12 questions to ask before you buy
Have you ever attended a free information session on a timeshare? If you have, you know that sometimes the sales people can put a lot of pressure on you to buy.
Don’t rush in. A timeshare is a long-term investment. There’s a lot you need to learn about it before you decide. Use these questions to help you decide if a timeshare is right for you.
- What does this timeshare include? Your timeshare will allow you a specific amount of time each year. Some timeshares also include other vacation perks, like airfare, car rentals or food. Make sure everything is in the contract. Verbal promises are worthless.
- What dates are you getting this place? Some timeshares will give you fixed dates. Others use a floating-week system. If your dates are fixed and you can’t use them, find out if you can use them later. If floating, find out how far ahead you can reserve your time.
- Will you be happy to return to this place at the same time each year? This style of vacation doesn’t suit everyone. If you prefer to travel around, or you are not sure you will get away each year, find out if you can trade dates or even swap with timeshare owners at other locations.
- What do visitors or other owners think of the place? Find out how long they have been coming. Are they happy with way it is run? Do they like the lifestyle?
- What will this timeshare really cost? Not just the obvious costs, like maintenance, purchase or leasing fees. You will also have travel costs each year. And, you may pay taxes, closing costs and commissions.
Also, remember that maintenance fees usually go up. If you are buying a resale, find out the maintenance history. Are any big improvements expected? Also ask if there’s any limit on the increases. If you buy into an older facility, there could be a lot of costly repairs to cover.
|Tip: When you see a unit you like, shop around and see what other similar units are selling for. If a lot of units are for sale from the same complex, it could be a red flag. |
- How does the cost of this timeshare compare to the cost of a similar rental, hotel or resort in the same area at the same time of year? This will help you decide if it’s a good deal or not. Just be sure to compare apples to apples. Also remember that when you stay at a hotel or resort, you won’t have any costs if you don’t travel. With a timeshare, you will pay most of the same costs each year, whether you use it or not.
- How does the cost of this timeshare over the next five years compare with what you usually spend your vacation time? Some experts suggest you look at what you have spent on vacations over the past five years to estimate your future costs.
- Does this timeshare offer other forms of value to you? For example, even if you don’t save money, would you have a better vacation staying in a spacious 2-bedroom villa in a quality resort as compared to a 400 square foot hotel room?
- How easy or hard will it be to sell this timeshare in the future? Resale values on timeshares are not high. It will depend in part on the location and any special features included. For example, some locations, like Orlando or Las Vegas, have major tourist attractions nearby. Some timeshares feature special amenities, like world class golf or skiing. These could be easier to sell in the future.
- Is this a reputable timeshare company? Check with the Better Business Bureau in the city where the company is based. Some buyers feel better if there’s a major name behind a property.
Ask for references from other timeshare owners. You can also check timeshare blogs to learn from the experiences of other buyers. The Internet is a great tool for finding out what other consumers think.
- Are you buying a deed or a certificate of use? The experts say that a deed tends to offer more security. It also offers more of a guarantee that you'll get something back if the property goes under. With most certificates of use, you are merely buying the right to use the property, almost like joining a club. If the property goes out of business, chances are your money just disappears.
- What happens if you change your mind? Read the fine print. See if there is any time period where you can get out of your contract. Most timeshares offer a cooling off period. This allows you to back out of your contract and still get your money back.
|Tip: If you are looking at a timeshare with a points or exchange system, you should also ask: |
How long will it take to save up enough points to trade your time for time at other locations? Don’t just listen to the sales pitch. Talk to people who have tried the system so you can find out how it really works.
For exchanges, how easy is it to find people who would like to swap? Again, location and amenities are key. There are countless timeshares. Why would someone want to stay in yours?