by Wendy West
Before you let an eager salesperson schmooze you into a timeshare, consider these five criteria to ensure what you buy will make sense for you:
(1) Location – Maximize your investment buy buying a timeshare that you can easily use, gift, rent, trade, or sell (if you have to). Depending on your goal:
• Buy near where you live. If the resort offers “home resort privileges,” you can reserve “day use” of the pool, barbeque, and arcade room. You might even gift it to family or rent it to friends.
• Buy where you like to travel. If you find that you’re visiting the same destination time and time again, cut down on hotel costs by staying at your timeshare.
• Buy in a prime location. The hottest destinations, such as Hawaii, the California Coast, and Florida are booked a year in advance, so any timeshare in these locations has high value and will be an easy trade or sell. Top locations are: island, beach/coast, golf, ski, lake, and theme-park destinations.
(2) Developer’s Company – Do a bit of research about the developer before you sign on any dotted line. What size is the timeshare developer’s company? Do they have many resorts, and where are the resorts located? Does the company also own hotel chains? Does the company have a good reputation? Also visit www.ARDA.org to ensure the company belongs to the professional industry association, which holds them accountable to ethical conduct.
(3) Deed – Buy a timeshare unit that has an underlying deed that guarantees that it is a real property with a tax parcel number. If the developer’s company closes down or its point system goes away, you will still own your piece of physical real estate. Real property can be willed or gifted to your heirs.
Be cautious of timeshares which convey only “interests” in their club program, such as leasehold contracts, trusts, and right-to-use systems. “Right to Use” ownership is often only a club membership or reservation system, and if the company goes out of business, your timeshare usage may be lost. Also, watch out for those with fixed period contracts, where your ownership vanishes after 25 or 30 years.
(4) Points Program – Points programs make your timeshare user-friendly because you can choose from a multitude of resorts for an annual “Club” fee. Club programs expand your vacation choices by allowing you to exchange your timeshare for other resorts in the development company’s inventory.
Think of your points as “vacation currency”: you can bank, borrow, and spend your points with “total flexibility,” according to Hilton Grand Vacations. You can spend your points for resort stays, and other perks like cruises, airline tickets, hotel stays, and even HOA dues. It allows maximum use of your timeshare, such as several short getaways, rather than just a one-week stay every year. Ask if you can roll over points to subsequent years.
(5) Sample stay – Before you shell out thousands for a time share, it’s worth your while to test the place out. Take advantage of the free stays and tours developers will offer to schmooze you. If you really love the resort, go ahead and buy. But if you’re not sure, wait and check out a few other places.
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