1. Adj.: Describing a person born between 1 Jan. 1946 and 31 Dec. 1964
2. Adj.: Description of a person, place or thing possessing Baby Boomer je ne sais quoi
3. See also, Boomer, Esq.: A Baby Boomer who is also a licensed attorney (See, e.g., About).

Timeshares: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

by Suzanne Fluhr on September 25, 2012 · 38 comments

Update: March 6, 2016:  Mr. Excitement and I are just back from Hawaii. During part of our trip, we stayed at one of the resorts that line the beautiful Ka’anapali Beach on the Hawaiian island of Maui. At each hotel, there were an annoying number of salespeople wanting to tell us about the hotel’s vacation club/timeshare program. The silver lining: the constant hard sell reminded me about this blog post which is still highly relevant. 

In a prior post, I shared some of my thoughts about the pros and cons of independent travel versus guided tours, all-inclusive resorts and cruises.  Another vacation approach for Baby Boomers (and other demographics) is to investigate the world of timeshares.

What exactly is a timeshare? 

This is a trick question.  There is no such “exact thing” as a timeshare these days.

At their genesis in Europe in the mid-20th century and during the 1970’s when they became popular in Florida, a timeshare was a fractional (part) ownership in a vacation property whereby a person(s) purchased an exclusive right to use a particular unit, at a particular time, for a particular amount of time.  (Yep. That’s a lot of particulars.  It’s a lawyer thing. I can’t help myself). Typically, maintenance fees and real estate taxes were shared proportionally among the timeshare owners and a timeshare owner could sell and bequeath their timeshare just like other real estate property.

This type of timeshare is still commonly available, particularly throughout the United States where timeshare agreements and timeshare developers are subject to state and federal laws.  However, over the years, many other variations of the timeshare concept have evolved and timeshares have become popular vacation options throughout the world, most recently, even in Viet Nam.  (If you’re a Baby Boomer, this seems amazing.  If you’re a Millennial, not so much.)

Some popular variations of the basic timeshare “fractional deeded ownership” in a vacation property are as follows:

*Leasehold deed timeshares where the timeshare owner essentially rents (leases) a timeshare unit for a specified number of years. (This is fairly popular because in some countries, there are strict rules about foreigners’ rights to own real estate).

*Floating or rotating weeks timeshares where the owner is typically buying or leasing a unit for a week during a particular block of weeks.  The popularity of certain weeks greatly determines the cost of a timeshare unit.  Thus, it would likely be cheaper to purchase a timeshare week in Florida during the fall hurricane season than during February when denizens of the frozen north might be willing to trade their first born for some warm sunshine.

*”Vacation Clubs” where the timeshare is essentially in the form of a deeded or lease based membership that entitles the owner/lessee to reserve a unit at a choice of properties during a particular time.

*Points based “timeshare” programs usually offered by large resort groups and their partners where one can buy or lease a certain number of points to use at various properties for accommodation and sometimes for other vacation needs such as air travel, rental cars and cruises.

The Good–or Why Should I Buy a Timeshare?

  • You are not a spontaneous, adventurous person.
  • You have taken a vacation the same time every year and you know exactly what type of accommodation, amenities and location you want to have on your vacation.
  • Location, location, location.
  • You plan to travel with the same number of people every year.
  • You enjoy reading (and understanding) fine print and consulting the Better Business Bureau and perhaps the office of the Attorney General or the equivalent in your chosen foreign land.
  • You have done the actuarial calculation and have determined that your vacation taking lifespan in terms of years, divided into the cost and fees of your timeshare is less than the anticipated cost of the same vacation, over the same period at an increasing yearly market rate.  (Got that?)
  • You find a good deal in the secondary timeshare market to purchase a timeshare from an owner with buyer’s remorse who is selling below market value.
  • You can pay cash and do not have to finance your timeshare purchase and you are certain that you will not need that money to put food on the table and keep a roof over the head of your family; help put your child through college; or take care of your aged, impecunious mother.
The Bad — or Why Should I Not Buy a Timeshare?
  • If after searching your soul and being totally honest with yourself, you realize that in your case, the opposite is true for one or more of the above items.
The Ugly — or Why You Should Not Buy a Timeshare on Your Honeymoon (True Story)
  • You are terrible at resisting persistent salespeople, especially when you are on your honeymoon on a beautiful Caribbean island that shall remain nameless (except that it is dry and windy, one of its official languages is Dutch, it is near Venezuela, and its name starts with an “A” unlike the other nearby islands that start with “B” and “C” respectively.)
  • You have a crystal ball and know that your marriage will end in divorce.
  • You have another crystal ball that is absolutely, positively omniscient and can absolutely, positively predict that the timeshare developer who is selling you the timeshare, will declare bankruptcy.

