Although there are millions of contented timeshare owners throughout the world, the timeshare industry has certainly had a chequered history. On the one hand there is the promise of golden weeks in the sun or on the slopes at a fraction of the cost of buying your own property. On the other hand we hear all too often about the activities of the unscrupulous.
If you are considering buying a timeshare property, our advice is:
- never buy a timeshare at the first viewing or on a whim;
- make sure you are dealing with a reputable vendor;
- make sure the development is a member of Resorts Condominiums International or Interval International – the two leading timeshare exchange groups. There are also national groups, such as Pierre et Vacances, in France.While this is no guarantee that you won't have problems, membership of one of these will at least give you the best possible 'right to swap';
- if you are interested in buying a timeshare in an area where there are a lot of other timeshare developments, investigate thoroughly to make sure you get the best deal;
- buying from an existing timeshare owner is normally the cheapest method: timeshares are typically sold 'second hand' for about half the price charged by the developer. They rarely increase in value;
- check the maintenance charge history on second-hand properties – on new ones check that there is an upper limit;
- check to see who will own the development when the timeshares have been sold – normally, it is preferable if ownership vests in the timeshare holders rather than the developer; and
- remember that there is a minimum 'cooling-off period' of 10 days in the European Economic Area (14 in the UK), during which any purchase contracted for can be cancelled.
Lastly, do not think that a timeshare bought is necessarily a 'forever' thing. Most are owned by the timeshare owners as a shareholders using a company vehicle. If the other shareholders get together and decide to sell the property (as happened to timeshare owners in Chamonix, France, in 2008), your timeshare will be replaced by whatever you get out of the liquidation of the timeshare company. In the case of the Chamonix property, it was a failed sale to a developer, followed by redevelopment of the flats - after being empty for three years - which were sold as individual properties. The timeshare owners were left carrying the ongoing costs for a property they could no longer use until the winding-up of the timeshare company was completed in 2012.