Buying a Timeshare Property? Here’s What You Need to Know

Real Estate - March 11, 2017
Realtor showing a home to potential buyers

Americans love to travel. Many of us head to national parks like Yosemite or Yellowstone annually to explore the outdoors, while others invade favorite beaches to unwind. If you have a favorite spot in the mountains or along the lakeshore, a timeshare could be tempting, but there are many factors to consider before asking yourself, “Should I buy a timeshare?”

Timeshares are fractional use agreements for a specific housing unit. Each fractional shareholder gets to use the property for one week or more annually. Some systems also let you swap weeks with other timeshare properties in other states.

Seems like a great idea, right? Not so fast. As many purchasers have discovered, there are downsides to this vacation buy. Be smart and get legal support from a consumer rights attorney before you sign on that dotted line.

Are timeshares ever a good investment?

Real estate values have skyrocketed in recent years, but timeshares rarely appreciate in the same way. View buying a timeshare like purchasing a car; the value will probably not increase after purchase. If you’re buying a unit share to sell later hoping to make a bundle, you should check out other investments first.

Any purchase should be built on the type of travel you enjoy. Suppose you’re the traveler who fell in love with a particular Caribbean Island or mountain retreat, and you plan to vacation there year after year. In that case, a timeshare could become your home away from home.

In addition to the purchase price, frequent maintenance fees and other conditions will apply. Those charges don’t go away if you stop using your weeks either. Owners may find it very difficult to quit their timeshare even if personal circumstances change and they can no longer afford related expenses.

Is timeshare a waste of money?

An estimated 10 million Americans own one or more timeshares, and the trend is still rising even though AirBnB, VRBO and other services are disrupting the traditional rental business.

Many individuals want to travel the globe visiting a new locale every time they can spare a few days off. Others see owning a timeshare as a reason to plan vacations. That’s a good thing if you seek work/life balance, need encouragement to structure your time and can handle the financial realities.

So, which buyer are you? Will you really use your access year after year? Fractional ownership costs could be lower than a week-long hotel stay, and you’ll have a real kitchen to cook meals. But again, it’s the less obvious fees that can soak you.

What is the downside to timeshares?

You should determine if the reward is worth the headache before even asking the question: Should I buy a timeshare property? Timeshares carry some risks. They include:

  • High-pressure sales: So-called “arm twisting” has been linked to timeshare sales since they first debuted in the mid-1900s. Free TVs and no-cost lodgings lure you into sitting through a serious sales talk.
  • Bogus sales claims: Many timeshare buyers have reported being deceived by lies in sales pitches over the years. However, several states have adopted legislation protecting resorts from liability for salesperson misrepresentations. You may be on your own.
  • Pandemics: During the Coronavirus surge, some owners had difficulty accessing units they shared. Solo homeowners did not.
  • Location, location, location: The most apparent downside to any timeshare is its permanent address. Do you really want to visit the same ski area every year? Could you tire of those California beach views after a decade? Some timeshares grant rights in perpetuity so think on this point for a while.
  • Overpaying: If you’ve found your “go-to” spot, consider all the timeshares for sale. Many units are “for sale by owner” online in addition to those a resort complex has listed. You may find a great bargain if an individual is eager to get out of their contract.

Arm yourself

Consider all the angles before you write that check. At LegalShield, we believe knowledge is power, and the right amount of information can save you money and boost your enjoyment of life. So here are our top 5 tips for folks considering a timeshare:

1. An online marketplace exists to sell individual timeshares. Check these sources so you don’t overpay for pre-owned locations. Even eBay sells timeshare privileges, and the listings for $1.29 or $.99 at particular properties could provide a cautionary tale about resale values.

2. Ignore high-pressure sales tactics and walk away to regain control of your decision. This should not be an impulse purchase.

3. Ask lots of questions and do not accept vague answers. If a salesperson is vague or evasive, walk away.

4. Request a blank contract to review and figures for current maintenance charges, insurance and more. You may want to ask a consumer finance lawyer near you to check it out in advance.

5. Maintenance fees can be high—especially if the structure needs significant repairs. In that regard, some timeshare fees can be like condo homeowners’ association fees. These expenses can eventually exceed your initial purchase price.

Explore a specific property that interests you to uncover any common complaints. Online reviews might offer a valuable heads-up. You may also want to know what happens to your usages rights if you die.

As you can see, timeshare buying is complex. So, should you buy a timeshare? That’s up to you, but before you sign anything, have your documents reviewed and talk to your LegalShield provider law firm.