The Ongoing Costs of Timeshare Ownership
When considering a timeshare, it’s crucial for potential buyers to have a clear picture of both the immediate and long-term financial commitments involved. While the initial purchase of a timeshare might seem straightforward, the ongoing costs can be a different story altogether. Simply put, the financial responsibility of a timeshare doesn’t end once the purchase price is settled.
Financial Obligations: Now and Later
Even after you’ve fully paid for your timeshare, there are recurring expenses that you’ll need to budget for. These are not one-time fees but regular costs that can significantly impact your finances over time.
- Maintenance Fees: One of the most common ongoing expenses for timeshare owners is the maintenance fee. This fee covers the upkeep of the property, including landscaping, repairs, and general maintenance. Depending on the location and quality of the resort, these fees can vary widely but are typically charged annually. Over time, as the property ages, these fees can increase, sometimes significantly.
- Special Assessments: Apart from regular maintenance fees, timeshare owners might occasionally be hit with special assessment fees. These are unexpected costs that arise from unforeseen repairs or upgrades, such as damage from natural disasters or major renovations. Unlike maintenance fees, these are unpredictable and can come as an unwelcome surprise.
- Membership and Exchange Fees: If you’re part of a timeshare exchange program, which allows you to swap your timeshare for another in a different location, there might be associated membership fees. Additionally, every time you make an exchange, there could be a transaction fee.
- Property Taxes: Just like owning a home, timeshare owners are often responsible for property taxes. The amount will depend on the property’s location and value.
Timeshare Maintenance Fee Cost
The American Resort Development Association describes maintenance fees as the fees “that timeshare owners are required to pay, usually on an annual basis, to cover the costs of running the resort, including daily management, upkeep, and improvements.”
The group’s Understanding Vacation Ownership guide further adds that maintenance fees are typically based around “the size, location, and amenities of the resort,” and are paid by owners “in proportion to the amount of time and/or unit owned” (this refers to the owner’s “home resort,” which is typically assigned at closing and which the buyer may or may not ever actually use).
Of course, as we’ve attempted to illustrate in previous posts on this site and others, maintenance fees essentially always rise year over year, regardless of the rate of inflation. As we’ve explained, these fees are typically allowed to balloon unchecked due to the language and restrictions that exist among property owners’ associations, management companies, and resort developers themselves. Individual experiences with maintenance fees may differ, but the net result is often the same: In the end, many timeshare owners see their steep maintenance fees as the number one factor driving them away from the industry.
Per ARDA’s own 2016 AIF Owner’s Study, 66% of consumers who wished to exit a timeshare wanted to do so because “the maintenance fees are too high,” and 46% of respondents stated that these high fees were their “most important” reason for exiting. Of timeshare owners who had plans to sell, 50% were doing so because they “no longer want to pay the membership fees,” while 30% responded that they could “no longer afford” to pay them.
Points-Based Interest Cost
The initial purchase of a “points-based” interest grants the timeshare owner, in essence, the right to use certain resort properties, exchanging purchased points for time at a select development. With a points-based system in place, there are really no limits to the amount of points that you can purchase, making them an ongoing expense; in many systems, more desirable resort locations require a greater number of points, necessitating saving up points or, often enough, purchasing more. There are certainly evident advantages to a points-based system, chief among them being greater flexibility, the ability to pick and choose from a number of potential resort destinations.
Of course, there are some important factors to keep in mind. One is that owners will continue to be charged those aforementioned maintenance fees for their home resort, even if they never actually make us of it; with points, you are really not buying anything even close to a deeded piece of property, despite what you may be told during a sales presentation. It’s also important to remember that points’ values and usability are set and controlled completely by the resort developer with which you’re associated, which means that they are virtually unregulated and have no real world value outside of the resort system.
The Downside of Switching to Timeshare Points
A while ago, Inside Timeshare shared a story that perfectly sums up what makes points so potentially problematic – and how expensive they can become over time. The writer interviewed a family couple that was strongly encouraged to exchange their deeded timeshare interest for points when their resort was acquired by a larger developer. Once they made the switch over, the family says that they were pressured to purchase more and more points; they were even promised that once they reached a certain number, they would be able to use those points to pay down their maintenance fees, which had become more expensive and become a problem for this family.
However, in this developer’s system, the monetary value of points drops to pennies on the dollar when used to pay maintenance fees – meaning that this couple would actually be paying more for less impact per payment. It’s important to remember that a timeshare is a lifelong obligation; as long as you’re an owner with a contract, you will be liable for making payments in some form or another that go far beyond your initial closing costs.
Led by Attorney Michael D. Finn with 50 years of experience, the Finn Law Group is a consumer protection firm specializing in timeshare law. Our lawyers understand vacation ownership as well as the many pitfalls of the secondary market of timeshare resales. If you feel you have been victimized by a timeshare company, contact our offices for a free consultation. Know your rights as a consumer and don’t hesitate to drop us a line with any questions or concerns.
Disclosure: This article is for information only and is not intended as legal advice.