Have you ever considered purchasing or do you own a vacation club membership or a timeshare?  Are you happy (or not happy) with your purchase or with your decision not to purchase a timeshare?

{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

Just One Boomer September 25, 2012 at 7:50 pm

No, “the Ugly” is not my own true story, but it is the true story of someone near and dear to me who would be really, really annoyed if I identified her or him in any more specificity.


Montecristo Travels September 25, 2012 at 8:22 pm

As I am about to turn 40 (in May 2013) I have to say – the timeshare thing … I never understood. I am not certain if it is an age thing, or a personality thing. I rarely enjoy going to the same place more than 2-3 times. Too much world to see. I find renting apartments to be relatively well priced in places like Portugal, South of France and so on … but for me – the real ugly is that almost all time shares are not pet friendly. So that takes us right out of the market. Good post and … I feel for your friend that shall remain nameless.


Just One Boomer September 25, 2012 at 8:35 pm

Actually, s/he is a friend….or relative.

I think it’s a personality thing—which is why I think timeshares have more appeal for the less spontaneous and adventurous among us. I’m not being judgmental; but, before leaping into the purchase of a timeshare, I think it’s important to have a good grasp of what type of vacation you find appealing. If your preferences and circumstances change over the course of your life, that could be a problem.


Josie September 26, 2012 at 1:38 pm

My father owned one of the points-based timeshares and had a bunch of the family to Disney World one year as his guests. It was a lovely resort with every imaginable amenity, so when I saw a sign to see a salesperson about the timeshare, I checked it out. It was purely out of curiosity and I thought the conversation would a casual back-and-forth. Well, let me tell you the sales pitch was more like walking into a torture chamber where they hooked me up to the rack until I agreed to open my checkbook and sign up. I did not, barely escaping with my dignity.
The whole experience was low, cheap and underhanded, leaving me with an awful taste for all timeshare situations. And years later when my dad wanted unload the thing, he ended up paying them to take it back!
I did a quick financial calculation, based on what he paid for the timeshare, how and where he used it, and came up with a number that verified to me he could have taken luxury vacations each year in any manner he chose by making the reservations on his own — and still not spent as much as he did with the rip-off time share deal.
I think time shares are awful. Thanks for letting me vent!


Nancy September 26, 2012 at 4:10 pm

I’ve never understood timeshares either but I do know a few people how have, use and enjoy theirs. Especially the ones where you can go anywhere. Often, though the facilities seem to be a little tired and out-dated or in less than thrilling parts of town. Whatever works I guess but with vrbo, airbnb and the like, we have much better options these days.
Thanks for the great info!


Suzanne (Just One Boomer) September 26, 2012 at 5:54 pm

As with anything else, I think if you are willing to do “due diligence” and you have a very good handle on your needs, wants and budgets, a timeshare of some sort could work, but it is vital to be an educated consumer. As for resisting a hard sell, my husband has wisely left me home when we have had to purchase a car.


Roz Warren September 27, 2012 at 12:54 am

So what if your timeshare has bedbugs?

Then what?

I am the least spontaneous person I know and the idea of a timeshare doesn’t appeal to me at all. Too much that you have no control over. Lots of other people in YOUR space. No thanks.


Just One Boomer September 27, 2012 at 8:54 pm

You may be the least spontaneous person you know, but you’re also a former lawyer and could be expected to be caveat emptoring all over the place, thus making you an unlikely time share purchase candidate. (Bopping over to London for a Jonathan Coulton concert? Maybe you’re less spontaneous than you think—in a planned out sorta way;-)


Shelley September 27, 2012 at 6:33 pm

I practice Family Law and see a lot of couples who have been snookered while on their honeymoon by the high pressure sales meeting offering a free dinner for attending. Fast forward to the divorce proceedings. They are still making payments, too much in debt to afford the airfare to make use of it, and the value has dropped precipitously since they purchased their “interest”. When making a marital estate spreadsheet for Equitable Distribution, I end up using eBay or Craig’s List to value that asset which is really a liability.


Just One Boomer September 27, 2012 at 8:55 pm

It should probably be illegal for people to buy a timeshare on their honeymoon—or is that too Nanny State-ish?


Irene October 7, 2012 at 3:24 am

We own a timeshare that we absolutely love but it is now cheaper to rent at the property than it is to pay our maintenance for the same two-week stay!
Best, Irene


Just One Boomer October 7, 2012 at 4:42 am

Thanks for your comment, Irene. After reading all the comments here, my verdict is that unless there is a total overlap between people who love their timeshares and people who never read travel blogs, people need to think long and hard before diving into the timeshare market.


