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Welcome to the Timeshares section of FindLaw's Real Estate Center. A timeshare is a unit that is shared by multiple parties who use it at different times for their annual vacations. A timeshare property is typically a condominium- or apartment-style structure suited to vacation ownership. Timeshare purchases are very popular in vacation spots. They allow partial ownership of a property used by each timeshare owner only for a fixed week or longer period of time.

Several factors affect the ownership of timeshares, including:

  • Applicable local and state regulations
  • Timeshare costs, including the initial purchase price, property taxes, interest rates, and upfront costs
  • Annual fees and upkeep assessments, including annual maintenance fees
  • Points systems for booking resort property vacation time for a specified number of points

This section provides basic information about purchasing and owning a stake in a timeshare.

Deeded Ownership vs. Non-Deeded Timeshares

There are two main types of timeshare arrangements: deeded and non-deeded. For a deeded timeshare, the owner purchases an ownership interest in a piece of real estate. The real property corresponds to a particular fixed week (or weeks) of the year. Unless a timeshare exchange is made, that owner's interest in the unit is limited to a specific week each calendar year. These arrangements are often called “Fixed Time" or “Fixed Unit."

A non-deeded timeshare typically involves the purchase of a:

  • Club membership
  • License
  • Lease

It allows the owner to use the property for a certain amount of time each year. The contract usually states the number of years for which the membership or lease is valid. Non-deeded timeshares are also referred to as “Floating Time" or “Floating Week" timeshare arrangements. A “Seasonal Floating" arrangement is similar, but reservations are limited to a particular season.

Deciding Whether to Purchase a Timeshare

Before buying into a timeshare arrangement, make sure you've had time to research your options thoroughly. It's important not to fall for a salesperson's pitch if it doesn't make sense for you. Unsuspecting people who buy timeshares might focus more on the perks than the hassles. The timeshare industry spins timeshare sales as vacation club experiences that can never go wrong. But in reality, your fractional ownership of vacation property carries far more responsibility and far less versatility than a hotel room.

One common way for timeshare companies to sell timeshares is to offer "free" vacations where guests and their family members are all potential customers. You may be subjected to high-pressure timeshare presentations. But it's a good idea to wait until you get home before deciding. You should consider the following factors before you decide to buy:

  • Practical factors, in general: How long will you be interested in vacationing at this particular location? Would you prefer a variety of vacation destinations?
  • Investment potential: While a second or vacation home is much more expensive than a timeshare, timeshares usually sell at a loss.
  • Total costs: Besides the cost of the timeshare itself, there are other expenses. You may have additional mortgage costs, closing costs, broker fees, and finance charges.
  • Document review: As with buying a home outright, buying into a timeshare involves the signing of a binding contract. So, ask an attorney to review the documentation if you are unsure about its provisions. Sometimes, an illegal or one-sided agreement can trap you into a timeshare scam.
  • Properties abroad: Memberships and timeshare ownerships abroad are subject to the laws of the country in which they're located. That means they come without the protections of U.S. contract or real estate law.
  • Resale potential: The timeshare resale market allows a current owner to transfer their timeshare unit in exchange for cash or another unit. Not all timeshares may be transferable in the resale market, so this is important to consider.

You also may want to see a review of the developer's (or management company's) background and current maintenance budget. Information may also be available through the American Resort Development Association (ARDA). The ARDA is the trade association for the timeshare industry. Contact local real estate agents or consult reputable reviews for more information.

State Regulation of Timeshares

In the United States, timeshares are regulated to some degree in most states. They often come with specific buyer protections and limited rights to cancel the purchase. Check your state's respective Real Estate Commission or Department for local regulations. Specific state examples include the following:

  • Florida: A buyer may cancel a timeshare contract if the seller is notified in writing within 10 days
  • Massachusetts: Timeshares are regulated just like other real estate interests under state law
  • Texas: A buyer may cancel the timeshare contract within six days of signing the contract

Timeshares work differently from state to state and depending on the many options. So, make sure you do your homework before signing a timeshare agreement. Click on a link below to learn more.

Learn About Timeshares

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