An Option for Vacationers

(MS) - Nearly everyone would love to own their own vacation home, a place where they can jet off to escape the daily grind for a week or two at a time before returning home refreshed and ready to get back to work. However, with escalating real estate costs and property taxes increasing nearly everywhere, the notion of owning one home, let alone two, is daunting enough for most people.

That reality does not necessarily mean your own slice of vacation heaven is out of your reach. For many, purchasing a timeshare has provided them with the comforts of a vacation home but less of the overall responsibility. Timeshares can occur in a variety of situations. They could be a house or condominium that you share with others. Or, you can purchase a room in a resort for use. For those considering a timeshare as a vacation option, here's a breakdown, courtesy of the Federal Trade Commission, of the different timeshare ownership options available.

Deeded Timeshare Ownership
When you purchase a timeshare, you own the same unit for the rest of your life or for a fixed period of time decided upon and designated in your purchase agreement. Legally, you are considered an owner, and you can rent, sell, exchange or bequeath your unit if you so choose. You as well as the other timeshare owners are all legally looked upon as the owners of the unit. In a deeded ownership, you purchase the right to use the same unit at a specific time each year.

The ownership rights associated with a deeded timeshare entitle timeshare owners to elect a homeowners' association, which in turn is responsible for maintenance and management of the resort. Annual maintenance fees are required of timeshare owners, and these fees typically rise each year. Though the maintenance fees might include property taxes, sometimes those are extra. Before signing on, you should discuss what the annual maintenance fees are and what, if any, additional property taxes come with your timeshare.

"Right to Use" Vacation Intervals
In these, you are not purchasing the timeshare as property and not viewed as an owner. Rather, you purchase the right to use a unit owned by a developer. Each unit is broken up into intervals, and these are usually designated in terms of weeks. When you purchase your interval, you do so by agreeing to use it for an agreed upon number of years, typically between 10 and 50 years. Whereas in a deeded timeshare ownership you use the same unit each year, that is not necessarily the case with intervals. Maintenance fees, which rise each year, do apply and the interest you hold on the property is legally considered personal property.

There are several options under the "right to use" agreement that can affect when you can have access to your timeshare.

· Fixed time option:This is when you purchase the timeshare for use during a specific week each year.

· Floating time option: This is when you purchase use of the timeshare during a specific season (i.e., summer, fall, etc.) each year, but not a specific week. Therefore, weeks are usually assigned on a first-come, first-serve basis.

· Biennial Ownership: This is when you purchase time on an every-other-year basis.

· Lockoff or Lockout: Many timeshare units are often very large and spacious, space that not everyone necessarily needs. Under a lockoff or lockout agreement, you occupy only a portion of the unit while the rest is offered for rental or exchange.

· Points-based: These can be called a vacation club, where you purchase points and exchange them to use at a variety of resorts. Different units require varying amounts of points, with larger units and longer stays typically requiring more points. Also, the specific time of use, such as the height of vacation season, can determine how much points and interval costs.

· Fractional Ownership: In lieu of buying one week per year, you buy a large share of ownership time, which can often be up to half a year.

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