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Are timeshares worth your time?

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November 20th, 2012

In most parts of the country, freezing temperatures and mounds of snow have many of us daydreaming about owning our own slice of beachside paradise. If you don t have the wherewithal or the desire to purchase a vacation home, a timeshare can be a way to escape to your favorite warm-weather destination. Lisa Ann Schreier is the author of Timeshare Vacations for Dummies and the founder of Timeshare Insights (timeshareinsights.com), a consulting company that matches vacationers with timeshares. Despite negative media attention in recent years, which Schreier attributes to some companies outdated and aggressive marketing practices, she says timeshares can be a great value if you know what you re buying. The first thing to assess seems obvious, but Schreier says it is worth repeating: Only buy a timeshare if you re going to use it, she says.

Three types

Once you ve decided that you d like to travel often enough to make use of a timeshare, then you need to choose the timeshare model that is right for you. Schreier says there are three basic types of timeshares: fixed week, floating week, and points-based. With the fixed week model, you pay to stay at the same property during the same week each year. If you re the type of person who always wants to go to the Daytona 500 every year, then you want week seven in Daytona, Schreier says. A fixed week timeshare would give you rights to that resort that week every year. The floating week model gives you a bit more flexibility to vacation during any week of your preferred season, Schreier says. And travelers who want to explore different destinations will be happiest with points-based timeshares, which allow you to cash in points at resorts around the world. The downturn in the economy left many timeshare owners unable to keep up with maintenance fees and afford travel. The result, says Timeshare Users Group (tug2.net) spokesperson Brian Rogers, is a resale market flooded with deals on timeshares. It s definitely a buyer s market, Rogers says. There has never been a better time to buy, if you buy on the resale market. Rogers site and others like SellMyTimeshareNow.com are full of listings for timeshares for sale and rent. Rogers says to try before you buy. I would rent a timeshare from an existing owner, he says. There are thousands out there, and they re cheaper than most hotels. Plus you usually have multiple bedrooms and a kitchen. The number of people trying to unload timeshares they can t afford has created some amazing deals. But Ed Perkins, a contributor to SmarterTravel.com, cautions would-be timeshare owners to read the fine print. You might find an unbelievable deal like a timeshare in Florida on sale for $1, only to find out that bargain comes with thousands of dollars of annual maintenance fees. Timeshare operators are becoming increasingly frustrated with the robust resale market, Perkins says. So, some are making it harder to sell. Sometimes, if you buy a resale, you don t get membership in an exchange group, Perkins says. You really have to know what you re buying. meghan.streit@erickson.com

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