Hi there! I’m Monica, AKA Your Timeshare Fairy Godmother, and a happy timeshare owner of 15 years. I’ve never been employed by the timeshare industry and I’m not being compensated by any of the parties I talk about in this article.
With over $10 billion dollars a year being spent on timeshare purchases, (yes, billions!) I’m on a mission to help people save money on timeshare ownership and vacations. I write about timeshare vacation hacking as well as road trips and inexpensive family activities in my region so I can help others save money on travel.
Now, I’m sure many of you have been to a timeshare presentation before, and you may not have liked the experience. Timeshares have a bad rap, and there can be challenges and frustrations with owning one. However, the key is to hack your timeshare purchases as well as your ownership to get the best deal possible. With these tips owning a timeshare might actually be worth it!
Before this frugal fannie dives into my 6 tips to save money on your timeshare purchase, many of you may be wondering what a timeshare is.
What is a Timeshare?
A timeshare is a partial ownership of a condo-like unit in a resort. They are owned, operated and maintained by independent resorts, small chains, and giant companies like Hilton, Wyndham, Marriott, Westin, and Disney. For a comprehensive listing of timeshare companies, read on here.
Timeshare owners enjoy a carefree vacation lifestyle that differs from owning a second home. The resort manages all the upkeep such as cleaning, furnishings, repairs and renters. I personally love the hands-off conveniences of ownership.
To meet today’s different travel lifestyles, there are now a variety of timeshare ownership options:
- A deeded/fixed week: A set week, in a certain unit, at a specific resort for yearly vacations. Historically, this was what timeshare ownership was. For example, you owned the second week of July of unit #12 at Cape Cod Beach Palace every year.
- A floating week: One week of vacation a year that falls into either the peak or off-peak season of a destination. As you don’t own a specific week a year (the week “floats”), you need to make a reservation with your resort to occupy a unit. For example, if you own a peak season floating week in a Virginia Beach timeshare, you have one week in between Memorial Day and Labor Day to vacation.
- Annual Allocated Points: Your membership consists of a set number of points a year to book vacations at any of the timeshare company’s resorts. You can use all your yearly points for one long vacation or for multiple shorter vacations at the company’s worldwide resorts. It’s up to you.
- Fractional Ownership: A portion of the whole condo ownership, such as ¼ or ½ ownership. My husband and I own a ¼ ownership of a specific 2 bedroom unit which gives us one week every month usage.
While there is quite a bit of variation of ownership types, there are several common costs of owning a timeshare including:
- The purchase price
- Closing costs
- Yearly maintenance fees
- Housekeeping fees per usage (Ours are around $75 for a week’s stay)
- Special assessments (post hurricanes, for example)
- Property Taxes (for fractional or some deeded ownerships)
Another thing to keep in mind is that not all timeshares are created equally. Timeshares may be geared toward different destinations or standards of luxury, so it’s important to check out all your options if you are interested in purchasing a timeshare.
As with any large commitment, it is important that you consider the legally binding financial relationship that you are entering. This is not the type of decision to make on a whim, three margaritas deep while on vacation at the resort. Can your budget (and your emergency fund) comfortably cover all of the costs? Even during job loss, retirement or a pandemic?
If you’d like a deeper introduction to timeshares, Stephen J. Nelson has a fantastic resource in Timesharing 101: An Introduction to Timeshares.
If you’ve read this far and are seriously considering purchasing a timeshare, check out my tips to save big money on your purchase.
Tip #1: Don’t Purchase Your Timeshare From the Resort
This is my #1 tip for a reason!
According to Timeshare Users Group (TUG), the oldest and largest owners group and advocacy organization, timeshare resorts spend between 40 and 60% of the timeshare price on marketing. That means you will purchase a timeshare for much more than it is actually worth.
Currently, there are more people looking to sell their timeshare ownership than buyers. Whether it is baby boomers looking to downsize, or people whose financial situation has changed, they don’t want to be responsible for the financial obligation anymore.
This brings me to my next tip.
Tip #2 – Buy Your Timeshare Resale
According to Timeshare Users Group (TUG), you can save 75 to 99% of the purchase price of a timeshare by buying it off the resale market. TUG hits it right on the head when they say, ““Why would anyone buy “new” if they could get the exact same week, at the exact same resort, for pennies on the dollar from an existing owner?”
Well, how do you find resale listings?
- The TUG Timeshare Marketplace is one of the largest and most visited timeshare classified ad sites with tens of millions of dollars in sales over 20 years.
- ARDA (a timeshare industry trade association) has a list of resale companies that are members of their association, and therefore, trusted brokers for buyers and sellers.
- eBay is a popular place to purchase timeshares from existing owners. However, please make sure that you read the seller’s reviews and that they have feedback listed specifically for timeshare purchases.
Members of a Timeshare Facebook group I’m in often share resale buying experiences to inspire others. Here’s two that illustrate the common stories of savvy timeshare shoppers!
- One person went to a sales meeting at the resort and was quoted $7,000 for one week a year in a 2 bedroom unit. After 3 months of research and resale shopping, he ended up buying the same thing on eBay for $135 total, as the seller paid all related closing and transfer fees. That means he saved 99% of the purchase price by buying resale.
