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Top 9 Things to Look For When Buying a Timeshare

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Posted on June 30, 2020

When looking at buying a timeshare, so much depends on where you buy it. If you are at the resort, it can be the easiest purchase you’ve ever made since the resorts have worked for years to streamline the process and get you signed up simply with just a few strokes of a pen. Of course, that would be after the tour and the hours spent checking out the resort and listening to the sales staff. But when we’re talking about the actual purchase, sign away and you’re done.

On the resale market, it’s different. Mainly because you are the one initiating the purchase and either searching for yourself or enlisting a licensed real estate agent to help you find what you’re looking for. That can take some time, even with all of the available inventory on the market, because there are a number of variables to consider.  

New vs Resale

We just touched on this but it is important that you consider how and where you buy your timeshare, since the cost difference can be significant. Resorts bake sales and marketing costs and commissions into the price of a timeshare, which can add 50-60 percent to the overall cost. Those costs don’t exist on the resale market, so you can save thousands immediately just by looking online first.

On the resale market, you as a buyer have the leverage in negotiations. Of course, the seller doesn’t have to sell but chances are good that you will be able to get the price you want. At the resort, you’re at a disadvantage because you don’t really know what the resort’s best price point really is.

Ongoing costs

Maintenance fees are a major topic of conversation among timeshare owners, so ask what the annual fees are before you buy. This can vary between a few hundred dollars at some of the older, single site timeshare resorts to thousands for branded timeshares at high demand locations. The average annual maintenance fee for a timeshare week in the U.S. is $1,000 according to the American Resort Development Association. 

Often, the annual costs are less than what it would cost for you to vacation for a week in a rental in the resort. Most owners understand the need to contribute to the upkeep of the resort in order to maintain the quality and add new amenities.

Much of the negativity surrounding maintenance fees comes from owners who no longer want their timeshare and don’t want to pay the fees anymore. This can be an opportunity for a buyer to come in and get a great deal from an owner just looking to get out.

Time of Year to Vacation

Keep in mind the time of year that you most often take a vacation. With a points program, this is less of an issue but you still have some favorite places you will want to visit so keep this in mind. If you like to ski, then January in Breckenridge may be best for you. A week during the winter in Ocean City won’t do you much good, no matter how good the deal is.


Similar to the previous point, but take a good look at the places and types of vacations you enjoy. This is especially important for buying timeshare points. For example, if you want to experience urban destinations, Marriott has timeshare locations in places such as Boston, New York, San Diego, San Francisco, and Washington D.C., along with leading beach and ski spots.

Sure, exchange is always an option if you want a change of pace, but if you drive to your vacation destinations most often then you might want a timeshare in a spot not too far from home. This is why some of the smaller brands such as InnSeason Resorts have been so successful. They focused on New England and specifically Cape Cod for their resort offerings, knowing that the population base in the Northeast would want drive-to resorts. 

Keep in Mind How You Vacation

A week of timeshare in Hawaii may sound like a dream come true, but if you live on the east coast of the U.S. it can be a haul to get there. Especially if you have children. Think about how you take trips – do you tend to drive or fly to your destination? How much time do you really take to vacation? What is your budget for items such as meals and entertainment? A week in an Orlando timeshare with all of the theme park entry fees is going to be a lot different than a week on the beach. 

Room configuration also comes into play here. How many bedrooms will you need for your family? Is a balcony important? What about the view – does it have to be oceanfront?

Amenities and Flexibility

This goes beyond just the basics of the room. Does the resort offer free Wi-Fi in their rooms? You would be amazed how this is still a topic of conversation at industry conferences. Resorts are still asking themselves whether they need to offer it. Really.

If you have children, does the resort offer a children’s pool or activity program? Are there onsite bars or restaurants so it is convenient to have a meal rather than go off-site? If you play golf or tennis, are their facilities at the resort?

Does your resort offer an internal exchange program if it is part of a branded network of resorts? This can add value to your ownership since you may not need the services of an exchange company in order to broaden your vacation horizons. 

Understand What You Are Buying

Is it deeded or right-to-use? Fixed or floating week? If you are buying points, how do they operate and what exactly can you get in accommodation for the amount of points you are considering to purchase.

You would be astounded at the number of people who contact us and don’t know what they own. For example, they may tell us that they own an RCI timeshare, when RCI is an exchange company and doesn’t own timeshare. There are companies that overlay RCI points on top of an ownership product such as a fixed week, but the owner would still own at a specific resort when you peel back the layers of the agreement.

You may want a fixed week at a specific resort. Many owners still vacation that way, especially in high demand locations such as Hawaii or Cape Cod in August. There is no wrong answer here, but make sure you understand the timeshare product before you buy.

Strength of Management

The management company looking after the resort is important. They are the ones that ultimately make the decisions to ensure your facility operates smoothly and is repaired or modernized when necessary. If possible, speak to some existing owners to see what they think of their management company.

If items come up such as difficulty in booking a week, or problems with the amenities, then maybe look at a different resort. 

Take Your Time

Buying a timeshare isn’t a sprint, no matter how much urgency is created at the resort. Do your research and take all the time you need to make the decision that you are most comfortable with. The last thing you want is to buy one and afterwards think of something that would have led to a difference decision.

This may seem like a lot to take in, but many of these items involve decisions you would normally make each time you look at taking a vacation. The beauty of timeshare is that you can make these decisions once and you’re set for years of great vacations.


Author Pic
Steve Luba
Chief Communications Officer

Steve manages the public relations, social media and content creation efforts of the company. Previously the Chief Operating Officer for Perspective International, Steve provided oversight and contributed articles for the five regional vacation ownership trade magazines under the Perspective Magazine banner. With 34 years’ experience in various roles in radio and television, sales and marketing, public relations, media and government liaison initiatives, he brings a well-rounded outlook to our industry