timeshare company will not treat you as a valued client because they know they already have you stuck in their agreement. Take your money and time elsewhere for better service and a better vacation.
Hotels can be found just about everywhere, no matter the location. The most desirable vacation destinations will certainly have hotel rooms available, many offering exceptional service and affordable resort stays that can’t be found with timeshares. The most significant advantage of traditional hotels is that they involve short-term agreements and payments. There is no added stress of annual dues or other long-term obligations. Plus, you can visit hotels as many times a year as you want. Timeshare resorts certainly can’t say the same.
In recent years, the vacation rental industry has taken off and made a name for itself through different companies like VRBO and Airbnb. These companies allow homeowners to list their real estate properties for short-term rentals. Booking with vacation rental companies is just as easy as hotels. If you have a particular destination you love to vacation at each year, why not book a rental property there in advance each year? That choice could save you much money and time compared to timeshares.
A travel club, sometimes called a vacation club, is a membership program that sets out to make traveling easy for vacation-goers. By paying an annual fee, members may receive discounts on airfare, car rentals, hotel rooms, and other tips and advice based on the location. While this alternative can be more affordable than a timeshare, these clubs sometimes have substantial upfront costs and annual fees as well. If interested, be sure to be appropriately informed of the membership package you are buying.
There can be several benefits to timeshare travel. Most importantly, timeshare owners often have guaranteed vacations each year, which can help with budgeting and planning trips. Other benefits include having access to resort-style amenities and socializing opportunities with other timeshare owners. Resort salespeople often mention the benefits of booking flexibility and cost savings, but those can vary widely, sometimes even becoming drawbacks.
No, you cannot use a timeshare whenever you want. Timeshare ownership typically gives you ownership of a specific week or weeks of the year at a particular resort. You can use your timeshare during those weeks, but you cannot use it outside of those weeks. If you want to use a timeshare outside of your designated week, you may be able to do so by trading or renting your timeshare.
Yes, you can let friends stay in your timeshare. However, check with the resort to make sure that they allow it. Some resorts have restrictions on who can stay in a timeshare, and there may be a fee for guests. You may also need to provide your friends with the necessary paperwork, such as a rental agreement or power of attorney. If you plan on letting friends stay in your timeshare, ensure that they understand the rules of the resort and will respect the property.
Yes, there are laws and regulations for timeshare travel. These regulations are designed to protect consumers from unfair or deceptive practices by timeshare developers and salespeople. Some regulations include disclosure agreements, cancellation rights, rescission periods, resale rights, and licensing requirements. If considering purchasing a timeshare, it is essential to research the laws in your state and ensure you are aware of your rights.
While timeshare owners often feel entrapped, there are a few ways to cancel the purchase agreement. The first is to rescind the contract to receive a full refund, though most resorts only allow one to two weeks to practice the right of rescission. Another option is selling your timeshare. However, that is often easier said than done. A proven path to cancel a timeshare is hiring a reputable timeshare exit company. Find a company that has a staff with industry experts, offers a money-back guarantee, and demonstrates proven success with past clients.
Those who have already invested in a timeshare fractional ownership agreement still have a chance to get out of it. If you're a current owner who was lied to or misled by resort developer salespeople, you may qualify to hire a timeshare exit team. Wesley Financial Group, LLC is a timeshare cancellation company specializing in helping such people.
No matter what type of timeshare you have, their limitations are glaring. It is well-known how difficult scheduling can be with a timeshare developer, so there is sometimes no guarantee for your vacation. Finding one open week a year at most premier locations remains challenging. Timeshares work best in their original form as a fixed week every year, as that at least gets you guaranteed time to spend at the property. The resort can easily scam a prospective buyer with a floating week or the points system into believing they are getting more for their money.
Imagine paying monthly payments on a mortgage loan and yearly maintenance fees for a vacation property you barely get to use. That's the reality for most timeshare owners. So, if you are considering buying a timeshare and wondering how many times a year you can use it, remember that many timeshare owners are wondering if they'll ever be able to use theirs.