So you just purchased a timeshare and are looking forward to the endless number of trips to your favorite vacation spot, right? Or maybe you've been a timeshare owner for years now but want to travel more this upcoming year? First off, you have to take "a lifetime of vacation time" with a grain of salt if it's coming from timeshare salespeople. Well, this article should be able to bring you back to reality and give you a better understanding of how often you will be able to take future vacations with a typical timeshare each year.
Timeshares are vacation properties with a shared ownership model, meaning all owners have annual vacation access during allotted timeframes. Therefore, all timeshare property owners will get a specific amount of time to spend there -- usually in 1-2 week increments --but this now varies with new systems in place. To fully understand how often a timeshare owner can use their unit, we have to look at the many different types of timeshares and their differences in arrangements.
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 became available, offering more flexibility with scheduling, such as the points system.
They are still sold in increments of weeks, but typically just one or two because finding more than that consecutively at the same unit is extremely rare. There is also the option of owning multiple timeshare units, but once we go over 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're selling at that particular timeshare presentation.
Now let's go over the three most familiar timeshare systems and how they differ in how they get used.
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 to use for one single specified week of the year. It will occur at the same resort and during the same week of 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) to trade their weeks, but usually, there are additional exchange fees with changing your timeshare week.
With a floating week system, 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 location. However, more flexibility on scheduling and dates leads to more competition between owners, ultimately leading to more difficulty when booking. We recommend attempting to spend your points up to 12 months in advance. Too often, timeshare owners have fewer points than they need or cannot spend the points they do have due to blackout dates.
Timeshares can often be quite expensive, no matter what type you own. It's 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 it's worth it. You need to know everything that goes into the timeshare prices before agreeing to purchase. 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 would think that is all that would go into a timeshare purchase. Unfortunately, there are also several additional fees to consider.
Imagine thinking that you're on your way to accomplishing your dream of traveling the world, only to find out that there are additional fees every year -- on top of your upfront cost -- to obtain the privilege to do so. Many timeshare owners experience this because they are left unaware of these special assessments by salespeople. For example, timeshare maintenance fees can be a real dealbreaker for many, so they are often kept under wraps during some sales pitches. These fees may seem insignificant initially, but here's the catch: their cost increases every year. Owners must pay these fees every year whether or not they use the property.
Timeshares should not be considered the same as traditional real estate, which is no more apparent than in the resale market.
The Federal Trade Commission warns against comparing timeshares to other real estate types because there is a lack of ownership. Instead, they are more comparable to other alternatives for vacation rentals. Timeshares are more similar to hotels, Airbnbs, and vacation homes 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. That could be the case at first, but the fees associated with the timeshare increase and can quickly become unbearable over an extended time 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 near as many restrictions with booking and scheduling. Vacation ownership should not be limited to just a one-week timeshare, and it should not have constraints on location or dates. When timeshare owners cannot book with 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.
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, the limitations they all have 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 tend to 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 mortgage loan monthly payments and yearly maintenance fees for a vacation property you barely get to use. That's the reality for most timeshare owners.
If you are considering buying a timeshare and wondering how many times a year you will be able to use it, remember that many timeshare owners are wondering if they'll ever be able to use theirs.
*Wesley Financial Group, LLC, and its affiliates, successors, or assigns are not lawyers or a law firm and do not engage in the practice of law or provide legal advice or legal representation. All information, software, services, and comments provided on this site are for informational and self-help purposes only and not intended to substitute for professional advice, legal or otherwise.