Choose carefully when buying vacation plans
STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Wet and ugly winter weather sends many Mississippians looking for a vacation, and timeshare or interval plans can be the ticket with careful planning.
An interval vacation plan allows a person to buy a vacation stay measured by a set number of days and nights of annual use. The more commonly known timeshare is a method of shared ownership of vacation real estate where purchasers acquire a period of time in a vacation accommodation.
The Federal Trade Commission named timeshare scams as one of the top frauds of 2017, the most recent year for which such data is available. That makes this illegal activity one of the largest threats to travel security in the U.S.
Susan Cosgrove, family resource management Extension associate with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said both legitimate timeshare and interval plans can be efficient ways to vacation when used well.
“You hear nightmare stories about timeshares, but those who know how to plan ahead and work with these will tell you it’s the best, most efficient thing ever,” Cosgrove said.
She said timeshare owners understand that this vacation plan is not a financial investment. When considering purchasing a vacation property, rent it first to try it before buying.
“You must fully understand how a timeshare works and what your goals are before buying into a timeshare plan,” Cosgrove said. “It is wise to research and learn as much as possible prior to purchasing a timeshare or even renting one.”
The choice to buy into an interval vacation or a timeshare is important. A key question to settle is how long will the property be kept. Other factors to consider include fees, maintenance issues, property taxes and the payment process.
“Before buying a timeshare or interval vacation, compare these costs to renting similar accommodations in the same location for the same time period without an ownership stake,” Cosgrove said.
Be sure to read the fine print when considering a vacation purchase, and get expert advice from someone who is knowledgeable about contracts and real estate.
Unfortunately, those interested in buying or selling a timeshare property must be careful to avoid fraud. Cosgrove said criminals target resale most frequently when attempting to defraud buyers.
“Seniors are often targets because of their disposable income, the fact that they are often more trusting and know less about how to handle a scam,” she said. “Look out for red flags such as contact you did not initiate, outlandish promises, upfront fees and emotional tactics that make you feel manipulated.”
When preparing to sell a timeshare, the FTC website urges consumers to check out the reseller.
“Contact the State Attorney General and local consumer protection agencies in the state where the reseller is located. Ask if they have any complaints on file,” the FTC warns online.
Ask about fees, as it is better to do business with a reseller that takes fees after the timeshare is sold. Get everything in writing. Read the contract carefully to make sure it matches verbal promises. Do not sign the contract if the deal is not what is expected.
Once the vacation property decision has been made, create a spending plan for the time.
“Get input from the family or household when creating a vacation spending plan,” Cosgrove said. “Plan for all meals, recreational activities, shopping and more. Research special discounts to make sure they are legitimate. All of this will help you avoid spending traps and allow your budget to cover the entire vacation expenses.”