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What is a floating week in timeshare ownership?

When buying a timeshare property, one question that frequently comes to mind is, "How am I going to use it?" Your answer usually depends on the type of timeshare ownership you choose. 

Each timeshare developer will typically set its own rules and regulations on how far ahead you must schedule or reserve your visitation week. Also, in many cases, owners must have all of their finances paid for to take advantage of the annual usage opportunity, even to book a check-in date.

Floating-week vs. Fixed-week

Almost all timeshares operate under fractional ownership, meaning the actual ownership is divided between many. When looking at timeshares for sale, you will find several different types. While the points-based ownership is the newest type of timeshare for sale, the more traditional methods are the fixed and floating weekly options. The difference is how owners are allowed to schedule and manage visitations, but you may not learn that in a timeshare presentation.

Fixed-week systems

According to Investopedia.com, owners have the right to use the vacation property for a specific week (or weeks) every year with a fixed week timeshare. The upside is that the owner can have peace of mind knowing they'll get a particular week every year without stressing about someone else taking it. There will always be availability. The downside is that it may be challenging to change or demand a different week.

Floating-week systems

With a floating week, the timeshare buyers do not get restricted to visiting the same location during the same time period each year as you are with a fixed vacation week. Although the floating weeks-based timeshare seems to offer owners maximum flexibility compared to fixed week ownership, trouble also persists with these flex weeks in booking your desired period of time and location. The one-week increment you would like to book may not be open during the busiest times of the year (e.g., holiday weeks) and may need to be reserved well in advance to ensure availability.

What are timeshare maintenance fees?

Your resort property developer or management group will send you an invoice for maintenance fees each year. And that's not even the worst part. These fees also tend to increase year after year. Developers collect maintenance fees to cover upkeep, service, renovations, and preservation around the property. Costs can add up quickly!

The most important aspect to understand as an owner is that there is no way to ensure your maintenance fees won't increase. Ten years from now, your annual maintenance fee could be increasingly higher than the initial cost when you first purchased the unit.

Rising maintenance fees are a problem that many owners are currently facing. Having signed up for a timeshare thinking the maintenance fee was a flat rate every year, when in fact, those fees can increase any time at the resort's discretion. Experts in the travel industry sometimes say it's cheaper for a family to rent a typical hotel room for two weeks every year rather than own timeshare weeks and pay the ensuing costs.

How much do maintenance fees run?

This question is tough to answer because it depends on your resort's location and what type of attractions the property offers. For example, suppose an owner has a two-bedroom unit with several resort-like amenities. In that case, they will probably have steeper fees than their neighbor, who only has a smaller size, one-bedroom unit, and no array of amenities. What's important to remember is that maintenance fees can increase over the years.

Often, owners are surprised when they find out that this annual fee goes up year after year. Maintenance fees can start at a few hundred dollars, however, do not be surprised when the price rises into the thousands over time.

Will these fees increase over time?

Since the first timeshares hit the scene in the 1970s, maintenance fees have continuously increased by nearly 4% each year. Sometimes it can be challenging for owners to forecast just how high their fees will be in a specific year, but one thing they can predict is that they will increase, and usually, it's a rude awakening.

When you decide to sign a timeshare agreement, it's essential to know what you are signing. It's challenging to plan financially for an expense that's impossible to predict each year. Before officially signing any documents that make you an owner, there is one thing you can do: Ask the sales representative in the timeshare presentation for a copy of last year's maintenance costs for owners. That could give you an idea of what kind of fee you will expect initially.

Are timeshares worth it?

Not all timeshares are created equal. Some timeshare companies have created a trustworthy brand that delivers on its promises. Other companies do not.

Here are some of the benefits and the burdens:

Advantages

Depending on the type of ownership, timeshares can have benefits. For example, many timeshare units can be found at luxurious, large resorts in desirable vacation locations. Also, if you prefer a predictable vacation time and place each year, a timeshare may be a good fit for you. Just keep in mind the extra expenses.

Disadvantages

There are several disadvantages to consider before purchasing anything from a timeshare company.

The biggest drawback is the ongoing costs. The annual maintenance fees continuously increase, with some owners even paying thousands of dollars. In addition to these yearly fees, owners also have to pay a monthly mortgage payment until the real estate is paid off. On top of the initial purchase price for the vacation property, these payments make owning a timeshare a considerable financial expense. One could easily argue that staying a week in an average hotel is much cheaper.

Another issue is they offer little flexibility to alter your vacation dates or book the dates you want in the first place. To get the popular seasons and locations, sometimes it will require booking with the resort developers 12-18 months out in advance. While floating week timeshares market themselves as flexible vacation time, every year is a gamble with booking your preferred timeshare seasons and locations. You never know what you're going to get!

Canceling your initial purchase agreement

It's hard to justify making payments on a product you rarely ever get to utilize. You're constantly losing money and getting zero in return. Often, this is the exact problem deeded timeshare owners face daily. After years of giving up money for a room at a resort where they may only spend a week, owners become disgruntled and look for a way out.

Unfortunately, most timeshare agreements are written in perpetuity, meaning they don't expire. While some timeshare industry professionals will say that reselling is an option for you, it's not a very viable one. The timeshare resale market is almost impossible to navigate, even if you possess the deeded title to the real property. The reason is that timeshares as deeded property depreciate quickly -- and with so many other owners trying to exit these vacation clubs as well -- it's hard to find anyone willing to buy a deeded timeshare.

So, when canceling your vacation ownership, it's easiest if you find a timeshare exit company to help you along the way. Exit companies specialize in getting your agreement with the timeshare resort canceled using a multi-step process. However, be cautious as some cancellation companies are known to scam customers. Given that we are in the middle of a global pandemic, pseudo exit companies have started taking advantage of owners because they know they're vulnerable in such a year where finances are tight.

How will I know I've found the right solution?

There are several variables and aspects to look for in a legitimate timeshare cancellation company. Here are a few of these attributes that you will want to look for in a company:

  • An experienced staff
  • Proven client success
  • Industry tenure
  • 100% money-back guarantee

If contacting someone else to cancel your timeshare, you want to make sure that representative knows what they're doing. That usually stems from various things, but mostly timeshare industry experience. A timeshare exit company's success will be transparent in its customer's reviews, but the most critical aspect to consider is a 100% money-back guarantee. If the exit company cannot terminate your agreement for some reason, you will get whatever amount of money you paid back into your pocket. After all, what's the point of trying to get out of constant debt if you're only losing more money?

Summary

When it comes to vacation ownership, you have plenty of options. Whether you choose a floating week, a fixed week, or even --for that matter-- a timeshare at all, it's essential to research all opportunities. And if you do decide to go through with the process, ask plenty of questions. Timeshares can be enticing, but owners often get swayed into buying something they should have no business with. Having a membership at a resort can get expensive very fast, and if you don't plan ahead, you might find yourself in deep regret. In simple terms, know what you're getting into before signing anything!

*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.

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