People sometimes ask me my opinion about time shares. Most of the time it's because they know someone who just got swindled by a timeshare salesperson or because they themselves had to suffer through a sleazy pitch and they think timeshares should be outlawed. Other times I'll hear discussions where people with timeshares will swear buying one was the best decision they ever made.
Both sides can't be right...right?
What Is A Timeshare?
A timeshare property is kind of what it sounds like; you share the time in a property. You own a part of a vacation property that you can use during your time slot, which is most often once per year. Usually you buy the right to use the property for your week. So, the property usually has 52 owners who each use the property for a week.
This works well for those who like to travel to the same place every single year. In my experience, many people love going to Naples, FL, Palm Springs, CA, various places in Arizona, and various places in Mexico for the same time, during the same time, every year. A timeshare is less expensive than buying a property that would only be used for a week per year. Many people like knowing they have a certain view, layout, or location so reserving hotels doesn't appeal to them as much. One of the cons (discussed in the next section) is that they are hard to sell if you don't like them, but that means the associated pro is that you can find really good deals buying a timeshare from someone who doesn't want his or hers anymore.
The cons list is effectively the opposite of the pros list. You are locked into a particular place, so those who prefer visiting different places might get really bored having to go back to the same place all the time. Similarly, you are locked into a particular time. So if you are the kind of person who has difficulty getting the same days off every year, this might not work for you. If you are the kind of vacationer that spends little time at your hotel/condo/timeshare, then you'll generally be able to find hotels for less money that suit your needs.
Options...For A Price
Everything I talked about refers to one type of timeshare, the fixed week timeshare. There are other options that exist, but realize as with anything in life, options cost money. So you can have floating weeks, but be aware that everyone else also has floating weeks so you may or may not get the week you want each year. Sometimes you can join a points club which gives you access to different locations and the times are flexible, but again, that option will often times be more expensive and the property and time you want is not guaranteed to be available.
What About Those Sleazy Salespeople?
It seems everyone has heard stories about the folks to sell timeshares. These are the ones that give you a three day stay somewhere (often at the place they are selling), free meals, or other perks. They use high pressure sales and really play with your emotions. They know you are feeling great because most of the time you just started your vacation and they sell you the feeling you are currently feeling.
These people exist, but not all timeshare salespeople are sleazy. If you want to explore buying a timeshare, I suggest doing so when you are not in the middle of your vacation, and shy away from anyone who seems to be pressuring you.
Individual- and Location-Specific
The decision to purchase a timeshare or not depends on your specific situation, the terms of the deal, the location and cost of the properties and the opportunity costs of your money. Carefully weigh the pros and cons for you and you'll be on track to good money health.
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