Margie October 16, 2012 at 1:26 pm

We’ve had two experiences with timeshares. One was a fixed unit, fixed date place that is a 3 hour drive from our home. We bought it as a resale, and it has worked out very well for us.
The second is a points system, and so far it has worked out fine too because we often use the points to trade into our first timeshare and then the whole family joins us there.
If I had to do it again, I would not have bought the points system unit. It has changed ownership since we first bought it, and I don’t like the tactics of the new company.


Just One Boomer (Suzanne) October 21, 2012 at 5:23 am

Thanks for your comment. Your experiences pretty much mirror the points I was trying to convey in this post.


Barbie Monroe October 18, 2013 at 3:42 pm

There are good timeshares out there, as well as there are people who feel happy about their timeshare purchases, especially those who enjoy to vacation at the same place and are not spontaneous travelers. Unfortunately, due to the big number of timeshare scams being committed against many vacationers, the industry has gained a terrible reputation.


Suzanne Fluhr October 18, 2013 at 5:50 pm

Thanks for your comment. I see you are associated with an outfit that helps people get our of timeshare contracts. The fact that there is a need for your service speaks volumes. As you mentioned and as I explained in this blog post, a timeshare can be a good option for some people. As is true for all substantial purchases, buyers need to do their due diligence before taking out their checkbooks or credit cards.


Emili Gray November 7, 2013 at 1:57 pm

The truth is that Timeshare scams are increasing, and every day more victims fell for them. Fortunately, there are many solutions to get rid of an unwanted timeshare; however, the best way to dump a timeshare is by cancelling the contract. Timeshare cancellation has many advantages, but the most important is that once the contract is properly cancelled, there are no further responsibilities attached to the resort.


Suzanne Fluhr November 7, 2013 at 2:09 pm

Thanks, Emili. But, how can someone cancel a contract after the three days for rescission have passed — at least in the United States?


Courtney Hubbard January 28, 2014 at 6:14 pm

With this struggling economy, it is better for us to think on what is best for our pocket. Before taking any hasty decision, it is important to compare all the possible options and not to let us be dazzled by the first timeshare deals we see.


Jennifer Williams|Timeshare Scams March 13, 2014 at 3:25 pm

Timeshare fraud has been around since the timeshare idea was created, but they increase during poor economy. When times are difficult, timeshare owners are stuck with properties they can´t travel to or even afford. Desperate to recoup some money to pay for bills, they can easily become victims to scams artists pretending to be their timeshare salvation who will take upfront fees -as much as five number figures in some cases- but fail to fulfill their promise.


Suzanne Fluhr March 13, 2014 at 4:05 pm

Jennifer, thanks for stopping by and for the reminder that when it comes to timeshares it’s “seller beware”, in addition to “buyer beware”.


Kriz Carcamo March 26, 2014 at 2:30 pm

Let’s admit it: Time share scams are on the rise, and trying to get out of the contract can be a big headache! The truth is, however, that a time share can be a good-quality purchase for those who enjoy revisiting the same vacation spot every year, but certainly not for most people. Unfortunately, timeshare presentations are awfully high pressure, and most people who attend one of them end up signing the contract, without even knowing what they are getting into. You might be one of those people.


Kelsey Franz|Timeshare Presentations April 10, 2014 at 5:16 pm

Timeshares can be a terrific purchase for some families, as they also can be a giant rip off for others. 50 years ago, also known as Holiday Home Sharing or timeshare travel timeshares were created with the idea of offering fully furnished accommodations for a lower price than a full-time ownership.


Julia Myers June 12, 2014 at 6:03 pm

Thousands of International travelers, particularly from the US and Canada, have fallen victims oftimeshare fraud while vacationing. Resort developers hire skilled salesmen to represent their timeshares as many different attractive packages, such as financial investments, deeded properties, or vacation clubs, just to increase their sales.


Linda July 15, 2014 at 12:03 am

My boyfriend and I bought a one year timeshare through Wyndam Vacation Resorts only to realize after we returned to Canada that they misrepresented themselves and lied to us. The 2 hour presentation turned into 6 because they coiuld not take no for an answer. Now they have rescinded our cancellation letter and they are demanding our monthly payment.
How do we get out of the one year time share agreement… is a scam, the reps of Wyndam are bullies and liars.


Natalie Wilden|Timeshare July 31, 2014 at 1:36 pm

The timeshare industry has been into the lion’s mouth for the last couple of years, and it has generated lots of controversy and discussions in many forums and blogs on the web. However, since we’re living an economic downturn, anyone would expect that the timeshare sales collapse, but instead of that the sales seem to be increasing… but this comes with a trap: timeshare scams are increasing too. That leads us to the question: then, why keep people investing on timeshares?


Mary Thomas September 9, 2014 at 5:27 pm

Timeshares have been a boom over the last twenty years, however it has changed and evolved to give a better service, as it has, the name of this type of memberships were changed for “Vacation Club”.
Importantly, these memberships are not an investment because they are not real estate; you are buying a service to enjoy leisure time with family and not to do business, and it is how it should be seen. In some countries, these types of memberships are for life (deeded) and can be inherited to the relatives of the owner of the membership.


