Tuesday, September 12, 2006


New Concepts In Timeshare Coming To San Antonio

A new high-rise under construction in downtown San Antonio is expected to feature many of the amenities common to other downtown condo high-rises, which are tacking on luxuries such as rooftop gardens and pools, valets, and exercise rooms.

But this new residence, Fairfield San Antonio at La Cascada, isn't really for locals, and it's not just condos.

The 10-story tower is under development by Fairfield Resorts Inc. and is the newest addition to the company's portfolio of more than 70 timeshare resorts around the world.

Fairfield is expected to open the 100-unit urban resort next summer.

"We're very excited to be coming to San Antonio," company spokeswoman Lisa Burby said. "We responded to where our owners want to go, and Texas and San Antonio is definitely a destination they wanted."

Timeshare, a vacation option that in the past has come under fire because of scammers and unethical sales tactics, has gained more respect in the last decade or so. The attitude adjustment came as major hotel chains started flying their flags over timeshare resorts.

Timeshare allows vacationers to buy the right to spend a set amount of time at a vacation property, either with a percentage ownership or a long-term lease. With timeshare, the purchase is not so much of a specific, physical property but of time at a resort.
San Antonio has drawn several big names in timeshare over the past few years, and some new concepts in timeshare are coming here soon.

Fairfield San Antonio at La Cascada for example, will be the first resort the Wyndham Worldwide-owned company has built in an urban setting.

The company found that timeshare buyers wanted big-city vacation amenities such as Broadway road shows and major league sports.

"It's a new trend for us," Burby said.

The company also is planning urban resorts in San Diego and San Francisco.

Another development, Villa Verona, is a "private residence club" that San Antonio-based RTK Development is planning alongside its ultraluxurious Piazza San Lorenzo condominiums, which RTK is planning on Soledad Street downtown.

Timeshare prices there are set, for now, at $140,000 for a two-bedroom, $195,000 for a three-bedroom and $280,000 for a four-bedroom. Owners get a one-tenth-share interest in the property and pay annual fees of $6,500, $7,500 or $9,000, depending on the unit.

The residence club is a new concept in timeshare, in which owners choose 14 days in the first half of the year and 14 days in the second half. The club also will set aside 10 units for last-minute vacation plans. Subject to availability, owners may stay at one of the 10 units for up to a week without paying extra.The annual fees cover valet, housekeeping, gratuity and a stocked fridge, among other luxuries.

John R. Kazanjian, the company's chief executive officer, said he expects that Mexican nationals will buy as much as half of the time at the resort.

Los Angeles-based HollyHills Development also is planning downtown timeshare condos.

The plan calls for 17 stories of luxury at 120 Villita, which is a one-story office building now. The development will include timeshare, several condos and retail at street and river levels.

"Timeshares will take up the vast majority of it," said T.J. Connolly, HollyHills' spokesman.

HollyHills doesn't expect to start on that project until 2010.

Coming sooner is the company's Briggs Ranch Grand Vacation, which is under development near U.S. 90 West and Texas 211. The company broke ground on the 58-acre 1,000-unit timeshare resort in June. The resort will include a 2-acre water park and is near the Texas Golf Club, which is considered one of the nation's best public courses. HollyHills is spending $2.5 million to update the course, including $1.2 million for 75 state-of-the art golf carts with wireless Internet and global positioning systems.

"Would this work in Peoria, Ill.? Probably not. But it can work in San Antonio," Connolly said. "You can play golf almost any day of the year here."

Prices at Briggs Ranch start at $4,990 for one week every other year, and top out at $20,000, which might include two weeks in a four-bedroom unit. All timeshares include golf and discounts at the clubhouse.

The first 100 units are expected to open in January, and HollyHills plans to add 100 or more every year until the development is finished in 2014.

Other new timeshare developments in San Antonio already are on line.

Hyatt Vacation Club has had so much success with its Wild Oak Ranch in Northwest San Antonio near Loop 1604 and Highway 151 that it has added a new sales office downtown, which could employ as many as 30 seasonal workers.

The Hyatt compound includes an indoor-outdoor pool, water park with water slides, shuffleboard, horseshoes, a game room, a media room, a fitness center and a 27-hole golf course.

Prices range from $6,350 for one week every other year to $43,500, which could pay for as many as six weeks of vacation time per year. The prices include a certain number of points each year that can be used for time at other resorts or at Hyatt hotels. The high-end packages include enough points for as many as six weeks of vacation.

A franchisee of Shell Vacation Systems has opened five timeshare units at its Salado Creek Villas, near Harry Wurzbach Road and Loop 410.

The Villas, owned by franchisee Gary Beckley of Winnipeg, Ontario, is a renovation of part of Hill Country Inn and Suites hotel, which he expects to complete in 2011.

"It's a work in progress," he said. "We add units every month."

Part of the complex will remain a hotel. The company also works on the point system and packages start at close to $10,000.

Beckley is in the hotel and timeshare business in Canada, but the Salado Creek Villas is his first project in the States.

Financial experts say timeshares aren't usually considered good real estate investments because they depreciate quickly. But they can make sense for people who like to vacation extensively at the same location.

"The real bargains are in the resales," said William Rogers, founder of Timeshare Users Group, a user-owned consumer group based in Orange Park, Fla. "The savings can be 50 percent or greater."

Rogers started the group in 1993 after he and his wife got duped in a timeshare exchange.

The most important thing about buying a timeshare, he said, is to make sure you understand exactly what you're getting before putting up the cash or taking out a loan.

"Education before you buy instead of after you buy. Unfortunately, that's not always the way timeshare sales go," he said.

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