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Getting a good deal on a time share

Looking for a good deal on a time share? Think used.

Like a car, most time-share properties suffer depreciation. And the first owner is the one who takes the biggest hit. The developer's marketing costs "are almost half of what they sell the property for," says Bill Rogers, founder of the Timeshare User's Group, a network of time-share owners and aficionados. "If you're looking at the resale side, you don't have that."

With a lot of time shares, you can save 50 percent to 70 percent by buying from an owner rather than the developer.

"The rule of thumb is 50 cents on the dollar, on the high end," says Rogers. Shop around, though, he says, "and it can get better than that."

Syndicated travel columnist Ed Perkins agrees. "You can find some of them for 10 cents on the dollar," says Perkins, author of "Business Travel When It's Your Money."

With some newer name-brand time shares that are part of a resort complex, you might pay closer to 70 percent to 90 percent of the original price, says Bob Irwin, author of "Timeshare Properties: What Every Buyer Must Know!" You'll pay less than the original buyer, he says, "but not much less."

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Also, with certain resales you may not get all the benefits if you buy from another owner. Some developers will make specific programs available only to buyers who purchase directly from their companies. So before you buy from an owner, check around. How much of a discount are you getting from the retail price? And is that worth what you might be giving up?

Finding a deal
When it comes to shopping, you don't have to go any farther than your phone or home computer. Many of the large real estate names have divisions that specialize in time shares. And the Internet is crowded with sites that advertise sales by owners and agents. A Google search of the words "time share" and "by owner" brought up more than 55,000 responses. To get a good deal, go slow, shop carefully and get lots of information (and maybe some professional advice) before you sign anything.

A good deal's only good if you get what you want. And just like buying a used car, purchasing a second-hand time share requires a little due diligence.

Once you see a property that you like, that's when the real fun starts. Shop that complex and see what other units are bringing on the market. How are they different from the one that you might buy? Are there a lot from one particular complex on the market? (Like a neighborhood full of "for sale" signs, that could be a red flag.)

"If the developer is still selling units, find out what the retail price is," says Perkins.

Ask the current owner for references. Just say, "Can you give me names of people who have a similar deal?" Then see what they have to say about their experiences, Perkins says.

If possible, visit the complex and talk to the guests. Hang out at the pool, tennis court or rec area. What do visitors or other owners think of the place? How long have they been coming? Can they get the dates they want without too much trouble? Are they happy with the management company? What's the history of the place as far as maintenance and other fees? Is the reservation and exchange system easy to use? Have fees and charges always been relatively similar or do they frequently change? Any improvements to the property (special assessments) expected?

"One of the historical problems with time shares is escalating fees," says Perkins. "All of a sudden when the development is sold out, that's when the fees go up."

Really want to get a guest's-eye view? Rent for a week and try it out before you buy.

 

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-- Posted: July 29, 2004
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ABCs of time shares
Selling your time share
Is a time share a good idea?
Track prime rate/other leading rate indexes
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