Is a timeshare right for you?

You want to take a holiday, but it costs too much.  What with airfaire, fuel prices, accommodation, food and leisure activities to account for, the cost adds up.  So, some salespeople try to tell you that a timeshare will save you money in the long run.  Should you go for it?  Well, here’s some advice from someone who’s been through it.   The answer is not so straightforward as a yes or no.  Individual circumstances will differ, so a timeshare may be right for some, but not all.

First of all, let’s look at what you want out of a holiday.  Do you enjoy sitting at the hotel pool day in and day out?  Some timeshare hotels offer other activities on-site, but some will charge a fee for this.  Some activities offered at our resort were mini-golf, bicycling, paddling, and fishing.  Some will offer some free meals, but for the most part, the timeshare has a kitchen so that you prepare your own meals.  It is almost like a home away from home.  Depending on the location of the timeshare, you may be able to use the hotel as your base, while you explore leisure activities outside it.  For example, we went horseback riding at a nearby stable, and we went to a dinner show featuring “The Arabian Nights”.   We quickly learned that we did not want to go to the same resort every holiday.  We like exploring.

Our timeshare allowed us to exchange our week, or even our resort, for another.  However, there is always an exchange fee, and a waiting list.  So, we were not successful when we wanted a change.  There is also an exchange with resorts outside our network.  However, it required membership in Interval.  Again, more money out of pocket. 

Our timeshare plan gives us a deeded document to a particular week at our resort.  We use it or lose it.  We can rent it out or allow others to use it, if we can’t.  An alternative concept in timesharing exists, whereby you earn points and use those points towards a vacation.  I cannot comment on this type, but have heard some positives.  For example, you can go to practically any resort, as long as you give them adequate notice (sometimes a whole year in advance).  If you have enough points, you can even take more than your usual one or two weeks.  Or, you can accumulate your points for future use.

The next point the salesperson will focus on is that this is a deed.  You own it, like a second home.  As such, it can be passed on to your children, etc.  Sounds great, doesn’t it?  But wait, how do your children feel about it?  Will they want to go back to the same resort in the future?  Will their grandchildren?  Will the novelty wear off?  Will it cause problems with inheritance?

Convenience.  Yes, isn’t it nice to know that when your vacation time rolls around, there’s a luxurious apartment waiting for you to move in?  You don’t have to call and make reservations; although, they would prefer it if you would confirm so that they are prepared to make another sales pitch at you.

Finally, when they think that everything they’ve said has got you hooked in, they make the sales pitch.  The cost.  The most important factor of all.  They will point out how much it costs you to take a vacation each year for the rest of your life and present you with this enormous sum.  Then they tell you how much a timeshare would cost.  Wow!  The cost is significantly less.  But wait, again.  You forget that each year in which you are deeded, you need to pay maintenance costs for the apartment.  This fee will increase as inflation increases.  You are hesitant because the price is too high.  The salesperson looks at his papers again and finds that a sale is going on right now.  If you sign right now, you can have a reduced price that is thousands less.  However, you’re thinking about the private school you want to send your kids to, so you say you can’t do it right now.  So, the salesperson decides there’s a special plan made for people like you.  How about, instead of every year, you take it every other year.  That cuts the cost in half.  By now, you are getting tired and suspicious of their sales tactics.  You start to leave the table.  Hold on!  He’s going to get his manager because he can see that you are a hard-working couple who deserves a good vacation.  The manager comes back and agrees something needs to be done for you, because it would be silly for you to walk away from such a great value.  He gives you the “Presidential Deal”, which means rock-bottom pricing (at least for them).  Somehow, without intending to buy, we signed the deal.

Have we used our money’s worth?  Definitely, not.  We used it once.  It was not a bad vacation.  We got to do some fun things.  Would we go back?  We didn’t last time due to time constraints and financial reasons (we were moving home).  But twice would have been the full extent of our tolerance of such a vacation.  So, now we are faced with some other issues which were only briefly touched upon at our sales pitch.

What do you do when you want to sell?  They reserve the right to first refusal.  However, they neglect to inform you, until you call to tell them that you want to sell, that they do not buy back timeshares.  So, you must use an outside source to sell it.  And, in these economic times, they are neither selling nor selling well.  You’ll find some on eBay for $1.

And, remember, you still pay maintenance fees whether you use your timeshare or not.  At your death, your family will have to take over the cost, regardless of whether they want it or not. 

All right, we’ve learned that timeshares are not for us.  But it may be right for someone who does not mind just hanging out by the pool or going to their favourite city/resort over and over again.  Perhaps, if we were of that mindset, we would consider our timeshare a wonderful deal.

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