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Trading spaces: buying a time share for travel
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Trade appeal
Most important, if you want to trade, you've got to have something worth trading. Don't expect to buy a 20-year-old, one-bedroom at a run-down property in an unpopular destination and swap it for two weeks in Hawaii.

"It's a lot of common sense," says Bansmer. "Trading power is essentially determined by the value of what you have to trade. The thing that will affect it most is demand. How many people within a desired trading system have a desire to go to the property you are purchasing?"

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What constitutes trading power? A popular destination (preferably with a relative scarcity of units), a well-maintained property (preferably with some nice amenities), a good-sized property and peak season.

Some owners claim that exchange clubs, which oversee the exchanges, keep lists of the most desirable properties or rank them accordingly. Club executives say this just isn't so. The real problem: Many owners are in the dark when it comes to judging a time share's appeal on the exchange market.

"That's the $64 million question," says Bill Rogers, founder of the Timeshare User's Group, a network of time-share owners and aficionados. "The exchange companies aren't going to give out the trading power of each resort and that's what determines it."

The solution, McElyea says, is to buy quality. "The better the resort, the higher trading power it's going to have. The exchange companies like to say that you trade like for like. That's what most people don't realize."

But with an increasing number of high-quality resorts coming onto the market, how your time share compares today and how it will stack up five years from now might be two very different stories.

 
 
Next: "A few tricks of the trade"
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