Have you even visited a place and fallen in love with it, enjoying it so much that you wouldn't mind coming back to it for the next...20 years? If you can't afford to buy a vacation home or condo, a timeshare in the location of your choice may be right for you.

A timeshare is a type of property ownership in which you share ownership of a single property with a group of people. A traditional timeshare usually binds you to a specific place and time each year, but there are many timeshare companies that offer exchange programs, allowing timeshare owners to swap weeks. Additionally, there's another type of timeshare ownership that is based on a points system. In this case, you purchase timeshare points that can be exchanged for the use of a variety of destinations and resorts. This allows you to have more flexibility when planning your vacation.

Like any other investments, venturing into timeshare vacation requires a lot of thinking and assessment. It is important to weigh the pros and cons first before you finally make a decision. Here are some points that you may want to take into consideration:

PROS:

Exchange Programs

Many people buy timeshares for the opportunity to exchange or trade units with other owners, allowing each one to experience a different place in the world every couple of years. Some companies have locations all over the world including South America, the Caribbean, Europe and Australia, as well as dozens of locations around the United States.

Only Pay for What You Use

Unlike a vacation home, which you pay for throughout the year but only use for a few weeks, you only pay for a timeshare during the time that you are using it. Because you are sharing the cost with others, there is much less financial strain throughout the year.  

You can also rent out your timeshare if you do not plan on using it that year and save the money for other things. Having control of your timeshare allows you to decide who rents from you and it also allows family members or friends to take advantage of your timeshare.  

Maintenance Free

A timeshare takes care of itself. Annual maintenance fees insure your timeshare and resort upkeep and any repairs that it may need. Your fees also pay for on-sight management and insurance so there is always someone looking after the property, which cannot be said for vacation homes or condos that may sit vacant for months at a time.

Guaranteed Vacations

A timeshare is a guaranteed vacation. If you are bad at organizing your vacation days, then a timeshare is a vacation destination that is guaranteed to be there one week a year. This can make it easier for you to save for and make plans for your annual vacation. Your contract usually requires that the property be occupied by you once a year. If you enjoy visiting the same place every year, this is a good way of securing your vacation.

Cheaper, Roomier Alternative to Hotels

Hotels are great for some, but anyone who has traveled with a large group of people or children can tell you that the accommodations are not ideal. Staying in a nice hotel is expensive and adding extra rooms compounds the cost so that a week in a hotel for a family of four can quickly climb into the thousands of dollars. Timeshares are most often modeled after two bedroom, two bathroom condos and include a living room, laundry and fully stocked kitchen which can cut out costly restaurant dinners every night.

CONS:

Limited in Vacation Schedule Possibility

Rescheduling your vacations may be hard to do; usually, owners keep their weeks, and it may be hard to swap. If you want a holiday week, you may not be able to trade your timeshare for it because there are many timeshare owners hoping for the same week. You also may not be able to decide last minute that you want to use your timeshare in a certain location because spots may already be filled. This requires you to plan ahead, months in advance, and often takes the spontaneity out of planning a trip.

Your Money is Tied Up

The whole concept of timesharing is based on prepayment of your vacation. For some, this is convenient.  For others, it is hard to give up money for something immediate, for a vacation you won't experience 'till months later. Timesharing is a big commitment financially; you are contractually obligated to pay maintenance fees for as long as you own it, and there is no easy way to extricate yourself from your timeshare.

Maintenance Fees

Maintenance fees cover the grounds and housekeeping services, utilities, insurance, on-site management, keeping facilities and appliances up and running etc. They are assessed and paid annually, but it is often difficult to factor them in since they are not a constant. Because the cost of goods and services goes up every year, maintenance fees have been known to increase up to 4 percent in a single year. Keep in mind that a nice, upscale resort needs to spend someone's money to keep it looking that way.

Associated With Scams and Unethical Dealers

Always check if the condominium belongs to an Owner's Club or Association - if not, you may be dealing in risky business. Research the resort and management company to be aware of any outstanding complaints. Make sure you pay attention; any special contract clauses or other suspicious circumstances should send up red flags. You can make sure your timeshare company is reputable by checking them out with the Better Business Bureau and through online reviews.

You can search the various locations and deals from a developer, management company or travel agent, as well as from the owners themselves. It is a good sign if the provider offers a grace period in which you can cancel without charge and he guarantees the financial stability of the unit.

Hard to Resell

Some developers include clauses into timeshare purchase contracts that may restrict your ability to sell on your own. They may require rights of first refusal, commissions on your sales price and so on. Before purchasing a timeshare, be sure to ask about their resale policies. Keep in mind that, because timeshares often depreciate in value after you buy them, you may end up losing money in the resale.

VERDICT :

It's up to you.

If you have never been to a timeshare resort, rent a timeshare week first. This will give you the opportunity to get a feel for the type of accommodations and help you determine whether a timeshare purchase is for you. While you're at the resort, speak with owners about their experiences.

If you plan on using it as it was originally intended, and using it to its fullest, a timeshare can be a great way to vacation. Finding a place that you really love and committing to that place every year is the easiest way to avoid hassle. If you are looking to make a profit or use a timeshare as a business venture, you should probably look elsewhere. Purchasing a timeshare should not be an impulse buy, and potential investors should first decide what specifically works for their family and life style.