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4 Myths About Timeshares

There’s nothing to calm your nerves like a vacation — but planning a trip and forking over the money for your stay may make you anxious about your budget.

For those looking to take the guesswork out of time away, a timeshare may seem appealing. The purchase price, and subsequent annual fees, you will have a nice place to stay for your yearly vacation, but is it worth it? Read on as we examine timeshare misconceptions.

What Is a Timeshare?

Let’s start with the basics. In simple terms, a timeshare is defined as several owners sharing the right to use a vacation property — often a condo, villa or unit on a resort property — during an allotted time period. In many cases, this boils down to one week per year.

Though timeshares may strike you as a thing of the past, timeshare sales increased for the eighth consecutive year in 2017, according to the American Resort Development Association, hitting $9.6 billion in sales.

Myth: Once you buy your way in, you’re locked in to the same week, at the same spot, every year.

While timeshares may not be a thing of the past, the rigid system of getting access to the same week every year at the same spot is. Many of today’s timeshare programs work on a point-based system, in some cases giving owners access to a variety of destinations within a resort chain. Using points, owners can choose from different days and times of year, earning bonuses for travelling at off-peak times. The point system also allows for smaller or larger accommodations based on group for a trip or booking partial weeks or multiple shorter trips.

Myth: Costs stop at your week-long stay.

The initial investment to get in the door of a timeshare will run you several thousand dollars. The American Resort Development Association reported an average cost of $19,000 in 2012. But you can also expect a long-term expense: In 2017, annual maintenance fees averaged $980. Those fees are paid whether or not you use the property, and end only if, and when, you sell your share. Costs can increase based on the property needs — if you resort is in due for significant maintenance, expect a larger bill — and will likely go up with time thanks to inflation. Suddenly, that “free” yearly trip doesn’t feel so thrifty.

Myth: A timeshare is a good investment.

There are no two ways about it: Timeshares are expensive, can be difficult to sell and come with a hefty annual fee. Additionally, if you sell your timeshare at a loss, don’t expect to claim it on your taxes as you would with other investments or real estate property.

If you love staying in resorts, crave a luxurious space for your trips and enjoy the structure of knowing where you’ll stay one week a year, that may offset the expense.

Myth: Timeshares are the same rooms as other hotel guests stay in, with more associated fees.

For the most part, timeshare units aren’t just regular hotel rooms. About three quarters are two bedrooms or more, and the average unit is 1,000 square feet. You can expect ample living space, sleeping accommodations for a large party and more bathrooms than you’d find in a regular hotel room.

But with more and more choices for your vacation stay on the market, a timeshare — no matter how luxurious — may not be your best bet. Sure, a high-end hotel room may be out of your budget. But a home rental through Airbnb, VRBO or HomeAway could give you the flexibility of a hotel with the space and amenities of a timeshare.

Before committing to a lifetime of maintenance fees and handing over your nest egg, check out all of your vacation rental options for destinations you love to visit, and weigh your options before you buy (or book).