A timeshare is a right to use a vacation home, such as a condo unit for a certain period of the year. Timeshares are also sold for cruises, campgrounds, hotel rooms, houseboats and other types of property. Your timeshare ownership entitles you to use the unit for a specified period of time (i.e. usually one week each year).

Timeshare Variables

In the past, buying a timeshare meant you purchased one specific week each year at one specific location. While this is still technically true, today most resort properties are part of a larger network of timeshares, providing more flexibility. Often your timeshare purchase translates into points or credits that you can use to vacation at any member resort throughout the world during a week of your choice. You can also upgrade your points, for an additional fee, if you need a larger unit or more time in a particular year. Other terms that may be variable depending on the type of timeshare you purchase include: Annual vs. bi-annual: A bi-annual timeshare entitles you to a week every other year and is usually less expensive to buy. Deeded vs. right-to-use: With a deeded timeshare, you are an owner, with an interest in the property. With a right-to-use timeshare, you are only leasing the right to use the property for a specified number of years and have no further rights to it once the lease ends. Fixed-week vs. floating: Although floating weeks have become most common, some timeshares may still lock you into a specific week each year. Ability to bank, give away or rent unused weeks: Make sure you understand what you are allowed to do with your week if you are unable to use it in a given year. The exchange program: There are several timeshare exchange programs that a resort may belong to. The two big ones are RCI and Interval International. Make sure you know which one your timeshare belongs to, and any additional fees you must pay for this program. Maintenance or resort fees: Each timeshare owner is responsible for a portion of the costs of running the building. You cover this obligation with an annual maintenance fee, which may be in 12 equal monthly installments. If you don't pay it, the timeshare company can foreclose on your interest in the unit. Fees can vary by property and typically include: - Insurance (both homeowner's and liability) - Maintenance - Renovation - Taxes - Housekeeping - All other necessary fees

Buying a Timeshare

Buying a timeshare is much like buying a home. Purchase prices are based on unit size, location, amenities and season. Larger sizes in popular locations or the flexibility of a floating week come with a higher price tag. Most timeshare companies offer in-house financing, usually with lenient qualification requirements. The trade-off is high interest rates. State laws, which vary, regulate timeshare sales, so make sure you understand the law in the state where you intend to purchase. You can also buy a pre-owned timeshare, which is usually significantly cheaper, but you won't get the in-house financing.

Why Own a Timeshare?

Timeshares can be a very convenient way to vacation. If you vacation at least once a year and like to visit new places, a timeshare is a convenient way to do it. You can find a resort in nearly any country and don't have the hassle of trying to book hotel rooms. Some timeshare plans even allow you to take "getaways," that you can book at special prices at the last minute. Many resorts are all-inclusive, offering maid service, meals and more. You can also get units with a kitchen, if you prefer to cook. Most also have entertainment and exercise centers as well as pools, spas and washer/dryer. Timeshares aren't for everyone, but they are a popular choice with a lot of people.