Kaya Romney September 17, 2014 at 6:07 pm

Timeshares have always been a bad buy. But for those who really feel they need one I make one recommendation: Never buy from the developer. Always wait for timeshares to appear on the secondary market, usually at half-price. People like you get excited at the new developments and jump right in, only to become disillusioned later and dump the property onto the secondary market, at a loss, for a patient, informed buyer to take advantage of.


Donna Janke March 7, 2016 at 12:23 am

I know some people who seem to get good use and value from timeshares (although it is possible I don’t know the whole story), and think they may work for some, but overall I think there is a lot to be careful of. If they are such a good deal why the need for persistent hard sell? We were part of a vacation club that went bankrupt. We had a few great vacations with it, but not enough to recoup our investment. All of the people involved were offered an opportunity to transfer their shares into another timeshare company, which had had connections with our club in the past, but there was an additional cost. We chose not to throw more money in it. I don’t know how the ones who did fared.


Rachel Heller March 7, 2016 at 2:54 am

I wouldn’t go for a timeshare simply because I don’t want to keep going back to the same place over and over again. Having said that, if you can afford it, you could buy a place, i.e. not a share, and rent it out as much as possible via airbnb or whatever for the weeks you’re not there. Then you can just block out the weeks you want to use it.


Anita @ No Particular Place To Go March 7, 2016 at 9:28 am

I remember about 20 years ago listening to a spiel about buying a timeshare in Cozumel (sure enough, it was winter and at that time we were living in Montana) and being rather irked with my spouse who wasn’t falling for it. Fast forward a few (a lot!) of years and I know I wouldn’t have been happy with a timeshare then and I definitely wouldn’t be happy now. While I don’t mind going back occasionally to visit places I love I definitely like moving forward, visiting new places, experiencing new things and learning about new cultures and history. We’ve worked hard in the last few years to become more spontaneous and a timeshare requires more planning that I’d like.


Carol Colborn March 7, 2016 at 10:03 am

We just bought an 8-12 week per year 20-year timeshare contract with a chain of Portugal, Spain, England, and Mexican resorts. We see it as better than buying a brick and mortar property in places we love to go back to for real long-stay vacations. The all-inclusive feature clinched it for us. We are happy with this late-age traveling style. Maintenance is just about $1,000 per year! And our children have the option of continuing it.


Jo ~ ZigaZag March 7, 2016 at 11:21 am

Time share … a thorny issue to be sure. Great if you get it right and you’re lucky but lots of hidden drawbacks. We were basically hijacked by timeshare salespeople in Lanzarote, nasty situation, and friends have also seen their time share disappear in a bankruptcy case. Great post, handled nicely 🙂


Betsy Wuebker | PassingThru March 8, 2016 at 3:57 am

Ha! Pete and I went into a presentation about fifteen years ago when we were dating, vowing we were just there out of obligation after getting a cheap vacation out of the deal. I walked out not knowing how in the world I’d ever purchased a timeshare after specifically stating I wouldn’t! But. . . yesterday, I just parlayed that one week via deposit into its exchange program into just under six weeks of stays wherever we prefer in the world. So there’s that. Knowing your program and timing your actions correctly to take advantage of temporary promotions are the key.


Carole Terwilliger Meyers March 8, 2016 at 4:32 pm

All good reasons to back up my own long-time decision never to listen to a time-share pitch even if an enticing free meal or trip is promised.


Janice Chung March 8, 2016 at 8:56 pm

When I saw the title of your post, my immediate reaction was, “No way! No to timeshares!” I just could not see myself returning to the same place year after year (even though I know you can “trade” but even that can be difficult.). Just too much trouble. Maybe it also comes down to $$$$. …what you would typically spend on a vacation vs. the (large) upfront costs and yearly fees. I hate being locked into something. I also am very wary of things that are complicated. As they say, if you can’t totally understand an investment, don’t buy it.


Kristin Henning March 8, 2016 at 10:24 pm

Here’s the best case scenario: someone else (in this case my in-laws) buys a timeshare and invites you on a regular basis. Even though the family timeshare is in the ever-so-exotic Lake Okoboji area of Iowa (hey, but it is a RED week!), this decision was a brilliant one as a gift to family. Every year the family of 15 covering three generations gets together. These days, we can even take advantage of some of the ‘last minute’ and extra vacation rates as we travel around the U.S. and beyond.


Michelle March 15, 2016 at 5:34 pm

You brought up some excellent points about timeshare ownership and how it works. You’re so right about it not being the best thing for a spontaneous person that likes to visit many places.


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