Timeshares FAQ

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We just returned from Hawaii, where we were constantly solicited to buy a timeshare. Are these deals as good as they sound?

Probably not. The great majority of all timeshare owners never intended to buy in the first place. Instead, they were swept away by high pressure sales pitches and cleverly disguised promotions.

The idea behind a timeshare is simple: for a one-time price plus an annual maintenance fee, you can buy the right to use a given vacation property for a certain amount of time (typically one week) each year. What you may not be told is the extent to which the annual maintenance fee will increase over time. For example, one timeshare owner in Hawaii saw her annual maintenance fees climb 76% in six years. Timeshare operators also may force owners to pay unexpected special assessment fees, sometimes as high as $1,000. And that's just for normal repairs.

Timeshares are not necessarily convenient, economical, or a good investment for you. Some require you to decide two years in advance which week you want to use it. Sometimes annual fees rise to equal the amount you would spend renting for a week -- so there's no savings. You're tied down to one location and one operating company, although many companies allow you to trade your week for a week at another facility. While a timeshare has the potential to be a satisfactory arrangement, it often yields a variety of pitfalls and frustrations for the unwary purchaser.

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