How Do Timeshares Work: A Breakdown of Timeshare Ownership

When you think about timeshares, many ideas may come to mind. Some people associate them with affluent vacation goers traveling to Florida or Aspen to stay in their luxury vacation home. Others may see it as a completely unattainable indulgence that only people with second homes can afford. However, many timeshare companies would have you believe that timeshares are an accessible, affordable, and worthwhile investment for anyone who enjoys vacationing. 

It’s hard to get an upfront answer to the questions, “How do timeshares work?” and “Are they worth investing in?” — especially from the companies themselves. So, let’s break down why people buy timeshares, how they work, and if they’re worth it.

Why People Buy Timeshares


Many people decide to become timeshare owners because after vacationing in the same place for a number of years, they want to have a consistent place to come back to. So rather than continuing to pay for tiny hotel rooms or renting someone else’s condo, they invest in a timeshare that they can visit during specific weeks every year. Timeshares are often marketed to people who don’t have a lot of time to set aside for vacation plans, like those who work busy jobs or have kids in school. For many people, timeshares are a thing of comfort and convenience because they know exactly what week to plan their vacation time around and what to expect when they arrive.

Timeshares tend to be more spacious and home-like than hotel rooms. Companies like Marriott Vacation Club even offer two- and three-bedroom timeshare units, a much preferred option over staying in a cramped hotel room for a week. Many timeshare resorts also allow you to share or rent your space with friends if you are unable to visit during your fixed week. 

Many people see having a timeshare as a win-win situation. It’s like owning an additional condominium or vacation home, if only for a week. You get all the luxuries of vacationing without having to pay extravagant hotel prices and all the comforts of owning a home without the hassles of dealing with real estate. The timeshare industry is so successful because they sell you this dream just to get you to sign a timeshare contract. But what they neglect to mention is that everything that comes after the initial timeshare purchase is rarely as glamorous as imagined.

How Do Timeshares Work?

how do timeshares work: Photo of the sky and buildings taken from the ground


Many people get into time sharing by attending a high-pressure sales meeting that boasts its ability to find you the perfect luxury timeshare for a phenomenally low price. These meetings will often involve free food and drink while enthusiastic salespeople sell you on all the benefits of
owning a timeshare

These salespeople would have you believe that owning a timeshare is an investment that pays off in the long term. In fact, according to the American Resort Development Association, the average price of a timeshare is $22,942. If you were to own a week on your timeshare property for 30 years, you’d be paying less than $800 a year to own it.

Most buyers are not aware that there are additional fees on top of the initial timeshare cost.  Timeshare buyers are required to pay maintenance fees, which are annual payments to the timeshare company that cover the costs of daily management, upkeep, and property improvements. These annual maintenance fees can range from $500-$1,000 and up, and they increase over a period of time. Additionally, buyers who take out loans to help cover the purchase price of their timeshare property are subject to yearly interest rates. So what seemed like a convenient and affordable alternative to staying in hotels can actually end up being much more expensive.

Fees aren’t the only thing that timeshare owners are stuck with. They also are subject to the often rigid time restrictions that timeshare companies place on them. Some timeshares are fixed-week timeshares, meaning that owners can only stay at their timeshare for one specific week a year. Under no condition can they change, exchange, or switch the days. So if you bought a Disney Resort timeshare for the week of July 4th, you’re stuck with this week for the entire duration of your timeshare. This can be undesirable when a location becomes increasingly popular and is no longer the peaceful, quiet getaway you initially signed on for. Or if you purchased a timeshare before you had kids, your fixed week may now be inconvenient if it lies in the middle of exam season.

Other types of timeshares offer more flexibility when it comes to planning your vacation. If your timeshare has floating weeks or flexible weeks, you can choose your vacation week within a wider range of dates. So rather than staying the first week of July, a timeshare with floating weeks might allow you to choose any week within the summer season. 

Other companies have exchange programs where each property is worth a specific amount of timeshare points that you can exchange to stay at a different timeshare location. This points system works by having different locations worth different amounts. For example, if you have a desert timeshare in Arizona, your points will likely be much less than a beach side villa in Hawaii. You probably wouldn’t be able to exchange these locations unless you are trading a larger number of weeks at a lower-point location for a smaller number of weeks at a higher-point location. 

Are Timeshares Right for You?

Worried couple looking at their laptop


It’s easy to get hyped about owning a timeshare. Having a place to go back to every year and saving money on hotels in your favorite vacation spots sounds like an undeniably good deal. What makes this deal sound even better is if you have flex weeks that allow you to use timeshare points to exchange locations and weeks, making it possible to vacation anytime, anywhere. 

At first timeshares can seem like a dream vacation come true. But beware that no deal is ever as good, or as cheap, as it seems. Unfortunately, many timeshare sellers neglect to mention certain fees and stipulations in their timeshare sales meetings. And because salespeople tend to zero in on the positive side of buying a timeshare, it’s easy to get roped into signing a timeshare contract without actually knowing all the details and fees it entails.

So, what do you do if you find out that your timeshare is nothing like your timeshare company said it would be? If you are a victim of misleading sales tactics or a timeshare scam, know that you’re not to blame. Many people are tricked into buying a timeshare because of how deceptive timeshare companies feed off of innocent consumers just looking to save money on vacations. 

If you are a victim of fraud, high-pressure sales tactics, or misrepresentation during the timeshare sales process, Centerstone Group may be able to help you. We are a powerhouse firm that specializes in securing release from timeshare obligations through our proprietary three-pronged exit strategy. Contact Centerstone Group for a free consultation today.