Hi there! I’m Monica, AKA Your Timeshare Fairy Godmother, and a happy timeshare owner of 15 years. I’ve never been employed by the timeshare industry and I’m not being compensated by any of the parties I talk about in this article. With over $10 billion a year being spent on timeshare and vacation club purchases, (yes, billions!) I’m on a mission to help people save money on buying timeshare properties and timeshare vacations.
Before this frugal fanny dives into my Six Tips for how to buy timeshare properties with savvy many of you may be thinking, “What is a Timeshare Exactly?!?”
Quick Overview of Timeshares and Ownership Costs
A timeshare is partial ownership of a condo-like unit in a resort in top destinations. They are owned, operated, and maintained by independent resorts, small chains, and giant companies like Hilton, Wyndham, Marriott, and Disney.
For a comprehensive listing of timeshare companies, read on here. Timeshare owners enjoy a carefree vacation lifestyle that differs from owning a second home. The resort manages all the upkeep such as cleaning, furnishings, repairs, and renters. We love the hands-off conveniences of timeshare ownership vs having a vacation home.
Different Types of Timeshare Ownerships
To meet today’s different travel lifestyles, there are now a variety of timeshare ownerships:
- A deeded/fixed week: A set timeshare week, in a certain unit, at a specific resort every year for vacations. Historically, this week option was timeshare ownership. For example, you owned the second week of July of unit #12 at Cape Cod Beach Palace every year.
- A floating week: One week of vacation a year that falls into either the peak or off-peak season of a destination. As you don’t own a specific week a year (the week “floats”), you need to make a reservation with your resort to occupy a unit. For example, if you own a peak season floating week in a Virginia Beach timeshare, you have one week in between Memorial Day and Labor Day to vacation.
- Annual Timeshare Points: Your timeshare membership consists of a set number of points a year to book vacations at any of the timeshare company’s resorts. You can use all your yearly points for one long vacation or multiple shorter vacations at the company’s worldwide resorts. It’s up to you.
- Fractional Ownership: A portion of the whole condo ownership, such as ¼ or ½ ownership. My husband and I own ¼ real estate ownership of a specific 2 bedroom unit which gives us one week every month usage.
The Overhead of Owning a Timeshare
Across the ownership types, there are common real estate costs of owning a timeshare:
- The purchase price
- Closing costs
- Maintenance fees due every ear
- Housekeeping fees per usage (Ours are around $75 for a week’s stay)
- Special assessments (post hurricanes, for example)
- Property Taxes (for fractional or some deeded ownerships)
As with any large commitment, it is important to consider the legally binding financial relationship that you are entering. This is not the type of decision to make on a whim, three margaritas deep while on vacation at the resort. Can your budget (and your emergency fund) comfortably cover all of the costs? Even during job loss, retirement, or a pandemic?
If you’d like a deeper introduction to timeshares, Stephen J. Nelson has a fantastic resource in Timesharing 101: An Introduction to Timeshares.
Now that I’ve covered some of the basic concepts of timeshare ownership, onto my Six Tips for Savvy Timeshare Purchases!
Tip #1: Don’t Purchase Your Timeshare From the Resort
This is my #1 tip for a reason! According to Timeshare Users Group (TUG), the oldest and largest timeshare owners group and advocacy organization, timeshare resorts spend between 40 and 60% of the timeshare price on marketing. That means you will purchase a timeshare for much more than it is actually worth. If you are looking for timeshare vacation deals, you won’t find them from a resort salesperson!
Currently, more people are looking to sell timeshare ownerships than buyers. Whether it is baby boomers looking to downsize, or people whose financial situation has changed, they don’t want to be responsible for the financial obligation every year and are looking for a timeshare exit.
Tip #2 – Buy Your Timeshare Resale
According to Timeshare Users Group (TUG), you can save 75 to 99% of the purchase price of a timeshare by buying it off the resale market. TUG hits it right on the head when they say, “Why would anyone buy “new” if they could get the exact same week, at the exact same resort, for pennies on the dollar from an existing owner?”
How to Find Timeshare Resale Listings
Well, where do you find timeshare resale listings of people looking to sell timeshare properties?
- The TUG Timeshare Marketplace is one of the largest and most visited timeshare classified ad sites with $30 million of timeshare resales over 20 years. If you’re looking for a timeshare exit, try here first!
- ARDA (a timeshare industry trade association) has a list of resale companies that are members of their association, and therefore, trusted brokers for buyers and sellers.
- eBay is a popular place to purchase timeshares from existing owners. However, please make sure that you read the seller’s reviews and that they have feedback listed specifically for timeshare purchases.
Two Examples: Money Saved by Buying Timeshare Resale Properties
Members of a Timeshare Facebook group I’m in often share timeshare resale buying experiences to inspire others. Here are two that illustrate the common stories of savvy shoppers who scored timeshare resale market deals.
- One person went to a sales meeting at the resort and was quoted $7,000 for a fixed week in a 2 bedroom unit. After 3 months of research and resale shopping, he ended up buying the same thing on eBay for $135 total, as the seller paid all related closing and transfer fees. That means he saved 99% of the purchase price by buying a resale listing.
