Tips Before Buying A Timeshare

Consumers that are travel-savvy, need to consider timeshare purchases as a viable alternative to rising hotel bills. So says Lisa Schreier, author of “Timeshare Vacations for Dummies” and “Surviving a Timeshare Presentation.”

Most American consumers know next-to-nothing about timeshares, she says, and are therefore afraid to investigate. The Orlando-based author lists nine things potential buyers should know:

  • If things seem too good to be true, they usually are. Avoid salesmen who use the words “free,” “perfect,” “always,” and/or “never.”
  • Don’t believe the hype. Location is key; people interested in trading for different locations in peak season (i.e. the French Alps in the winter, Hilton Head in the summer) need to own a timeshare in an area with year-round high demand, such as Las Vegas or Orlando.
  • Never assume anything. Most timeshares are deeded in perpetuity, others are not, and some operate on a “points-based” system that is not inflation-proof. Ask questions and don’t be afraid to say “no.”
  • Keep an open mind. If you are going to a timeshare presentation for the gift (usually dinner, cash, or theme park tickets) and because you are required to go in order to receive the discounted hotel room, allow the salesperson to do his or her job.
  • Don’t purchase a timeshare as a real-estate investment. Even if the timeshare is deeded, it should not be considered a financial investment but an investment in your future vacations.
  • Do your homework ahead of time. Have some general ideas about timeshare and be truthful about how much you spend for vacation accommodations.
  • Don’t cave in to high-pressure sales techniques. Make sure you understand the product and/or resort and be sure you would use it if you bought it.
  • Focus on the long-term; you will not be saving money in the short term. Hotel rates will rise every year, while your timeshare cost is generally locked in.
  • Compare apples to apples when considering cost and value. Even if you don’t save money over the long term, you will be having a better vacation in a two-bedroom villa at a quality resort as opposed to a hotel room measuring 400 square feet. According to Schreier, the average cost of a two-bedroom timeshare in 2006 was $15,500. Renting a $200 hotel room for one week would cost $1400 even before taxes were added, the timeshare would pay for itself in less than 10 years, depending upon how fast the hotel rates increased.

Go back two or three years and evaluate how much you actually spent for your hotel, motel, or condo,” says Schreier, “and don’t forget about the hidden room tax.

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