Wednesday, November 23, 2005


Timeshare Owners Enjoy The Investment

John Smith has spent vacation time at resorts from Cape Cod in New England to the Palm Desert in California, and even a few choice locations overseas.
Thanks to an initial investment to buy a timeshare about 20 years ago, the Mt. Lebanon resident has been able to visit a variety of dream vacation spots, and he says he has thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

"For me, it's been very worthwhile; every place I've been has been first class," said the 91-year-old Lore, who has a one-week ownership interest at Fisherman's Village, a resort complex in Punta Gorda, Fla.

He also is a member of Interval International, a Miami-based organization whose members have the opportunity to trade their timeshare weeks for stays at other locations.

In the years since, they've found it's been "a great and economical way" to spend a vacation with their two sons, aged 12 and 5.

"Usually, we spend our vacations there, but on occasion we have traded for another location," she said.

A timeshare is an arrangement for sharing ownership in a real estate property -- usually an individual unit such as a house, hotel or condominium -- at a resort that gives any of the joint purchasers the right to occupy the unit during a specified period each year.

According to the American Resort Development Association, there are 5,425 timeshare resorts worldwide, including 1,590 in the United States; Florida, with 366 resorts, is the leading state, followed by California, with 125, and South Carolina, with 119.

The association also says more than 6.7 million consumers worldwide own timehares, including 3 million in this country,

Cost of a timeshare varies; the association says the average price for a week of timeshare use worldwide is $10,600. In the United States, the average is $14,500.

And after that initial investment, owners normally are required to pay an annual maintenance fee. That can range from about $350 to $450, the owners said.

Lore estimates the price for a one-week timeshare ownership that he has seen ranges from $15,000 to $20,000, although he was able to secure his one-week ownership at a "bargain" price of only $2,000 when it became available 20 years ago.

And in addition to the yearly maintenance fee for his own timeshare unit, he must pay an exchange fee when he trades his week there for one in another location.

"We don't charge a member for listing a unit with us in order to offer it for use by another timeshare owner," said Josie Wales, a spokeswoman for Interval International in Miami. However, members who want to use that unit pay a $121 exchange fee. For members who seek an overseas resort, the fee is $149.

According to the Resort Development Association, exchange fees average $325 worldwide, $385 in the United States.

Interval, with a membership of more than 1.5 million families and 2,000 resorts worldwide, has an annual membership fee of $79, Boesch said.

Besides providing timeshare units for members, Interval can provide airfare accommodations, rental car assistance and other services, she added.

Also, industry officials said, some timeshare developers, besides selling units, offer programs that work using a point system that can either be used to stay in a resort or to offset the cost of flights, rental cars, or other services.

Nancy and Owen Kilbane of Mt. Lebanon also are satisfied owners of timeshares.

Besides owning two weeks in Florida, they own one week in Las Vegas and share two weeks in Cape Cod with a friend.

"We have rented our timeshares, allowed relatives to stay there and have allowed newlyweds to use them for their honeymoon," said Nancy Kilbane, a retired school teacher.

For a number of years during the Easter season, she and her husband and their two children, now 21 and 17, would head to Orlando and Disney World to take advantage of their timeshare condo.

The Kilbanes are members of Interval International and RCI, another company that handles exchanges.

RCI provides services to its members similar to those of Interval, said David Jimenez, manager, corporate communications.

The Kilbanes also have been able to take trips to such locations as Vail, Colo., and Palm Desert, Calif., through exchanges.

They purchased their weeks at prices of from $3,000 to $8,000, Nancy Kilbane said. Their yearly maintenance fees range from $350 to $450.

Normally, travel agencies do not get involved with timeshare travellers, said Colleen Peterson of Port of Call Travel in Greensburg.

She feels timeshares are in competition with travel agencies because the owners do not use agencies to arrange vacations to visit the timeshare locations.

"Some of the people we know who own timeshares have enjoyed their vacations there initially, but after a number of years, they felt they were locked into the site," she said. "The property loses its value to them, unless they are able to trade off for another location."

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