Start by selecting a favorite vacation spot.
That’s because if a timeshare exchange request doesn’t work out, it’s nice to have a home resort that you enjoy staying at. If it isn’t too far from home, you won’t have to spend a lot of time and money getting there. And if it is a popular spot, others will be more willing to exchange their weeks to go there.
Now that you have a location selected, visit the timeshare resorts in the area. Don’t go to the sales presentations. In fact, avoid resorts that are still in their initial selling phase. Their prices are inflated and there are too many restrictions on resales. You’ll do better at places that are 100% sold out and owner-owned. Walk around the resort, including the common areas. Look for bulletin boards showing owner-to-owner resales. Ask for copies of their newsletter. Check out their Web site. Read reviews online. Talk to other owners. How do they like the place? What is their yearly maintenance fee? Is the board of directors doing a good job? If you can, attend a resort get-together or a board of directors meeting.
Ask which exchange companies they use, including any independent companies in addition to Interval International (II) or Resort Condominiums International (RCI). Which weeks are most popular? Often you can buy bargain off-season weeks that still trade well. In most cases, the larger two-bedroom units are more popular for exchanges. If you decide to stay at your home resort, will the resort help you exchange your owned week with another one (an internal trade)?
Meet the resort manager. He or she knows the place better than anyone. Spend some time with this person. Ask for a tour, and visit a couple of units. What rules and restrictions are in place? What amenities are included? How are units sold? If owners are required to sell through the resort, prices will be higher. The best deals are owner-to-owner sales or better yet, foreclosures. Ask about any bargain weeks they are trying to sell. Remember, in timesharing, a resale unit is the same as a “new” one. Both receive the same upkeep and usage year after year.
How much should you spend? Of course, it depends on the resort, the week, and the unit. Shop around. If you are uncertain, rent for a couple of years before buying. Remember, if you pay the true “going rate” for a unit, based on what owners are willing to sell for and buyers are willing to pay, you’ll approach the fair market value. If you buy a timeshare week at a fair market price, your chances of selling it someday for the same price or higher are much better.
But no matter how much you pay, don’t look at your timeshare as an investment, any more than you would any other form of vacation or recreation. If you take a cruise or fly to Europe, you don’t look for a return on your investment. With timesharing, you should get at least some of your money back if and when you sell, but your main reason for buying should be the quality of vacations you’ll have at your home resort or the ones you exchange to.