Stop The Trash Talk: Timeshares Can Rule!

By Nancy Dunham      

Try telling a neighbor that you own a timeshare. Their faces light up with interest and then something akin to confusion.

That’s understandable. Poking fun at timeshares is something of a national passtime. We assume their owners have been caught in of one of the largest scams this side of Madoff. Turns out, though, that those assumptions may be way off.

That’s not to say every timeshare owner snags a great deal, but it wouldn’t surprise RedPlum to discover most owners are content with their purchases. And why is that? In part because a timeshare bought ten years ago for about $9,000 could today be worth $60,000. But not every deal works out that way; and even the most satisfied owners probably know there are some things we should have considered before signing on the dotted line. Here's what to consider:

Doing the Math: There’s a steady rise in popularity for renting, selling and exchanging timeshares, even in the current economic conditions, according to an article in "Travel & Leisure." The reason? Timeshares generally offer high quality lodging with plenty of space for families, said Randy Conrads, CEO and co-founder of Redweek, a marketplace that connects travelers and timeshares.A recent tour of a new timeshare community in Virginia Beach, Va., underscored that. Units were spacious and kid-friendly with bench seating in the kitchen, twin beds in several of the bedrooms, and an array of tot- and children-pools that featured slides and other extras. Even a somewhat swank timeshare we recently toured just outside of Los Angeles was kid-friendly with pools, waterfalls and washers and dryers in the units so parents didn’t need to live with wet or dirty kids’ clothes.

Another benefit to timeshares is that those on islands offer terrific resale values, according to a 2008 report by Stroman Realty, a major timeshare player. In 2007 the average price of a timeshare in the Hawaiian Islands was $14,352. The price in 2008 went down a little to $14,265 or lost about $87, according to the study. Compare that to timeshares in the Caribbean Islands. In 2007 the average price was $ 16,378. The price in 2008 went up a little to $16,420 or about $42.

"Your investment in island vacation timeshare destinations is bolstered because demand is still high for quality properties that are surrounded by water," said Stroman CEO Wayne Stroman.

But is it Right For You?: One of the benefits to timeshares – sometimes called "vacation ownership" – is the opportunity to return to the same place year after year. The premise is that families become friendly and the annual vacation is almost a group experience.

But what if you don’t have kids or enjoy variety of destinations? The timeshares may still be right for you. Like anything, though, think before you buy. Here are some points to consider:

Location: Yes, buying in the Bahamas or Hawaii may sound like heaven, but consider the extras. Do you want to spend the time and cash to travel to those areas repeatedly? It’s also wise to realize that with baggage handling fees, you may need to pack lightly to save. For some buying a timeshare a few hours drive from home is preferable; it allows you to use the timeshare benefits – such as free beach parking and restaurant discounts – as frequently as you like.

So This is Yours, Right? Well, yes, generally, it’s your unit to use for a week or more – depending on your agreement. But just how long does the agreement last? Some timeshares gives full ownership (for the week or month you've bought). That means you can sell it, rent it, use it, and will to your heirs. Many timeshares are for a limited time – such as 30 or 50 years. That’s fine, but know what you’re buying.

Consider Trades: What some enjoy most about timeshares is the trades. Generally when you buy a timeshare you are given the option to join a "trading" company that allows you to place your "week" in a pool. Those that want to use the week can then pay the company a fee for its use (anywhere from about $100 and up). Even if there are no takers, you are free of the week at your timeshare. That means you can select another property at which to vacation.

Look at Extras: Some folks cringe when they consider a weekend "seminar" at a timeshare. The bottom line is that those weekends are geared to dispel fallacies about timeshares. Many people are surprised to find that many high-end hotels have timeshare units. But again, understand what you want to spend and if you want to buy. Like anything, consider your options and make the timeshare decision from a position of knowledge.