If your dream of owning a vacation home is out of reach, a timeshare might be right for you. Timeshare, or vacation, ownership provides some of the same benefits of owning a vacation home without the high costs and maintenance responsibilities. Although it's certainly possible to purchase directly from a developer, buy a resale timeshare to save big bucks.
Investigate the types of timeshare ownership and the types of memberships to determine your preferences. Timeshare ownership can be deeded or certified. Deeded timeshares are real property -- the buyer owns his interest in the unit forever. Certified timeshares are personal property -- the buyer leases the right to use the timeshare for a specific number of years. Types of memberships included fixed and floating weeks, point systems and multilocation programs that let buyers vacation at any one of a number of locations within the developer's network.
Set a budget. The Federal Trade Commission reminds buyers that the total cost of a timeshare includes not only loan payments, but also the costs of traveling to and from your destination, maintenance fees, taxes and, if applicable, closing costs and broker commissions. Decide how much you can put down as a deposit, and how much you can afford to pay monthly.
Research destinations and resorts. Shopping will be easier if you know where you'd like your timeshare to be located. Internet timeshare-owner forums are excellent sources of resort reviews.
Compare units you're interested in by price, maintenance fees and assessments and by exchange options. Also, take note of which units still have the week available for this year and which you'll have to wait until next year to use.
Review the sales agreement carefully before you sign. The American Resort Development Association recommends checking to see if the same consumer protections that apply to developer-sold timeshares apply to resale as well. Such protections include a rescission period that allows you to cancel the contract without consequence during a specified period of time and a requirement for the seller to "provide you with a public offering statement which describes, in detail, the timeshare plan."
Order a title search and title insurance if you buy a deeded timeshare. Title insurance is the only guaranty of clear title.
The Federal Trade Commission warns that timeshare buyers who sign a contract outside of the United States forfeit legal protection afforded by U.S. laws.
About the Author Daria Kelly Uhlig:
Daria Kelly Uhlig began writing professionally for websites in 2008. She is a licensed real-estate agent who specializes in resort real estate rentals in Ocean City, Md. Her real estate, business and finance articles have appeared on a number of sites, including Motley Fool, The Nest and more. Uhlig holds an associate degree in communications from Centenary College.