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Timeshare Versus Vacation Home: Weighing Options for a Perfect Getaway

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Posted on May 18, 2023

As the world becomes busier and life gets more chaotic, many people are looking for ways to enjoy some well-deserved vacation downtime. One of the most popular ways to achieve this is by investing in a vacation property. There are two main options when it comes to vacation properties: timeshares and vacation homes. But what's best when it comes to the timeshare versus vacation home debate and which is the better choice for your needs?

We will outline the key differences between a timeshare and a vacation home, as well as their pros and cons, to help you make an informed decision.

Timeshare: What It Is and How It Works

A timeshare is a type of vacation property ownership where multiple parties share ownership of a property, typically a resort or condominium unit, to vacation for a specific period each year. Timeshares are usually sold in weekly increments, and the ownership structure can vary. There are two primary types of timeshares:

  • Deeded Timeshares: In this type of ownership, the buyer holds a partial ownership stake in the property, receiving a deed that outlines their usage rights. The deed can be sold, inherited, or rented out.
  • Right-to-Use (RTU) Timeshares: In this setup, the buyer essentially leases the property for a predetermined number of years. They have the right to use the property during their allotted time but do not have an ownership stake. RTU timeshares usually expire after a set number of years and can't be inherited.

Vacation Home: What It Is and How It Works

A vacation home, on the other hand, is a wholly owned residential property used primarily for recreational purposes. Unlike a timeshare, a vacation home is owned outright by one party or co-owned by multiple parties. The owner(s) have full control over the property, including when they use it, all maintenance, and aspects such as changing colors and furnishings.

Now that we have a basic background of a timeshare versus vacation home, let's dive deeper into the key differences between the two.

Key Differences Between Timeshare Versus Vacation Home

Ownership Structure

As mentioned earlier, timeshares typically involve multiple owners who share usage rights to a resort property. This shared ownership means that you don't have full control over management of the property or how it is maintained. However, this also spreads the cost out over several hundred owners, allowing them to own vacation property in high-cost areas where they may not ordinarily be able to own property. Conversely, a vacation home is owned outright, granting the owner(s) complete control over the property's use and upkeep.


Timeshares may offer limited flexibility in terms of usage. Your allotted time is predetermined, and you'll need to plan your vacation around that schedule. However, exchanging your timeshare week for another location or time is a definite option to overcome such limits, even though it often requires working with timeshare exchange companies. Vacation homes, however, offer the ability to use the property whenever you want, as long as it's available.

Investment Potential

Vacation homes are a more lucrative investment than timeshares, as they can appreciate in value over time. Timeshares, on the other hand, typically depreciate in value because of the way they are originally sold, with sales and marketing overhead costs built into the resort price. However, the purchase price of a timeshare is significantly less expensive than a vacation home, especially in popular, expensive visitor destinations. Timeshare resales are an even better option due to the lower price points.

Maintenance and Management

With a timeshare, the responsibility for maintenance and management of the property usually falls on the resort or designated property management company, meaning owners don't have to worry about these tasks. Vacation home owners, however, are responsible for maintaining and managing their property, which can be time-consuming and very costly.

Financing Options

Financing a vacation home is similar to financing a primary residence, with traditional mortgage options offered a relatively lower interest rates compared to timeshares because it is considered an asset-backed loan. Timeshares, conversely, carry a higher finance rate as they are considered a use product instead of an asset in financial terms.

This is why financing a timeshare purchase is usually done through the resort at the time of the original purchase and interest rates are higher than those for traditional mortgages. However, because timeshare resales are offered at such lower prices, financing is usually not necessary. Buyers looking for timeshare financing options can do so here.

Tax Implications

The tax implications of owning a vacation home compared to a timeshare differ significantly. Vacation home owners may be eligible for certain tax benefits, such as deducting mortgage interest and property taxes, provided specific criteria are met. Additionally, if the vacation home is rented out, owners may be able to claim rental income and associated expenses on their tax return.

Timeshare owners, however, typically can't, or choose not to, claim these deductions. It's essential to consult a tax professional to understand the specific tax implications for your situation.