- Another person went to a resort sales presentation and they offered a points ownership package of 55,000 points for $14,000 with a $900 per year maintenance fee. After researching and patiently waiting for the right resale listing, he purchased a 61,000 points package resale at the exact same resort for $1,500. Not only did he save 89% but he got more points for more vacations!
Tip #3 – Choose a Vacation Ownership That Matches Your Travel Lifestyle
- Do you absolutely love Las Vegas and fly there more than once a year, but are planning on having kids in the future? You might want to look for a timeshare ownership that has sister resorts within driving distance of your home or in family destinations.
- If you like going to different destinations every vacation, points system ownership with a large global chain would be a better match than a deeded week at one specific resort.
- Do you have a rigid schedule (Can only vacation during certain times of the year?) or want to vacation in very high-demand spots in peak seasons? Think about buying a fixed week that fits your family’s schedule.
- Are you looking at a timeshare resort close to your house? One savvy perk to look for is day access privileges. This allows owners to use the Vacation property amenities even if they aren’t staying there. One family bought a small timeshare ownership at a beachfront resort that is 20 minutes from their house. They use it as a pool membership, private beach clubhouse, and gym. They’ve never stayed in their unit, instead, they rent it out to help cover the annual costs. Now that’s looking at timeshares with dollars and sense!
Tip #4 – Pick a Fiscally Responsible Resort
So you’ve found a vacation club that you’re excited about! Before moving forward with a purchase you think is a timeshare vacation deal, make sure you’re getting “married” to a fiscally responsible company.
- Yes, you can buy a timeshare for under $500, but if you plan using it for 10+ years the maintenance fees will be your biggest expense. Avoid picking a vacation property and/or company with a history of large year-on-year maintenance fee increases.
- Some resorts have a history of sending owners one time “special assessment” bills for large repairs or major updates that the operating budget can’t cover. If you are interested in a timeshare in a hurricane zone, for example, research the company to see if they have a history of passing these costs down to their owners.
Tip #5: Learn From Existing Owners
There are more resale timeshare listings than people looking to buy, so there is no rush! Take advantage of all the timeshare communities online to research, ask questions, and learn from others before you purchase. These are great places to ask owners about maintenance fee history, company operations, and other pros and cons. Here are some of my favorite communities:
- TUG (Timeshare Users Group) It was founded in 1993 by a group of timeshare owners for other owners. In a world before Facebook, this was one of the very few places for owners to talk to each other online, get advice, and unbiased resort reviews. They have forums by specific brands, so you can learn the ins and outs of each timeshare chain. They also have forums for timeshare resale, timeshare rental, and direct timeshare exchange between owners. Who needs a very expensive timeshare exit company with there is TUG?
- RCI Members for Members Facebook Group was founded in 2015. This group now has over 15,000 people with an RCI Membership across all types of timeshares. You can learn a lot about vacation ownership from the existing posts and reading the conversations like how to stretch your timeshare points for many weeks of vacation club trips. Use the search feature to find past posts on the topics you’re interested in.
Or if you know that you want to research a specific timeshare chain, say Marriott Vacation Club, a quick search on Facebook shows that Marriott Vacation Club International – Owners’ Network is a Facebook group with over 13,000 members.
Tip#6: Run the Numbers to Confirm Value for Money
Timeshare ownership grants you entry into various timeshare associations each with their own perks and avenues to take more vacations economically. Your purchase goal should be to gain access to this “whole new world” with the most value for your money. That’s why this last, but certainly not least, tip is to compare your cost per vacation as an owner to the cost of a timeshare rental to identify the good resale deals.
Even a ‘back of the envelope” evaluation of two actual resale listings illustrates what would provide value for the money and what is not actually a good vacation ownership buy.
Example: Hawaii Resale Listing
This Kahana Beach Resort resale listing is priced at $1 (with the seller paying all closing costs) and annual fees of $812.76. Could I rent a studio here cheaper than the maintenance fees from the hotel or an owner directly? It turns out no! To rent a studio unit for a week from this resort directly would be $1890.21 and do a timeshare rental direct from an owner on Redweek.com would be at least $1,100.
Example: An Orlando Resale Listing
This sold Sheraton Vistana 2 Bedroom resale listing has a small purchase of $100 but a hefty $1,426 annual maintenance fee. Is this $100 listing a good deal? It turns out, the answer is no! You could do a timeshare rental directly from another owner over Thanksgiving for cheaper than the maintenance fee at $1,300. Or you could make an identical hotel room booking with the resort for about the same as the maintenance fee at $1,436.
Thanks for joining me today! If you approach your timeshare purchase with ‘dollars and sense’ you will be vacationing in condo resorts for Motel 6 hotel room prices. Up next in this series, I’ll share my tips on how to hack your timeshare ownership to get more vacations, cheap, when resorts have low capacity, and how to vacation exchange to 4,000+ global ownership resorts. Read it here! If you want to know what is THE best timeshare resort to buy for the most value check out my article: “Timeshare Purchases 2021: How to Get the Best Bang for Your Buck.”
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Monica Fish helps her fellow adventurers live a financially savvy life so they can travel and explore our beautiful world no matter their budget. She writes about smart timeshare ownership, vacation tips and tricks, NYC Metro Area trips and activities, and frugal, yet rich, living at PlannerAtHeart.com.