Arizona Vacation Timeshares

Anthem residents Linda and Mark Johnson went to Sedona thinking they would just enjoy a nice, inexpensive getaway in a beautiful resort. They knew they were getting a deal at $39 a night for the Hyatt resort and they also knew that they would sit through a Vacation Club meeting with a salesperson. “We didn’t go thinking we were going to purchase anything at all,” says Linda, but they left Sedona as proud owners of a Hyatt Vacation club timeshare week.

“Vacation Club,” “Timeshare,” and “Vacation Ownership” are terms used to describe a fractional ownership of a resort property. In most cases, you are buying a share of real estate. Each management company operates their plan differently. Some sell you a specific week, which you can trade in different ways. Some give you a share in a property for a “floating week.” Some companies convert your share into “points” which can be used to go to your home property at any time of the year (assuming you’ve purchased enough points), or to another property. If you want to buy in Hawaii for the summer, expect to pay more and consequently get more points. The floating week/points system offers more flexibility, but the guaranteed week system is best for people that like to vacation at a certain time of year like the week after Christmas, or at a ski resort in January.

If you’ve been to a sales pitch for a timeshare, it is amazingly similar from company to company. They usually offer an enticement for you to visit one of their properties and attend the sales presentation. At the 2 hour sales presentation, your salesmen will show you the property and a model, entice you with all of their other dreamy places you can visit, and finally give you the price. If you balk at the price, they bring in a sales manager to try to talk you into it or give you another less expensive package, such as an every-other-year plan or a less expensive week.

One of the biggest draws to buying a timeshare is that it forces you to go on vacation every year, and to stay in a nice place. Sometimes it’s too easy for most of us to skip a major yearly vacation, either because our budgets are tight, or because our work schedules are too busy. Buying a timeshare is a forced commitment to vacation. And the biggest reason the sales pitches work is because we want to go on vacation and we want to stay in a comfortable place. And many of the programs have gorgeous properties in very desirable locations. All of the major resorts, like Marriott, Hilton and Hyatt have entered the timeshare space, as well as many other smaller companies, like ILX resorts, which owns several properties in Arizona, including the condominiums next to the Rancho Manana Golf Resort in Cave Creek.

Before you go to a Vacation Club presentation, understand how you will be vacationing in the future, and what you can afford. Ask yourself some of these questions in advance of the high-pressure sales situation, and make a preliminary decision beforehand. Your sales person may offer some incentives to buy at your sales meeting and it pays to be ready to make a decision.

What kind of accommodations do you usually stay in?

Does your family of 4 cram in a hotel room when you go on vacation? One of the key advantages of owning a timeshare is the spaciousness and high quality of the resort properties you’ll stay in. Most are 1 or 2 bedrooms, a far cry from the crowded accommodations of a hotel room. But when you compare hotel prices to timeshare resort properties, the hotel may win. Where timeshares add value is when you compare 2 hotel rooms, or a rental condominium to the price of a timeshare resort.

Will you actually save money?

Your timeshare presentation will most likely include some calculations on how much you’ll save if you buy a timeshare week. And some of the biggest savings may actually come in the form of restaurant charges you won’t incur if you have a kitchen in your accommodations. But for many frazzled wives, a vacation just isn’t a vacation if it involves cooking every meal. Also, be sure to factor in the finance costs or the financial loss in buying a timeshare week, which could cost anywhere between $15,000 and $35,000. You’ll be spending finance charges to borrow the money for the timeshare, or foregoing interest that you might have otherwise have gained having that money in the stock market or other interest-bearing account.

The Vacation Club management company takes a yearly maintenance fee, which will probably increase every year with the cost of inflation and sometimes with the cost of property management. That fee can run from $500 – $1000 each year, which in itself could pay for a 7 night stay in a decent hotel in a non-prime location. But for the quality accommodations, the yearly maintenance fee is still usually a good deal.

The amount of money you’ll save with a vacation club again comes down to your future vacation plans. Do you have plans to take vacations in comfortably large accommodations and in very desirable locations during peak times, like on the beach in Hawaii, or in a condo in a ski resort? If so, then a timeshare may be a financially sound solution.

How difficult is it to get weeks in other desirable locations?

Most people don’t want to return to the same location every year, so flexibility becomes more important. Vacation Clubs like the Hilton operate on the points system, with more points needed for prime time in a prime location. If you buy in a resort you’d like to go to every year, you’ll still be competing for time slots with everyone else that owns the property. In the Hilton program, you do have first rights to pick your week at your “home” resort. You can reduce your initial cost by buying in a resort at off-season, but you may not have enough points to go to Hawaii, or other resorts in high season.

Can you sell the timeshare week easily?

Your salesman will tell you (because they are supposed to) that you shouldn’t buy a timeshare as an investment, but many people assume they can sell their week for some amount. The best way to find out if that is true is to look for your timeshare week on the open market – the internet is the best bet to check out resale prices. After a little research, you may even decide to buy on the resale market.

Of course, many owners buy with the idea of holding on to their purchase for a very long time and perhaps passing it down to their children. “We loved the idea of owning it for a lifetime,” says Anthem resident Michele Romine, who bought a Hyatt week with her husband. They have plans to visit the Florida Hyatt resort with their 3 kids. Make sure you know the length of time you’ll own the property, as some include an ownership time period.

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