Costs and Affordability

Timeshares generally have lower upfront costs compared to vacation homes, making them a more affordable option for those looking for a vacation property in highly desirable areas. However, it's crucial to consider the ongoing costs associated with timeshares, such as annual maintenance fees, special assessments, and exchange fees. These costs can add up over time, even though a timeshare is less expensive than a vacation home in the long run.

Keep in mind that vacation home owners are also on the hook for items such as electricity bills and other utilities over a 12-month period, whereas timeshare owners have all ongoing costs shared among all owners.

Privacy and Space

Vacation homes usually offer more privacy and space compared to timeshares, depending on the timeshare owned. With a vacation home, you have the entire property to yourself, which can be especially appealing for those seeking a quiet and secluded getaway.

Timeshare properties, on the other hand, are often located within large resorts or condominium complexes, which can mean sharing common areas and amenities with other guests. However, these resort amenities such as water parks, onsite bars and restaurants and organized kids’ activity programs are a big draw card for timeshares compared to standard vacation homes.


Owning a vacation home allows you to tailor the property to your tastes and preferences, whereas timeshares are typically standardized to appeal to a broader range of people. Vacation home owners can renovate, redecorate, or make structural changes to their property as they see fit, giving them more control over their vacation experience, keeping in mind the higher costs associated with such activities.

Variety and Travel Opportunities

Timeshares provide more variety and travel opportunities, as owners have the option to exchange timeshare weeks for a different location, either within the resort network or through an exchange company like RCI or Interval International. This means you can experience various destinations without having to purchase multiple vacation properties. Vacation homes, however, are fixed in one location, so if you want to explore new destinations, you'll need to arrange for separate accommodations.

Accessibility and Amenities

Timeshare properties are often part of well-established resorts or hospitality chains, which means they usually come with a range of on-site amenities such as pools, fitness centers, spas, and restaurants. This can make your vacation experience more convenient and enjoyable, as you have easy access to these facilities.

Vacation homes, on the other hand, don’t have the same level of onsite amenities. However, vacation home owners have the freedom to choose a property that aligns with their specific interests and preferences, such as proximity to outdoor activities, cultural attractions, or local dining options.

Legal and Contractual Considerations

The legal and contractual areas of a timeshare versus vacation home differ significantly. Timeshares typically involve contracts that outline the terms of use, ownership rights, and ongoing fees.

Vacation homes, on the other hand, involve more familiar real estate requirements, similar to those for primary residences. The process is often more transparent and easier to navigate than that of timeshares, even though the overall responsibilities are greater since it generally falls on the one owner.

Emotional Attachment and Sense of Ownership

The emotional attachment and sense of ownership connected with vacation homes can be more significant compared to timeshares. Owning a vacation home provides a more personal and intimate connection to the property, as you have the freedom to make it your own, create lasting memories, and establish family traditions.

To a certain extent, timeshares can offer similar attachments but are generally a less personal experience due to the shared ownership structure and standardized nature of the properties. While you can still create cherished memories during your timeshare vacations, the emotional bond and sense of ownership may not be as strong compared to a vacation home.

Resale Value and Marketability

When it comes to resale value, vacation homes have the upper hand. Depending on the demand for the location, the real estate market for vacation homes tends to be more robust and easier to navigate than the market for timeshares. Selling a vacation home can be a more straightforward process, as the property is treated similarly to a primary residence in terms of real estate transactions.

Timeshares, on the other hand, can be tough to value, given their unique ownership structure and varying degrees of desirability based on factors such as location, week, and resort quality. Also, because of the sales and marketing overhead costs at the original time of purchase at the resort, resale values are much lower – similar to the way a car depreciates when it is driven off the lot.

As a result, timeshare owners may have to sell at a lower price point than what they originally paid and work with specialized resale companies to find a buyer. One way to begin researching a resale price point for a timeshare is by using a timeshare market analysis tool such as the one we offer.

Need Help Sorting Through the Details?

The decision between a timeshare versus vacation home is a highly personal one, with each option offering its unique advantages and disadvantages. By considering the various factors discussed in this article, such as initial costs, ownership structure, flexibility, and maintenance responsibilities, you can make a more informed decision that aligns with your individual needs.

If you need to speak to one of our timeshare resale experts, give us a call on 800-640-6886 or reach out through our Contact Us page so we can help you either navigate the ways to buy or sell your timeshare.


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Steve Luba - Chief Communications Officer


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