Lifestyle

Paradise, slightly used

Consider Merge and Al Sunderji, a Toronto couple, who have bought five weeks of timeshares on the resale market over the last four years. For two weeks at the Panorama Resort in B.C., they paid $9,500 — less than a third of what they would have spent for those two weeks if they had bought their shares new. The Sunderjis have had no problem exchanging their timeshare for vacations in London, Paris, Mexico and the Caribbean. “We stayed at a fabulous two-bedroom unit in St. Lucia, complete with private pool,” says Merge. “We never would have done so if we’d had to pay the resort’s luxury prices.”

A good place to start looking for similar deals is a Web site run by the Timeshare Users Group. It’s packed with articles, advice and a list of timeshare units for sale or rent by owners. EBay also has extensive listings of timeshares for sale, as does timeshares.com, timesharecheap.com and timeshare-guru.com.

A visit to any of these sites will show you a wide variety of timeshares across a range of prices. The prices reflect the time of year you want, the luxuriousness of the resort and the size of your unit. Recently an off-season week in a South Florida studio was going for $952 on the TUG site while a popular winter-season week in a two-bathroom and two-bedroom unit at a deluxe Fort Lauderdale resort was going for $6,900. Plenty of Canadian resales were available for prices beginning at about $2,795. Particularly tempting was a peak-season summer week at a one-bedroom unit in a Whistler resort for $4,900.

You should factor in some additional costs. Maintenance fees will set you back $200 to $600 a year. You will also pay a fee, in the $120 to $200 range, to join an exchange organization such as RCI or Interval International. These groups make it possible for you to exchange your unit for others all over the world. Each time you swap, you will pay an additional fee of about $200 to $250.

The precise math depends upon the specifics of the timeshare you choose, but let’s say that you’ve purchased a two-bedroom timeshare for $3,000 that you plan to use for ten years. Your cost per year is therefore $300. Typical maintenance fees, an exchange club membership and an exchange fee will add up to about $675 a year. So if you swap your unit for another equally nice unit at the location of your choice, the total cost of the week to you and your family will be $975, or $139 a night. There’s a huge saving compared to the cost of renting two bedrooms in a swanky resort hotel for the same period.

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From the February/March 2003 issue.

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