What Is a Timeshare? The Realities of Vacation Ownership

what is a timeshare: white mansion by the sea

What is a timeshare? Most people go into the timeshare buying process with a basic idea of what vacation ownership is. However, they are often brutally surprised when they realize the amount of time, energy, restrictions, and money having a timeshare really involves. Like real estate, buying a timeshare should involve budgeting, weighing pros and cons, and thorough research of different timeshare properties available on the market. But because the timeshare industry is trained to encourage customers to act quickly, people don’t consider the real weight of making a timeshare purchase until they’ve already signed a contract.

In order to put down a hefty upfront payment and enter into a potentially lifelong timeshare contract, you should be informed on the full scope of what it means to own a timeshare. You won’t want to be blindsided by annual maintenance fees, timeshare exchange programs, or limitations on your ability to cancel your timeshare. After all, owning a timeshare should make vacationing fun, not stressful. In order to keep you informed on every aspect of timeshare ownership, let’s review the basics of timeshares, the different types of timeshare companies, and all the costs involved in owning a timeshare. 

What Is a Timeshare?

According to the Federal Trade Commission, owning a timeshare gives you access to a vacation property for a specific length of time. Usually, timeshare owners have a specific timeshare week and period of time that they are allowed to use it, often on an annual or biennial basis. For example, some people may have purchased one week a year in December while others have two separate weeks a year, one in May and one in October. 

Timeshares that assign owners with a fixed week are called deeded timeshares. Some timeshare companies, however, provide their customers with floating weeks. This means you are allowed to book your timeshare week any time of the year, as long as there’s availability at the condominium or timeshare resort where your vacation home is located. 

What Is a Timeshare Exchange Company?

wooden loghome

When you own a timeshare, you’ve usually purchased a stay at a home resort that you’ll return to every year. However, there are many types of timeshare companies that offer points systems, allowing customers to exchange points for stays in other locations. 

Resort Condominiums International (RCI) claims to be the first timeshare exchange company, having developed a system allowing owners to exchange time at their home resort for stays at another RCI property. RCI made it so timeshare owners no longer owned a week at one specific property but instead owned a certain number of points that they could redeem at any RCI location. Other companies, like Interval International, also allow their customers to earn and exchange points for stays at alternate vacation destinations.

When RCI introduced the concept of timeshare exchanges, they also introduced some complications for their customers. The timeshare points system made it so RCI salespeople no longer had a limited number of timeshare units and weeks to offer. They could essentially sell an unlimited number of points to an unlimited number of customers. 

RCI also rents out their inventory to non-timeshare owners, which limits usage for actual exchanging owners who pay annual fees to maintain their property with RCI. The inventory RCI chooses to rent out is usually of the highest quality, leaving the lower-quality inventory to timeshare owners. Though this practice has allowed RCI to maximize their revenue from high-paying non-owners, it left a bad taste in the mouths of their timeshare holding customers.  

RCI timeshare owners led a class-action lawsuit against RCI for committing consumer fraud by failing to provide exchange members with adequate access to RCI resorts. Although they eventually agreed to a settlement, RCI denied any wrongdoings in the matter and still abides by a point system that perpetuates these exchange problems.

How Much Do Timeshares Cost?

what is a timeshare: hands holding cash and mini suitcase by the beach

Timeshare buyers usually have to pay the full purchase price of the timeshare when they sign the initial timeshare contract. According to ARDA, the average price of a timeshare is $22,942. However, price can range dramatically depending on where the timeshare property is located, the specific week that’s purchased, the period of time you are allowed to stay within the year, the timeshare company purchased from, and the size of the unit. 

Once owners start staying in their timeshare, they have to start paying annual maintenance fees that go toward the upkeep of the timeshare resort or property. According to the American Resort Development Association (ARDA), the average timeshare maintenance fees in 2018 were $640 for a studio, $800 for a one bedroom, $1,060 for a two bedroom, and $1,290 for units with three bedrooms or more. What many timeshare buyers don’t know is that maintenance fees don’t stay the same throughout ownership. Many timeshare resorts significantly increase their maintenance fees yearly, and unless there’s something in your contract that prevents fee increases, there is nothing you can do about it once you’re locked into a contract. 

According to Money Under 30, timeshare companies can also charge you for any updates that need to be made to the resort property. Sometimes these updates are necessary, like if a timeshare property is damaged by a storm or earthquake. But oftentimes, these fees go toward things like installing new pools or refurbishing the resort. Though these fees mean that your timeshare property‘s safety and appearance are being upgraded, it can be frustrating to have no control over if and when added charges will be piled on top of your maintenance fees.  

Are Timeshares Worth It?

woman sitting on a cliff by the sea

When being sold on timeshare ownership, you’ll hear about perks like the ability to use points for exchanging vacation destinations and the flexibility to change dates with floating weeks. However, a lot of the responsibilities of owning a timeshare are left out during the selling process, like maintenance fees, resort upgrade fees, booking complications, and much more. Whether you are looking to buy a timeshare or already own one, you should be informed on all of these factors before making a timeshare purchase. Unfortunately, this isn’t the reality for many buyers.

Many excited timeshare buyers come in blind. They’ve just been told that buying a timeshare is fun, affordable, and convenient — not a huge financial responsibility that they may end up regretting. If you’ve already gone through the process of purchasing a timeshare only to realize that it’s far more troublesome and stressful than expected, you may be wondering if timeshare cancellation is possible. While many timeshare companies make it very difficult to escape a timeshare contract, there is hope with Centerstone Group

Centerstone Group is a full-service advocacy group that specializes in resolving timeshare contracts for clients who’ve been victims of fraud, high-pressure sales tactics, or misrepresentation during the timeshare sales process. Centerstone Group has developed the most comprehensive, time-tested three-pronged resolution process in the timeshare exit industry. With over 33 years of combined experience in the timeshare industry, the leadership team knows how to navigate release from timeshare contracts in as quick as a month.

If you have purchased a timeshare from a company that used aggressive sales tactics and misrepresentation to sell it to you, Centerstone Group may be able to help you break free from your timeshare. Contact us today for a free consultation.


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