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What is a Timeshare? Everything You Should Know

What is a timeshare? If you’re asking, you’re not alone. Let’s explore the ins, outs, and must-know details.

Jessie Gilmartin - May 15, 2020
Timesharing – also known as vacation ownership – has been around for roughly 50 years. In that time, timeshare has gone from simply owning one week per year at a resort into a highly specialized system. What is a timeshare today, and how has that definition changed? And what’s all this talk about points? Now more than ever, there’s a lot you need to consider. In this article, we’ll cover the ins and outs, the key terms, and the must-know details.

What’s the (Literal) Definition of a Timeshare?

First things first: A timeshare gives you the right to use a condo-style space at a major resort, often (though not always) for one week each year. Timeshare resorts are often focused around a key activity such as skiing or beach relaxation and are located in prime destinations worldwide, with units available by major names like Marriott, Wyndham, and Hilton.

Timeshare resorts are often focused around a key activity, such as skiing or beach relaxation, and are located in prime destinations worldwide

These properties offer a home-away-from-home vibe, plus the security and amenities of a premier resort. As brands offer increased flexibility, you have the opportunity to curate a timeshare experience that works with your travel plans and interests – as long as you keep a keen eye on the details.

How Do Timeshares Work? Pro Tip: They’re Not Always Forever

To understand timeshare ownership, the first thing you need to know is whether you’re dealing with a “deeded” or “right to use” contract. With deeded ownership, the ownership purchase is for life or until you sell it. Right to use, on the other hand, grants allocated time at a resort for a specific number of years, with an expiration date outlined within the contract. Essentially, deeded is forever, so make sure you love what you’re buying!

Points vs. Fixed Week vs. Floating Week: 

Now that we’ve covered the possible long-term arrangements, let’s talk about how it works within a given year. Understanding the nuances here is what defines your vacation; the better grasp you have on your brand’s nuances and insider hacks, the better suited you’ll be to make the most of a timeshare.

Points: Flexible, but Complicated

This is where the question “What is a timeshare?” calls for a change in perception. Think of points as a kind of currency. Owners purchase points either directly from their resort or a points marketplace and then use those points to make their bookings. Depending on the vacation club, points can also be utilized towards excursions or vacation add-ons like rental cars.

The better grasp you have on your brand’s nuances and insider hacks, the better suited you’ll be to make the most of a timeshare

Explorers wanting to travel to many destinations may enjoy a points-based arrangement, but beware: many of the best resorts and dates are booked far in advance, so make sure to keep an eagle eye on the resort you’d like to book.

Fixed or Floating Weeks: Reliable, but Limited 

For those looking to lock in a specific date range, say, for annual holiday or school breaks, fixed weeks secure those arrangements year after year at your home resort. On the other hand, floating weeks give you the option of booking a week within a specific season. So if your schedule offers more flexibility and you know you just love traveling when it’s cold or warm, this may be a good option for you. Remember, however, that you’ll be returning to the same resort every year.

Rental: An Insider Hack to Timeshare Perks without the Obligations

Many timeshare owners who can’t use their time in a given year choose to rent out their spaces. Renting allows owners to cover their maintenance fees while enabling travelers to access multiple bedrooms, living rooms, and full kitchens at premier resorts worldwide. Better still, these direct-from-owner deals are often up to 70% off the price for the same unit on sites like Expedia and Booking.com.

Timeshare Pros

Some of the biggest benefits to vacation ownership are the space and amenities that offer an elevated travel experience. Timeshare units range from studios to multi-room villas with separate rooms and bathrooms, plus a slew of additional features like kitchens, living rooms, and in-room washers and dryers – all perks when booking group travel.

One of the biggest benefits to vacation ownership is the space – not to mention amenities that offer an elevated travel experience

Beyond the unit, timeshare resorts boast perks such as lazy rivers, ski lift access, acclaimed restaurants, and world-class spas.

Timeshare Cons

Along with the pros, you should also give some thought to the downsides. Most importantly? Timeshares do not appreciate over time. In fact, they can depreciate significantly on the resale market. On Facebook it’s not unheard-of for owners to sell their timeshares for as little as $1. 

So, what gives? Why would someone who owns a guaranteed vacation every year at a prime resort want to offload it for basically nothing? Much of the issue boils down to maintenance fees. Although timeshare ownership doesn’t require personally maintaining the property, you’ll still need to pay annual maintenance fees, whether you use the property or not. In 2018, the average cost of maintenance fees for a unit was $1,000, but depending on the resort and season, your fees could be lower or (much) higher. And even if you can’t use your timeshare in a given year, you’re still required to pay that maintenance fee.

What if I don’t want to own a timeshare?

Now that we’ve covered the basics of what a timeshare is, it’s important to think about whether vacation ownership aligns with your travel plans. If an annual vacation is key to your work/life balance, you love traveling with family, or you’re drawn to the same destination again and again, it just might be! In these cases, owning a timeshare may be more affordable over time than individual bookings each year.

If timeshare ownership isn’t quite the right fit, you can still vacay in style by renting a timeshare directly from owners through KOALA. Get insider access to rustic ski resorts and tropical oases at prices you won’t see anywhere else (up to 70% off). Explore how timeshare rentals can amplify your traveling – without the costs of ownership.

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