- Another person went to a resort sales presentation and they offered a points ownership package of 55,000 points for $14,000 with a $900 per year maintenance fee. After researching and patiently waiting for the right resale listing, he purchased a 61,000 points package resale at the exact same resort for $1,500. Not only did he save 89% but he got more points for more vacations!
Tip #3 – Choose a Timeshare That Matches Your Travel Lifestyle
A common complaint from unhappy timeshares owners is that they aren’t using their timeshare because it “does not work for them.” You could get a great resale deal, but if you don’t use your timeshare you’ll be wasting your money year after year.
That’s why it’s really important for you to think about not only your current travel plans, but your future travel lifestyle as purchasing a timeshare is also a commitment to your future vacations.
Things to consider:
- Do you absolutely love Las Vegas and fly there more than once a year, but are planning on having kids in the future? You might want to look for a timeshare ownership that has sister resorts within driving distance of your home or in family destinations.
- If you like going to different destinations every vacation, a points based ownership with a large global chain would be a better match than a deeded week at one specific resort.
- Do you have a rigid schedule (Can only vacation during certain times of the year?) or want to vacation in very high demand spots in peak seasons (Hawaii over Christmas)? Think about buying a specific deeded week that fits your family’s schedule.
- Are you looking at a timeshare resort close to your house? One savvy perk to look for is day access privileges. This allows owners to use the amenities even if they aren’t staying there. One family bought a small timeshare ownership at a beachfront resort that is 20 minutes from their house. They use it as a pool membership, private beach clubhouse and gym. They’ve never stayed in their unit, instead they rent it out to help cover the annual costs. Now that’s looking at timeshares with dollars and sense!
Tip #4 – Pick a Fiscally Responsible Resort
So you’ve found an ownership type that you’re excited about! Before moving forward with a purchase, make sure you’re getting “married” to a company who is fiscally responsible.
- Yes, you can buy a timeshare for under $500, but if you plan using it for 10+ years the maintenance fees will be your biggest expense. Avoid picking a resort and/or company with a history of large year-on-year maintenance fee increases.
- Some resorts have a history of sending owners one time “special assessment” bills for large repairs or major updates that the operating budget can’t cover. If you are interested in a timeshare in a hurricane zone, for example, research the company to see if they have a history of passing these costs down to their owners.
Tip #5: Learn From Existing Owners
There are more resale timeshare listings than people looking to buy, so there is no rush! Take advantage of all the timeshare communities online to research, ask questions and learn from others before you purchase. These are great places to ask owners about maintenance fee history, company operations and other pros and cons.
Here are some of my favorite communities:
- TUG (Timeshare Users Group) was founded in 1993 by a group of timeshare owners for other owners. In a world before Facebook, this was one of the very few places for owners to talk to each other online, get advice and unbiased resort reviews. They have forums by specific brands, so you can learn the ins and outs of each timeshare chain.
- RCI Members for Members Facebook Group was founded in 2015. This group now has over 15,000 members across all types of timeshares. You can learn a lot from the existing posts and reading the conversations. It is a mix of veteran owners and newbies looking to learn. Don’t be shy in creating a post on a specific topic!
- Or if you know that you want to research a specific timeshare chain, say Marriott Vacation Club, a quick search on Facebook shows that Marriott Vacation Club International – Owners’ Network is a Facebook group with over 13,000 members.
Tip#6: Gain Access to the Timeshare World with Value for Your Money
Owning a timeshare grants you entry into various timeshare associations each with their own perks and avenues to take more vacations economically. Your purchase goal should be to gain access to this “whole new world” with the most value for your money. That’s why this last, but certainly not least, tip is to compare your cost per vacation as an owner to the cost of renting to identify the good resale deals.
Even a ‘back of the envelope” evaluation of two actual resale listings illustrates what would provide value for the money and what wouldn’t. Here are two examples of what I’m talking about.
- A Kahana Beach Resort resale listing is priced at $1 with the seller paying all closing costs and annual fees of $812.76. Could I rent a studio unit cheaper than the maintenance fees from the hotel or an owner directly? It turns out no! To rent a studio unit for a week from this resort directly would be $1890.21 and to rent it from another timeshare owner on Redweek.com would be at least $1,100.
- A sold Sheraton Vistana 2 Bedroom resale listing has a small purchase of $100 but a hefty $1,426 annual maintenance fee. Is this $100 listing a good deal? It turns out, the answer is no! You could rent a 2 bedroom directly from another owner over Thanksgiving for cheaper than the maintenance fee at $1,300. Or you could make an identical booking with the resort for about the same as the maintenance fee at $1,436.
Interested in possibly purchasing a timeshare but not sure where to start or put off by resort pitches?
A timeshare can be a great way to vacation consistently and save money on your trips, but only if you’re savvy a bout it. If you approach your timeshare purchase with ‘dollars and sense’ you will be vacationing in condo resorts for Motel 6 prices.
Use the 6 tips above to save money on your timeshare purchase and get traveling.