The word timeshare may send chills up one’s spine. For others, perhaps a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
You would understand if you have ever sat through a timeshare presentation. They can be aggressive. Sounds great to get a “free” vacation offer at some exotic location plus restaurant vouchers or a sunset cruise. “The pitch” can be a grueling experience or the key to a lifetime of vacations, depending upon your intentions. Timeshare purchases often are spur of the moment decisions.
The American Resort Development Association, (ARDA) reports that timeshares represent an $8 billion dollar industry. In the U.S. alone, there are 203,810 units – 132 units per resort on average. Compare this revenue to $9 billion dollars for Major League Baseball.
The ARDA says that 9.9 million U.S. Households Own one or more types (timeshare weeks, points, fractional and/or Private Residence Club). The site offers a plethora of valuable statics on timeshare ownership.
There are many pros and cons pertaining to timeshare ownership. First, let’s look at the pros.
One advantage is owning time in an upscale resort that may not be affordable on a year-round ownership basis. Like the Liberty Mutual commercials, you only pay for what you use.
You have a guaranteed vacation spot which is an advantage if you want to go annually to the same place. Another option is to trade for another property in the system.
“Timeshares are good if the initial price is low and the maintenance is kept under control and if it’s a place you like going regularly”, says previous timeshare owner Joe Ignotowski of Rehoboth Beach. “You have to be flexible with trades, though”.
Timeshare ownership can also mean vacation savings over the course of a lifetime, considering the general cost of a vacation
However, there is an annual maintenance fee that is used for upkeep and paying resort employees. And there may be unanticipated special assessments. According to the National Association of Attorneys General, annual fees can increase each year.
Perhaps the biggest deterrent to owning a timeshare is trying to sell it. They are hard to sell, and used timeshare units are sold at a steep discount because there are so many on the market, warns Forbes magazine.
An entire industry has sprung up to help people sell timeshare units, but Ignowtowski has some words of advice. He and his partner sold their Frandonia, NH unit in 2022. “I went through a company at first but that was a waste of money, effort, and stress.”, he said. “I did write a letter to the Timeshare itself. They finally relented and let me out of the contract for a fee. I would tell anyone trying to get rid of a timeshare to talk with the timeshare people and see what it would take to get out of the contract – never a company which ‘specializes in getting rid of timeshares’.”
Local resident Tama Viola owned a property in Lake Harmony, PA for a short period of time. “I only used it once and it wasn’t at the place we bought….no one wanted to buy it, had to pay the company to take it back and get out of the contract,” she said. “It was a waste of money.”
Timesharesonly.com and Investopedia.com warn that timeshares should not be considered an investment and they do not appreciate. In fact, timeshares for sale on the resale market are sold for much less than their original purchase price, according to the site.
Yours truly is case in point, having many years ago purchased two weeks on the Big Island in Hawaii and selling a couple of years later for half the cost.
By Mary Jo Tarallo, Guest Journalist
Mary Jo Tarallo spent much of her career in public relations with various non-profits and spent 40 years involved with the ski industry as a journalist, public relations director for a national trade association and as executive director of the Learn to Ski and Snowboard initiative. Prior to her ski industry involvement she worked for the Maryland International Center in Baltimore and United Way of Central Maryland. She won a Gold Award for TV programming for a United Way simulcast that starred Oprah Winfrey. She has been cited for her work by numerous organizations. Mary Jo grew up in Baltimore, attended the University of Maryland and Towson University, lived in Washington, DC for 21 years and has been a full time resident of Rehoboth Beach and Milton since May 2019.