Before I even start, let’s break down what a timeshare is exactly.
Timeshares started in the U.S. in the early 19970’s in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and honestly, they were the bees knees back in the day. Timeshares are classified as vacation home sharing/homeownership programs and were seen as an affordable way to “own” a vacation home for the everyday family. It is typically a condo or similar vacation property on a resort and it’s ownership is split by weeks.
For example, you as a buyer can choose to “buy” a timeshare property with a resort in Florida. This would provide you with access to this condo at this resort in Florida for a specified amount of time per year, typically 1-3 weeks out of the year (the same 1-3 weeks every year).
In order to opt in for the timeshare property, you’d either have a shared deed (owning a percentage of the property) or the more common, shared ownership (lease interest in the property for a specified amount of time, typically until death). Once you understand the structure of the program, shared deed vs shared ownership, you’d have to put down some lump sum of money, typically $20K USD on average (you can certainly find cheaper timeshare programs). In addition to your initial down payment, you’ll have annual fees, such as the annual maintenance fee for property upkeep. According to the American Resort Development Association, these annual fees cost roughly $1,000 USD on average. Note: These fees can increase.
There are additional programs that you can sign up for, for an additional fee, as an add on to your timeshare program, such as timeshare exchange programs. These programs allow you to sell your deeded week or buy available weeks. You can also swap your week if you want to vacation during a different time, or swap from your home resort if you want to visit somewhere new.
My grandmother owns a timeshare, and has for almost 30 years, through Legacy Vacation Resorts. Being that this rental has been in our family for so long, my grandma does not recall her initial downpayment, but she is adamant that it was not $20K USD. We also participate in a timeshare exchange program via Interval International. Interval offers membership at three different levels, basic, platinum, and gold, each having a different program fee and coming with varying benefits. Through our Interval membership, we are able to swap weeks from our home location, gaining access to 100’s of properties around the world, or even other vacation types such as cruises, and opening us to weeks outside of our typical, “owned” week. This membership costs an additional $100 USD on top of her annual maintenance fee and when we want to exchange or swap weeks, it costs an additional $200 USD.
My family would leverage our timeshare year over year, exchanging for cruises to the Bahamas or packing up to head to Florida to visit Disney World. It was a great, low-cost way to take a big, family vacation pre-Airbnb and before travel was as accessible as I would argue it is today. We’d also attend additional timeshare presentations to score free or reduced price tickets to Disney or sister parks, furthering our cost savings. But, as I got older and began my own travel journey outside of my family, I started to discover how affordable and accessible travel could be, outside of the timeshare world, thanks to companies like Airbnb, Expedia, Hotels.com, budget airlines like Frontier or Spirit and even loyalty programs such as my Chase Sapphire Reserved, Delta Skymiles or even Expedia’s loyalty program. The more I traveled and spent less than what my grandma pays for her maintenance fee for a week in an airbnb in say, Mexico, the less I felt the timeshare world was worth it, for me. Additionally, seeing the process of transferring our week for a new property, vs logging into expedia, or having the ability to chase flight deals, made it less and less appealing.
Because my family has had access to our timeshare for so long, we will continue to use it and find ways to make it “worth it”, but for anyone looking to purchase a timeshare today, let’s talk! Here are my pro’s and con’s
Firstly, a timeshare is not an investment. The property does not appreciate in value and it’s actually pretty hard to get out of the contracts once you’re committed, especially as the market becomes so saturated with timeshares.
Pros of a Timeshare
- Typically a larger condo or apartment style accommodation, it can be great for larger group or family trips. Our timeshare gives us access to a 3-4 bedroom, 2 bathroom condo with a full kitchen and mini kitchen (with 2 pull out couches).
- Convenience- By having yearly access to the same property, you can avoid any hassles of researching and booking a vacation home that may not even have availability
- Consistent, you’ll have yearly access to your property, the same week each year, making it easy to plan vacations around your work or other schedules. If you enjoy your home property and available weeks, it is an easy trip with no to minimal planning needed
- Ability to participate in timeshare exchange programs, for an additional fee, to gain access to additional weeks/properties
Cons of a Timeshare
- Down payment- The initial down payment for a timeshare can cost an upwards of $20K USD and financing for these particular programs is typically difficult to secure or comes with extremely high interest rates
- Annual Maintenance Fees-Aside from the initial down payment that is required, you will also be responsible for the upkeep of your property via an annual maintenance fee. Fees can increase year over year
- Limited Use- Depending on the amount of weeks you’ve purchased, this is all you will typically have access to via your timeshare program (without purchasing additional weeks). You are also limited to your home property (unless you pay the additional fees for timeshare exchange programs). If you’re a frequent traveler (traveling 4-5x per year or more) or someone who likes to visit different locations, I would recommend against a timeshare program due to the limited use.
- Properties aren’t always as updated, our property certainly needs some updating!
- It can be hard to remove yourself from the program if you decide that it is not a good fit, having to sell your property/deed, often for a lower price that you paid for. There is a secondary market for resell your time share. Check HERE for more information.
Whatever decision you make, do not allow yourself to be pressured by overly persuasive salesmen or what seems like a “great deal”. Take your time with your decision and weigh out the pro’s and con’s. I will say, it is not all bad, as I’m currently typing this blog post from the pool of our timeshare, because if we’re paying for it, we might as well use it, but before you get yourself tied into a contract, consider the following:
- How often am I traveling? Do I take more vacations than weeks I would have in my timeshare program?
- Will I have to pay for the upkeep of this property plus additional vacations, annually?
- How flexible do I want to be with my travels? And how much extra am I willing to pay for additional flexibility? (such as joining an exchange program)
- Do I have the funds for the down payment? Is this something that I am willing to finance, if I don’t have the upfront funds?
- Decide if it’s worth it to you, based on the above factors and anything else that may be important to you. A great first step would be to add up all of your fees, from the initial down payment, annual maintenance fees and additional fees you’re aware of, and divide this by the number of years your timeshare program lasts. This will be your total annual cost and if it’s say, $1,200 a year, see if that makes financial sense for your situation. Ultimately. only you will be able to determine what is worth it for you.
Are you a timeshare owner? What would you say are the pros and cons? Or, are you someone looking to purchase a timeshare?