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Title

Timed travel

Created date

April 30th, 2009
Darlene Carter has always loved to travel. As a professional ballroom dancer, she performed in exotic locations around the world. And when her dance partner started selling time-shares in St. Martin, it sparked her curiosity. "I wasn t completely sold on the idea at first," she says. "I didn t want to get roped into something that was going to last all my life. But after I went back for the third time, I decided to take a closer look." Carter eventually bought into a two-bedroom, two-bath tropical villa in St. Martin nine years ago and says she has no regrets. Buying time The principle behind time-sharing is that owners make a one-time purchase in advance for the rights to use a property for a certain amount of time each year, usually in weekly intervals. Prices vary according to size, location, season, and amenities. Many time-shares also offer exchange packages that allow people to trade their units for others in various locations. "I ve used my time-share all over the world," says Carter. "Sometimes you go to places that are so popular and exclusive that you can only get in every so many years. So [owning a time-share] is profitable not in the sense that you re making money but in that you re going to places that you might not be able to afford otherwise." And with nearly 5 million time-share owners worldwide, they are a popular investment. But Carter warns not all time-shares are created equal and doing your homework is the key to ensuring yours is a sweet dream, not a nightmare. "It s not something you want to go into lightly," she says. "You don t want to visit a time-share for a weekend and think, Oh, this is wonderful, and sign up. You need to know all of the fees and laws involved before you sign." Sharing experience To help keep others informed, Carter founded the Timeshare Club at Oak Crest, where she lives. "I started a time-share owners club to more or less educate people on the ins and outs," says Carter. "We teach them what to look for and what questions to ask so hopefully they won t get in over their heads." Recently, she helped Charlestown start a time-share owners club too. Gloria Mosberg is the leader. "At the moment, we have about 15 people in the club," says Mosberg. "Our group is still new, and we ve just started talking about our time-shares where people own, whether they want to sell or trade, what they like or don t like about places they ve been . . . It s a good source of information." Mosberg has owned a time-share in St. Martin for the last 25 years. "We like it very much. We vacationed in St. Martin for about five or six years and then started trading our time-share," she says. "We ve been to Pompano Beach, Disney World, California, Williamsburg (Va.), Ocean City (Md.), Pennsylvania we ve really traveled around quite a bit, and you can go all over the world. We like the flexibility of being able to go anywhere we want and pick our climate too." Currently, Carter is trying to organize time-share owners who live at communities by Erickson across the country. "I would like to get everyone together to exchange information," she says, "and maybe even host an annual party here at Oak Crest."

Time-share expert chooses Erickson

Ed Hastry, a time-share owner since 1988, believes an informed owner equals a happy one. That s why he founded the National Timeshare Owners Association (NTOA), which offers members exclusive educational and networking seminars, discounted time-share units, and access to nine time-share exchange companies. It also puts out a bimonthly magazine for time-share owners, which has 20,000 subscribers. If you re in the market for a time-share property, Hastry says the top three things to look for are location, resort rating, and availability. "Time-shares purchased on the resale market are typically fully furnished condos with every amenity imaginable and are really cheaper to own than traveling and using hotel rooms," he adds. Soon, time-share owners living at Charlestown will have an advantage, as Hastry and his wife are in the process of selling their house and moving there. For more information about NTOA, contact the National Timeshare Owners Association at 410-719-0064 or www.nationaltimeshareownersassoc.com.

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